Outstanding Graduates Philosophy


Maddy Simonsen

Maddy Simonsen

In a perfect world, every philosophy or religious studies class would have its Maddy Simonsen '23. Maddy is always completely prepared for class, and she has always worked hard to master the assigned material. She reads carefully and thoroughly in order to acquire a strong understanding of difficult philosophical texts. Maddy is a self-motivated and responsible learner who pursues knowledge of the truth in humility.




Chapman Canlis

Chapman Canlis '22 is a skilled philosopher, exceptional writer, admirable person, and devoted follower of Christ. He is adept at careful, critical analysis and creative, original synthesis. He is a master of the art of written philosophical dialogue and his work is lively, engaging, and insightful. He is an excellent student who is not showy or pretentious but humble and modest.


Brennan Confer

Though Brennan Confer '21 was a latecomer to philosophy after concentrating initially on his biology major, he quickly distinguished himself in his new area of study. Both his professors and his classmates are the beneficiaries of his careful thinking, enthusiasm for learning, and inquisitive nature. According to one of his professors, Brennan reasons both well and for the good. His thinking is precise in ways that help foster real dialogue, and his contributions to class conversation are just and kind. Another professor says course discussions are made better by Brennan’s participation—partly because he has thoughtful things to say, and partly because he encourages his classmates to share their ideas too, but never in a domineering way. Brennan also brings his scientific expertise into philosophical dialogue in helpful ways. And he will no doubt approach his future studies in medical science with wisdom and a concern for human flourishing.


Austin Nachbur

Austin Nachbur '20 knew early on that he wanted to double major in philosophy and religious studies. And he has employed both disciplines well to develop a general Christian perspective on the world. Austin tackles intellectual challenges boldly. He is always ready to dive into the deepest ideas he can find. And his cheerful willingness to explore, experiment, and learn has paid off. Austin has deep insight as well as a great ability to think creatively and rigorously. He pursues ideas with persistence. He can sometimes be persuaded to change his mind, but only after he has thoroughly exhausted his argumentative options. Austin does all this with kindness and generosity toward others. He has also served his major departments as a tutor and honor society officer.


Jordan Strandness

Jordan Strandness '19, a double major in philosophy and English, earned the Outstanding Graduate Award in philosophy as well as the annual Robert N. Wennberg Philosophy Scholarship. “He engages in the life of the mind with a winsome combination of seriousness and playfulness,” says Jim Taylor, chair of the philosophy department. “One minute he’ll be deep in thought about a perplexing philosophical problem, and the next minute he’ll be laughing heartily about a classmate’s clever remark.”

For his Capstone Project for English, he researched and wrote a creative story about the life and thought of French philosopher Gaston Bachelard, who tried to understand the nature of science and poetry and the way the two could interact.

Stradness, a standout tennis player and member of the Citadel staff, can philosophize both creatively and critically. “He approaches both of his majors with the skills of a careful reader, artful writer, sensitive listener, and articulate speaker,” Taylor says.

He is considering graduate school to become an English or philosophy professor or earning an MFA in creative writing.


Hien Bui

Hien Bui '18, who will pursue a master’s degree in philosophical theology at Oxford in the fall, hopes for a career in academia, teaching and researching in philosophy. At Westmont, he completed three research papers: “A Defense of Dispositional Innatism,” the claim that we have innate dispositions to believe in certain things; “A New Solution to the Problem of Divine Freedom and Goodness,” how God can be both perfectly good and free; and “A Defense of Motivations for the Growing Block Theory of Time,” the theory that the past and present exist but not the future. “The best part of my four years at Westmont has been the relationships with professors, friends and peers, who have introduced me to questions about God and the world he created and who have also helped me learn how to think critically about those questions,” he says.


Matthew Maler

Since declaring a philosophy major his freshman year, Matthew Maler '17 took the department by storm. While taking nearly every course we offer, he distinguished himself as a bright and articulate student with an inquisitive mind, a creative pen, and a passion for philosophizing. Matt also served the department as president of our honor society and a teaching assistant. In recognition of his accomplishments and contributions, the department awarded him the Wennberg Scholarship last year. Matt was also a Writer’s Corner tutor, president of the Science and Faith Club, college orchestra violinist, and silent comedian in a college opera. He also presented at philosophy conferences and secured some publications. Matt plans to begin graduate studies in philosophy next year in pursuit of a Ph.D.


Bradlee Smith

Bradlee (“Trude”) Smith '15 is thoughtful and earnest. He uses his intellectual abilities to ask significant questions, but never in an overbearing way. He's the kind of person one wants as a conversation partner. And he has made valuable contributions to many conversations (in class and out). Trude works to take positions & ideas seriously. Yes, he wants to understand the details of an argument, but he really wants to understand how those details fit into the big picture. And the big pictures in philosophy that interest Trude the most are the human ones: how ideas about knowledge, God, essence, language, value, culture, etc. make a difference in a real human life. And who will not be won over by his personality, which is always easy-going, unpretentious, warm-hearted and playful?!