#ElonGrad 2022 spotlight: Sydnie Rogers, philosophy

In this series, Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences is shining the spotlight on distinguished members of the Class of 2022 from a wide array of disciplines.

A philosophy major and Provost Scholar, Sydnie Rogers ’22 was recognized with the Phillips-Perry Black Excellence Award each of her four years.

She was also the recipient of the Anthony Weston Award for Philosophic Excellence, the John Sullivan Award for Philosophical Engagement and the John Dewey Emerging Scholar Award.

“Studying abroad and my research have been the highlights of my college experience. Both, in different ways, have challenged me to reevaluate what I value most,” Rogers said.

She was a teaching and learning assistant for Associate Professor of Philosophy Ryan Johnson’s Modern Philosophy course and Assistant Professor of Philosophy Lauren Guilmette’s “How Should We Live?” course in 2021.

How did you choose your major?

Upon coming to college, I found that my foundational understanding of my personal significance was shaken up and de-centered. Recognizing that I was not in touch with myself and no longer understood my life’s direction, I turned to philosophy as a means for self-discovery and enlightenment. It was through studying philosophy that I realized that it is more than just an academic field; it’s a friend. Philosophical texts and communities not only allowed me to interrogate questions prevalent to society and those pertaining to meaning but also enabled me to examine myself, inspiring me to become my best self.

How did you select your research topic around skin and racism?

In the fall semester of my junior year, I took the Philosophy Senior Seminar course. In this class, I researched how the skin is an archive: It is a site for experience, a place that manifests the requests of the world. In wanting to turn this research into something more long-term, I connected with my now research advisor, Dr. Ann Cahill, and collaborated on how to do so.

It was through my conversations with Dr. Cahill that I came upon the research that I am now doing: “Merleau-Ponty, Flesh, and Skin: One and the Same? A Phenomenological Approach.” This project examines three texts — Mearleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception and “The Intertwining—The Chiasm,” and Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks — in which the first two texts highlight flesh as a zone of interaction, supporting the fundamental structure of distinction between entities inexperience and perception. The last text, with a central focus on chapter five, “The Lived Experience of the Black Man,” introduces a critical phenomenological perceptive on the experience of skin, emphasizing the effects of the racialized gaze on the colonized body. I presented at the Spring Undergraduate Research Forum Day.

Dr. Cahill pushed me to think more deeply and shown me that revision really is tough love. She continually met me where I am and guided me through tough moments. In doing so, she pushed me to reach my full potential.

What are your plans following graduation?

I plan to take a gap year before pursuing a Ph.D. in philosophy.

What advice would you share with future Elon students?

In all things that pertain to college life, have an open mind. What I mean by this is that things — plans, relationships, the direction you assumed your life would go — can change in an instant.