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Kalamazoo College

Matt Zhiss


Wheaton, IL
Psychology and Philosophy
Study Abroad:
University of Aberdeen, Scotland
Favorite Ice Cream Flavor:
Blue Moon
Best Adjective to Describe You:

In 15 words or less, why should a student want to be involved in this department?
Caring professors and a widely applicable discipline that offers the skills necessary for interpersonal success.

What initially drew you to this department?  What keeps you coming back?
The understanding and mending of the human spirit has always been a core pillar of my being. Having the opportunity to challenge myself in further enhancing my skills here was a no brainer. Combined with knowledgeable professors and students who truly care about my own growth, I always feel welcome and I do not see myself leaving the discipline anytime soon.

What’s your biggest piece of advice to first years and sophomores in this department?
There are a vast amount of psychology courses offered, yet there is also a vast amount of time for you to take them and they can only teach you so much. Do not try to cram them all in and instead take the opportunity to branch out into other departments, and definitely consider a study abroad option! Kalamazoo allows you the flexibility to take control of your own learning and take risks. Create an education that is all your own and that you will appreciate for years to come.

How does your department connect to your other interests and activities?
Psychology is about people, and I will always share interactions with others and myself so the broader implications of the discipline are pretty far reaching. Opportunities will always arise for my learning inside the classroom to manifest itself outside. Whether optimizing my mentality in the pool, teaching an anxious flier a complex move set on aerial silks, or having daily interactions with my fellow stressed out classmates who need somebody to talk with, Psychology will always be there so long as people are as well.

What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned at K?
I have gained an appreciation for learning, for taking control of my exploration of life thanks to the flexibility Kalamazoo allows. To be free to build my education and explore my own interests through the classes I take, the team I swim with, the aerial silks I climb, or the flight to study abroad are all risks I have taken because I wanted to, not because Kalamazoo ever forced them upon me. The K-Plan has really opened up my autonomy and enabled me to see my life as my own.

What has been your favorite class at K?  Why?
Biomedical Ethics. It may seem intimidating, listed as PHIL-305, but Max Cherem was very welcoming and remains one of my favorite professors. The class aimed at discussion of medical events that were prime to affect us all, regardless of background: bodily autonomy, confidentiality, abortion, physician assisted suicide/dying, euthanasia, and other topics dealing with the ethical dilemmas of health care professionals. Students ranged from those majoring in psychology, philosophy, anthropology or English, to those from chemistry, biology, and pre-med tracks. To have such a broad range of student interests and knowledge really opened the class to amazing discussions as everyone had something to offer.

What is your SIP?
My SIP has been seeking to explore relapse rates in the probation department of Kalamazoo’s 8th District Court. Not only am I looking at success rates of different classes, but also looking for relationships that could possibly help predict relapse and how ignition interlock devices might be effective in further curbing these relapse rates.

What are your career aspirations/next steps after K?
The only certainty is graduate school. Regarding the type of degree, Masters or Ph.D., is one element in the air. In terms of the specificity of the degree, that is also another element in the air. Perhaps I might take a year off to further discover parts of the human psyche, to toss another element up there. I suppose the only other certainty, or at least I hope it is one, is that I will eventually figure out how to juggle all of these elements and bring the right ones to fruition.

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