Zack Bowman (A19) is a US Army veteran and student at St. John’s College in Annapolis.
St. John’s College: Why did you decide to attend St. John’s?
Zack Bowman: Originally I was going to go to Johns Hopkins University to study neurobiology. I went to a lecture by Leslie Kay, a neuroscientist from the University of Chicago, who is working in the field that I eventually want to go into. She was a Johnnie. I talked to her about St. John’s and how it prepared her for neuroscience, and it made me realize that I don’t have to go to a school like Johns Hopkins and go to massive lectures. I like discussion-based classrooms, and I can still go into the field I want to—and get accepted to any grad school I want—by going to St. John’s and reading awesome books.
SJC: How has the military informed your experience at St. John’s?
ZB: It crushed some of my more idealist opinions. It let me see the real world with all of its ugly factors that I think a lot of ideologies don’t account for. It lets me look at things in a far more critical way. For example, I think a lot of political ideologies assume people get along, but I’ve seen people really, really not get along, despite the fact that they’re basically the same.
SJC: Name one difference and one similarity between St. John’s and the military?
ZB: I have a lot more free time here. I can basically choose what I want to do. I have to show up to classes, but outside of classes I can dress however I want and do a bunch of stuff that I wasn’t able to do while I was in [the military]. As for a similarity: at St. John’s, you’re all doing the same Program, while in the military you’re all doing the same stuff. In the military you’ll have differences, but you’re all in the same unit, you’re still all in Afghanistan together, you’re all struggling together, and it’s kind of the same thing here. We’re all struggling together.
SJC: What do you think you’ll do after you graduate?
ZB: I’m seriously considering going back into the military because I miss the military. I liked being in the military. I’m looking at pursuing psychology and studying neuroscience. I’m also considering going to work for an agency. The one I would like to do an internship with is the Diplomatic Security Service. I’m looking at intelligence-type positions because those have a lot to do with psychology.
SJC: What has been your favorite reading so far?
ZB: Herodotus’ Histories is one of the books that I think about the most. It’s a recollection of the Persian invasion of Greece. You can say the book is about the invasion, but I don’t think it’s just about that. There are rulers who are imperfect rulers and are not doing great things for their kingdoms. On the other hand, you have people like Solon and Darius who are laying out what a good ruler is. It forces me to think. In fact, I just did my oral [exam] on it and I’m considering writing my freshman essay on it.
St. John’s College values military service and provides Yellow Ribbon funding to every qualified applicant who is accepted. We enthusiastically welcome veterans and their dependents to both our undergraduate and graduate programs. This interview was edited for length and clarity.
—Sasha Gesmer (A17)