Philosophy and Humanistic Studies Department


Sara Risko

Recipient of the Outstanding Interdisciplinary Studies Major Award for 2021-2022

Double Major in Interdisciplinary Studies (Concentrations: Sustainability and Theoretical & Applied Ethics) and Health Promotion Studies

Sara is a nontraditional student who has returned to school later in life to pursue a higher level of education, dedicated to the work she is passionate about, hoping to apply what she learns to serve the greater good. As an undergraduate student double majoring in health promotion studies and interdisciplinary studies—with concentrations in holistic and integrative health; sustainability; and theoretical and applied ethics—Sara’s aspirations are, at their core, to bring about and inspire positive changes that improve quality of life within underserved communities. Her career goals include tackling systemic issues surrounding food injustices and their subsequent health disparities through the application of interdisciplinary perspectives. She wishes to do so by rebuilding how individuals view food sourcing and distribution, particularly the people these food systems most heavily affected in a negative way. These individuals are affected by dietary health disparities and both the ethical implications and repercussions of the actions taken within these systems. Sara wishes to work as an advocate utilizing interdisciplinary approaches to bridge the disciplinary gap between the agricultural and public health spheres to better serve marginalized populations across the United States. Sara also hopes that, through her work, she can help to build sustainable systems in which these communities can build their own advocacy programs, creating sustainable structural support within populations that best serve their needs.


Thomas J. Pulley

Interdisciplinary Studies Major (Concentrations: Justice & Law Administration and Psychology)

Western Connecticut State University Class of 2022

University of Baltimore School of Law Class of 2025

I came to WCSU in 2017, for one semester. Unfortunately, at the time, my priorities were a mess and I left school to journey out into the world. I did everything from sales to construction and even a brief stint on an Alaskan fishing boat. Flash forward to 2020, I was still looking for my niche and trying to find my place in the life. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do but I figured in the process of earning my degree I might find something worthwhile. I was right. In the midst of it, finishing your undergraduate degree seems never-ending. Now, looking back at it, my time at WCSU flew by in the blink of an eye. Many often bolster the claim that not much is learned in completing a bachelor’s degree. In some cases that may be correct, but in mine and undoubtedly many others in the Interdisciplinary Studies program, it couldn’t be further from the truth. Even if one doesn’t remember everything from the diverse range of topics they are exposed to, they will always remember one certainty: complexity is the nature of all that encompasses our world. Any problem, large or small, is ruled by an intricacy that cannot be solved, without examining the many different angles in its analysis, and subsequently, in the application of the problem’s solutions. This knowledge becomes more and more prevalent with each passing day, as our society is continually divided and defined by simplicity.  If one is right, they are right in absolution; those who are wrong are identified in this way as well. We live in polarizing times and the prime suspect in its facilitation is this: the oversimplification of all we debate over, of all our beliefs, and of all our ideas. Those who have gone through the IDS program know that this mass-produced falsehood of perception is not the answer to creating a better world. That life is lived, understood, and progressed properly only in the grey areas. Through critical thinking between the lines and non-conceding compromise, we have come to learn that there is never an easy fix that is long-lasting and effective. We have come to accept the challenge of battling the surface-level problem solver through in-depth, multi-layered attack on any issues that sit at our feet and claw at our back door. Joining the IDS program was the best decision I made at WCSU. It set about a train of thought that I hope grows to become faster and more exploratory as I further my education this fall. For anyone out there who is optimistic that the next great revolution could be one of minds and not arms, IDS is the place for you.


Bill Silvia

Psychology and Interdisciplinary Studies Major with concentrations in Gender and Multi-Cultural Studies, and also a minor in Creative Writing

Bill is a Danbury local and non-traditional student. In the midst of pursuing his passion as a writer, he found himself most drawn into the task of understanding, rationalizing, and empathizing with human behavior, particularly the behavior and contexts of those groups whose voices are often drowned out, stereotyped, or simply unheard in the larger conversation. This in turn led to an academic focus on psychology and influenced Bill to put together an intersectional course of study he terms “Diversity Studies,” which consists of studies into human cultures and gender studies. To best understand the role of the marginalized in the larger culture, Bill chooses those courses, reading materials, and assignments that best emphasize the role of LGBTQIAP persons under the umbrella of Queer Studies within his coursework. He has conducted research dealing with bias, stereotypes, race, and sexuality, and is searching for doctoral supervisors with an interest in the same.

