Justin Rondeau has made a habit of doing things he loves. As a 6th grader, he was voted most likely to become a lawyer. When he was a junior in high school, his world changed when he read Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged.” That’s when he knew philosophy was for him. Years later, he found his way to UNH and the Philosophy Department. Throughout his career as a student at UNH and in his activities outside of class, Justin has thrived on making the most out of each experience and looks forward to helping others open their minds through philosophy.
Justin began his college career at the University of Vermont. The Nashua, New Hampshire native says he enjoyed his year in Burlington, but it really wasn’t what he was looking for. After doing some research, he attended a prospective UNH student day in Durham where he met Philosophy professor Nick Smith. Justin was won over by Professor Smith’s personable and approachable style. They even shared a similar work background (they both worked at a grocery store in college). “He’s the rock star of the Philosophy Department,” Justin says when asked to describe what he thought of his visit to UNH that day. Justin said because of his conversation with Professor Smith that day, he was sold. He promptly transferred to UNH.
Justin immediately loved UNH, but his transition was not easy. Justin is a talented student, but is the first to tell you he’s had help along the way. “The Philosophy Department has really been my backbone at UNH,” Justin said after thinking about who or what has helped him to be successful at UNH. At the beginning of his first semester at UNH, Justin worked 32 hours per week at a grocery store in addition to a full class load. Although he was happy about his decision to come to UNH and was making good connections to faculty and other students, he was getting burned out from working so many hours. When professors from the Philosophy Department noticed the toll his hectic work schedule was taking on him, they offered him the opportunity to work for the department. Justin says this was a huge help to him and allowed him to grow even more connected with his department. Justin now serves as the tutoring coordinator for the Philosophy Department, a position he is thankful for and loves. Aside from his work for the Philosophy department, Justin is currently working on an OPTIONAL undergraduate thesis exploring moral responsibility.
Justin says he appreciates how much UNH and his professors have challenged him. He points to Professor Bill DeVries as an example. At first, Justin says, Professor DeVries intimidated him. But then Justin began to get to know Professor DeVries and they developed a great relationship. “He’s always supported me in everything I’ve done,” Justin said, “and he has been a strong figure in my academic career.” Justin believes the biggest reason for their great student/professor relationship has been the personal interest Professor DeVries has taken in him.
In addition to his passion for philosophy, Justin also became involved outside the classroom. As a member and former Vice President of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, Justin says he learned the value of giving back to the community. He says the fraternity showed him there is a place for altruism in society. “There’s a lot more out there than just me. We have worked hard toward something bigger than ourselves. That’s pretty cool.” He says his fraternity experience has helped him discover his own leadership ability and has given him a more well-rounded college experience. Along with his fraternity experience, Justin has also worked as an intern in the Greek Life office on campus, an experience which has taught him a lot, he says. He has also served on a university-wide committee that looked at financial aid and New Hampshire students, and was featured in a story on New Hampshire Public Radio as a result of his work with this committee. “There’s always time for something,” he says.
Justin has plans to go to graduate school for a degree in philosophy. Someday, he wants to work with college students and teach the philosophy he loves so much. When asked what advice he has for freshmen, he said, “If you do what you love, you’ll have an amazing experience in college.” As one of his favorite authors Ayn Rand once said, “The ladder of success is best climbed by stepping on the rungs of opportunity.” If his career at UNH is any indication, Justin had better have a good pair of climbing shoes.