Focus on Fulbrights

How a St. John’s-supported Fulbright Application Helped Kathleen Eamon (SF97) Envision Her Future

July 29, 2022 | By Patricia Moore

Kathleen Eamon Alum St Johns College Santa Fe
Kathleen Eamon (SF97) at a graduation ceremony at Evergreen State College where she teaches.

What special capacities do specific languages lend to our philosophical thinking? Kathleen Eamon (SF97), always fascinated by the works of German philosophers, nurtured this passion through St. John’s Great Books Program with its emphasis on classic works, and wrote her junior and senior essays on Kant and Georg Hegel, respectively. As Eamon contemplated where to continue learning about her beloved German philosophers after graduation, it was St. John’s tutor and Fulbright recipient Susan Stickney (H18) who encouraged Eamon to apply for the prestigious Fulbright study-abroad program.

“Having Ms. Stickney as a guide was crucial to my application process,” says Eamon. “She even helped me find a tutor to proctor an exam in German for me.” With a mentor to assist her—someone willing to read draft essays and personal statements—Eamon persuaded the Fulbright committees to support her project with a 1997–98 Fulbright Open Study/Research award at Heidelberg University.

Her St. John’s education, with its focus on languages, also helped. Why should one study German philosophy abroad, in German? After all, couldn’t the budding scholar just as easily peruse translations at home? St. John’s emphasizes why it’s important to read original texts, she says, and to understand the meaning that language itself can impart. “The German language has capacities for different types of concept formation than English, for example, and capacities that mirror Greek in some ways,” Eamon explains. “Learning ancient Greek at St. John’s definitely supported my Fulbright application for studying the works of German philosophers in their native language.”

A Johnnie preparation for arguing one’s case

Kathleen Eaman and Lynarra Featherly Alum St Johns College Santa Fe
Kathleen Eamon (SF97), left, with her future wife, Lynarra Featherly (SF94), during their Fulbright studies in Germany.

Eamon says her St. John’s education instilled “a sense that education ought to be democratic no matter where you are.” Compared with German students in her classes at Heidelberg University, who had been trained to orient their attention to the front of any room, she was “very active” in conversations with professors. “I also sought out their help and was less fearful in a seminar situation than many German students,” she asserts.

The impact of St. John’s on her life and work “has been huge,” says Eamon. She can draw a straight line from St. John’s to her Fulbright experience studying Hegel and Edmund Husserl at Heidelberg University, to Vanderbilt University where she earned a PhD in philosophy, to her current position as a tenured associate professor of philosophy at Evergreen State College—a public liberal arts college in Olympia, Washington.

St. John’s impact—A learning model for a lifetime

“In my own teaching, I work to support the kind of learning taught at St. John’s,” Eamon says. “As a professor, I compulsively read, re-read, and talk about my favorite texts; and, teaching in interdisciplinary contexts, it becomes like a new text each time. I love leading a discussion around the table.”

With the curiosity and flexibility of a Johnnie, she works through interdisciplinary teams to engage students with contemporary theory, art, and social movements. She’s excited to be teaching a new course in 2023, “Marx’s Capital: Capital, Crypto-, and the Mystery of Money,” a contemporary theory class anchored in the study of philosopher Karl Marx’s classical text, Capital, Volume 1.

Fulbright: Focusing a Johnnie’s inquisitive mind on the future

Eamon graduated from St. John’s with an intense curiosity about many subjects. So why invest time and effort in a Fulbright application? Eamon says she learned a lot from just applying, for the Fulbright as well as other prestigious awards she didn’t get. “Imagining a concrete vision for your future is never wasted time,” Eamon states. “You make a specific proposal of what you want to do and why. Treat the application as an end in itself, possibly culminating in something very exciting.”

That is how Eamon discovered why she wanted to go to graduate school in philosophy specifically. “I knew I would continue to read literature on my own, but for philosophy, I needed conversation partners and the formal institutional structures of a graduate experience and a teaching career. I have been so lucky to become a professor in a great place and with dynamic, curious students that remind me of my favorite colleagues at St. John’s.”

“Treasure what St. John’s teaches you,” Eamon concludes, “Four years of being able to focus on original texts in a smart and engaged culture offers an amazing model for undergraduate education. There is a lot to learn beyond the Program, but St. John’s gives you the skills and support to live a life of thoughtful and rewarding engagement.”