In addressing personal life, culture, and academia as a whole, Bill applies the following quote by George Herbert Mead: “The outcome of science is a theory or working hypothesis, not so-called facts.”



Rocco Martarella

Interdisciplinary Studies Major with concentrations in Writing and Communication, and also a minor in Philosophy

I grew up in Long Island, NY until I was in 5th grade and moved to Connecticut to be closer to family. I took intro to philosophy through television my first semester at Western, and I found out that was exactly what I needed. That class actualized my forever-philosophical way of thinking, and it felt like I found something I didn’t know I was looking for. I was still unsure of what I wanted to do for a major, so I signed myself up for a bunch of philosophy classes. With these classes I got creative with my writing, completed some of my gen ed requirements and a minor as well. I have a passion for listening to music and keeping up with the current releases of my favorite artists. My favorite philosophical concept that I’ve learned so far is Nietzsche’s love of fate, in which even horrible moments in one’s life are embraced just as pleasant ones. I have a group of friends that I’ve been close with since before high school, and we make it a point to get together weekly. Them, along with my family and interest in music, are big influences on my character. This picture is with my younger sister on my 18th birthday.


Kelvin Castillo

Interdisciplinary Studies Major with concentrations in Business Administration and Psychology

Kelvin was born in Dominican Republic and moved to Puerto Rico when he was two years old. He came from a military family and knew he wanted to take the same path as his family by joining the US Navy in 2008. His first duty station was the USS Providence 719, where he traveled around the world twice, visiting countries like Dubai, Japan, Italy, Israel, Diego Garcia and the North Pole. His job in the military was Logistics Specialist, and that’s where he knew that business was his passion. Also his curiosity to know more about what people think and their desires made him pursue a career in Psychology as well. Kelvin is currently in his senior year of college.

Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm” – Publilius Syrus

Camille Alanano

Interdisciplinary Studies Major with concentrations in Biology and Community Health

Camille was born in the Philippines and came to America when she was 5 years old. She grew up knowing that she wanted to help people in any way possible. This can include making someone food, assisting them with homework, teaching them how important to clean their hands and even guiding someone in life. She went to Greenwich High School, where she realized she wanted to be in the health field. She is concentrating in Biology and Community Health preparing for graduate school. She loves to learn new aspects on how to help others in any way and to learn more knowledge of the human body. She is part of the Biology and Herpetology Club here at WCSU. She loves to work out, eat healthy, travel the world and enjoy life.

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.” – Helen Keller


Sarah Wright

Contract Major in Moral Philosophy

Sarah grew up in Huntington, CT her entire life. After an attempt to persuade a career in Manufacturing Technology, she soon found out the smell of oil was revolting. After some thought, she attempted to peruse a career in the Cosmetology Field, but she noticed the hairdressing lifestyle wasn’t for her. After much debate with herself, she finally decided to go to college, after taking Intro to Philosophy, she has found her calling! Also, she some how attained the position of Vice President of the Philosophy Club at WCSU. Sarah mainly enjoys but is not limited to reading Plato’s Socrates, because he plays a game of hide and seek with his words, and she finds it quite amusing. Her major focuses on applied ethics, insofar, titled her major as Moral Philosophy. Sarah views life as an illusion. The words we speak have no meaning, our identities mean nothing and they most certainly do not define who we are. Essentially we are all basic forms in and of the universe itself. Sarah hopes to focus on either Plato’s Ethics and Epistemology or Existentialism from Sartre’s viewpoints in Graduate School and eventually study Philosophy at a Doctorate Level.

