Within two weeks of taking Philosophy 101 during her first year at Buffalo State, Bianca Gonzalez fell in love.
“I knew that philosophy is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” said Gonzalez, now a junior who is considering pursuing a doctorate in philosophy after she graduates in May 2019.
A first-generation college student from North Buffalo, Gonzalez chose Buffalo State for its diversity and proximity to home. She didn’t know what major she wanted to study. She did, however, have an insatiable curiosity.
“I was the kid always asking a bunch of questions in all my courses in high school,” she said. “There, you are kind of shut down because they have to teach to the (standardized) test. I could never explore my interests entirely.”
That all changed at Buffalo State.
“Philosophy is the one discipline where all questions are explored. There is really nothing that is out-of-bounds as long as you are respectful,” she said. “When I was put into an environment where I could talk about philosophy, it opened me up and made me become the kind of person who could explore any topic.”
The philosophy faculty made the major even more attractive.
“Dr. (Kimberly) Blessing is one of the most dedicated professors ever,” she said. “She gives so many opportunities to students if she sees you have the potential and drive.”
After Blessing recognized Gonzalez’s talent and drive, she invited her to undertake a yearlong project studying the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus and his views on death.
Ironically, on the heels of completing that project, Gonzalez faced her own mortality. The day after classes ended last May, she fainted while out with friends. In the hospital, the staff gave her a CT scan and discovered a brain tumor.
“I had no previous symptoms,” she said. “I should have, but didn’t.”
Five days later, doctors removed the tumor. Gonzalez followed up with radiation treatment, and she’s currently doing well.
“The philosophy faculty was there for me in a way that I wasn’t expecting,” Gonzalez said. “Two of them visited me in the hospital. I really don’t think I could have gotten through it without the Philosophy Department.”
The department, which is housed within the School of the Arts and Humanities, is also where Gonzalez has formed her closest friendships. She’s gotten involved with the Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl Competition, and she joined Women in Philosophy (WIP), an organization that includes symposiums, social gatherings, and support for female philosophy majors and minors.
“Being part of WIP has really boosted my confidence,” she said. “When I came to Buffalo State, I was a lot shier and quieter. I think getting involved in Buffalo State—learning how to talk to others and carry myself in a professional way—has helped me grow socially.”
Also, organizations like WIP enabled her to get to know her professors outside of the classroom.
“In terms of networking, it’s beneficial,” she added.
Apart from her classwork, one of her most memorable experiences was participating in the college’s Alternative Spring Break in December 2016. Under supervision from the Civic and Community Engagement Office staff, she and a handful of others students completed a weeklong community service project in Cleveland, Ohio.
“I volunteered around the social justice issue of how poverty affects education. I got to do hands-on work, such as organizing a food and toy drive, where I was seeing a difference and how I was benefiting the lives of others.”
This experience also reinforced her approach to philosophy and how she’d like her future career to unfold.
“Ultimately, what I want to do with philosophy is help others,” she said. “If I’m doing that in some way, I’m going to be happy.”
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