Joseph Loomis is a recent graduate of St. John’s College in Annapolis, MD, with a BA in Liberal Arts. Before enrolling at St. John’s he spent 6 years in New York City studying the traditional Fine Arts and Architecture. While at St. John’s, Joseph, along with colleagues, helped to resurrect the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) society at St. John’s under a different name: the Leuven Society. Joseph now works full-time for the Classic Learning Test, an Annapolis based company that has designed a fully-fledged alternative to the SAT and the ACT based on the Great Books. He hopes to work for the CLT for the foreseeable future, with the ultimate goal of enrolling in a Ph.D. program in Philosophy, Politics or Theology. His aim is to contribute to the current conversation regarding Christianity and western society. Joseph thinks that he can best accomplish this through a combination of study and work, but the mystery of how to do this is what motivates him to keep going.
- How did you find out about ISI? What drew you to get involved in ISI's programming?
It happened in two stages. During my freshman year I met an alumnus who suggested that I become a student member. My involvement was low for those first two years, however. I did read the Intercollegiate Review and flipped through the Russel Kirk book that I received with my subscription, but I was mostly focused on surviving the Great Books program at St John’s College. During my Junior year, a group of us were approached by a regional director to start a society. My interest was immediately piqued. There was a latent conservative spirit on campus, and the society became the perfect place to give it a healthy outlet. The Honors Program was really the experience that drew me in, however. It was an amazing community of like-minded, yet diverse, students, and of a very high caliber intellectually. It fit in seamlessly with what I had been studying and filled a void that I had been feeling.
- If you had to choose one highlight of your undergraduate experience, what would it be?
Maybe it sounds un-original, but the highlight of my undergraduate experience was becoming involved with ISI. In a microcosm, it was the collegiate environment that I had hoped I would find at my college. Defending my thesis, on justice and education in Plato’s Republic, was another highlight of the work that I did as an undergraduate. It is a very gratifying experience to get to the moment of defending your thesis and to think of what went into the formation that makes that moment possible.
- What have you valued most about your ISI experience?
I have valued the community that it creates. I may sound repetitive, but in a way, ISI does what a College ought to do: it creates a community around ideas and provides opportunities for young minds to learn and explore together with those who are more advanced. I am very grateful for the books, and the friendships of course, but overall for the experiences, which I could not have created for myself.
- How have you spent your summers while in college?
Up until the summer of 2017 I spent my summers in an unremarkable way, working one or several jobs and reading as much as possible. In May of 2017, however, I started working for the Classic Learning Test, and got the opportunity to travel across the country meeting lots of wonderful people connected with classical education and homeschooling.
- Whom do you admire most, and why?
I admire my parish priest and his family. Any person who gives their life to the Church and suffers for its sake is praiseworthy in my eyes. There is something especially remarkable for me, however, about a person who chooses to live with one foot in the kingdom and one in the utilitarian world of the everyday with all of its responsibilities, for the sake of the Gospel.
- What advice would you give to other students who want to preserve the principles of liberty?
I would say, if you have the opportunity to do so, choose your college very carefully. Don’t waste your money on any random kind of undergraduate degree; seek out a real education. Study lots of classics, study the “Great Books,” if you can. Seek after what it true, always, but especially as an undergraduate when you have the opportunity to do that almost exclusively. Understand what those principles of liberty really are and where they come from. Don’t fall into complacency over received opinion, and don’t be intimidated by intellectual bullies, whether they're over-zealous, or just apathetic. And yes, of course, join ISI.