“A person who thinks all the time has nothing to think about except thoughts. So he loses touch with reality, and lives in a world of illusion” Alan Watts

P.S. Look out for the yellow void!



Emily Chauvin

Contract Major in Aesthetic Theory and Practice

I attend WCSU for Creative Writing and Aesthetics Theory & Practice, which I firmly believe somehow adds up to a future as a sculptor, poet, punk star, and/or mountain woman. My favorite materials are broken broken mirrors and riddles, intending to both reflect and confuse the real world with false histories and alternate paradises. I bring all that and more to my role as Social Media Guru in the Philosophy Club, Vice President of the Black & White Journal for the Arts, and Publicity Chair for The Echo Newspaper.Be it scribbling, tree-hugging, hot-gluing, singing, dancing, or volunteering, I just can’t stop moving to the groove of one billion beautiful people.





Amanda Vitti

Contract Major in Philosophy

You may be asking yourself, why is that girl holding a fish? Did she wrangle that fish? Did she find it? Did it put up a good fight? Where is she? I will tell you that none of that matters, what matters is that the girl in that picture graduated from Newtown High School and continued her education as a philosophy major here at WCSU, and is the president of the Philosophy Club. By following her passion for asking questions and learning, Amanda found herself in the philosophy department, a place that has become a home away from home. If there is anything that Amanda achieves in this lifetime (besides picking up large, washed up, yellow fin tuna) she hopes that it’s to show people that philosophy is far more accessible and more useful than people seem to believe it to be.



Ryan Zink

Contract Major in Philosophy

I am an explorer, reader and limit pusher. Spend most of my time hunting for new and exciting things. Whether it’s philosophy, skateboarding or traveling, I’m always having fun. Grateful to have such amazing professors here at Western. My main ambition is more philosophy/logic in grad school. Cheers to the good life! -RZ







Kendyl Harmeling

History Major and Philosophy Minor

I grew up in Newtown Connecticut; I attended Newtown High School, Newtown Middle School, Reed Intermediate School (Newtown Intermediate School) and Middle Gate Elementary (a deviation from the norm of Newtown —– School). I’m a history major and a philosophy minor, hence my addition to this page, of course. I wasn’t originally going to attend Western Connecticut to earn my Bachelors, but life takes the course it’s going to. After an adjustment period, I settled in here. My department is full of faculty who I wouldn’t dream of missing the opportunity to learn from; the philosophy department as well. Having taken Dr. Dalton’s introduction class and two seminars with himself and President Clark, I was guided to find a passion for philosophy, a love of wisdom, I hadn’t known was inside me. Someday I’d like to be a professor like the wonderful people I interact with here, but life takes the course it’s going to. Maybe I’ll be a lawyer, or a secondary education teacher, or maybe I’ll buy a fishing boat. In any case, Western will have prepared me for the future in ways for which I’ll be eternally grateful. Søren Kierkegaard was a suffering soul whose words often strike as ironic as they do somber, but in the regard of looking toward the future he perfectly says what’s on the mind of all college students, if I’m so bold to say it. He endeavored “to find the idea for which I am willing to live and die.” Isn’t that why we’re all here?


Chris Michaels

Chris Michaels

Interdisciplinary Studies Major with concentrations in Philosophy and Psychology

Chris grew up in Wilton, CT and the Wilton Public Schools. After pursuing his hobby of photography for a year at the Cleveland Art Institute, he decided move back to Connecticut and study psychology at WCSU in the summer of 2014. Always having an interest in reality, consciousness, and human thought, he was exposed to the philosophy department in his very first class; philosophy in film. Since then, he has expanded from the traditional psychology major to the Interdisciplinary Studies major to include both philosophy and psychology. He seeks to find a useful common ground of these two disciplines and the day to day existence of human thought. This effort is coupled by his fascination with science, technology, and space, as well as the humanistic passions of comedy, film, and television.

“Some people see things that are and ask, Why? Some people dream of things that never were and ask, Why not? Some people have to go to work and don’t have time for all that.” – George Carlin