Up to the challenge
Jake Rapp admits he was not a good high
“I didn’t do the work. I was lazy,” he
Today, Rapp is a pioneer in a new degree
field, holds a 3.81 GPA as a triple-major, and serves as both a resident
assistant on campus and a mentor to high school students. In short, “lazy” is
not the word that comes to the minds of those who know Rapp today as a Northern
Arizona University undergraduate – rather, he is a prime example of what a university
student can achieve, both to his fellow students and those he mentors.
graduates this May, Rapp will be the second student from Northern Arizona
University to be granted a Philosophy, Politics, and Law (PPL) degree. Jeff Downard, a
philosophy of law professor and one of Jake’s mentors, describes the degree as
a challenging, advanced path for the department’s finest students, with the
curriculum pulling from a variety of subject areas, including philosophy,
political science, criminal justice, and economics.
this is what makes the degree great preparation for law school.
bring up the PPL, there are a lot of people who are interested in it,” Rapp
says. “There are a lot of people here who want to be ‘pre-law,’ and they do
criminal justice or political science, but this is more of what they have in
mind, where you’re doing economics and law, as well as critical thinking in
major alone is strenuous enough, Downard explains, which makes it so remarkable
that Rapp is earning two other degrees in anthropology and philosophy alongside
“The fact that he’s taking courses for two other majors in
addition to this pretty vigorous major itself demonstrates what a hardworking
student he is,” Downard says.
graduating Northern Arizona University, Rapp’s plans include pursuing a
graduate degree in philosophy. Although he is one of the hardest working
students on campus, he says he wouldn’t be as involved as he is without the
help and support of the university.
that kind of faculty — having these people here — getting me
interested in things I actually cared about and helping me take all of this
stuff on; it shows how lucky I am that I came here,” Rapp says. “I wouldn’t trade
Learning through teaching
to his coursework, Rapp is one of many Northern Arizona University students
involved in the philosophy mentoring program, where university students visit
local high schools and teach their younger counterparts about philosophy and
what it takes to be a student. As one of the professors who runs the mentoring
program, Downard says he pushed Rapp to join.
found out he was thinking about going into graduate school and perhaps being a
teacher at some point, I basically twisted his arm, week after week, telling
him that it would be a real mistake to go off to graduate school without seeing
what teaching was like first,” Downard says.
explains that the strength of the program lies in its ability to enable
students to take the reins of their own education by meeting outside of class
to discuss philosophy topics and pursue areas to complement their studies.
much a department where we encourage students to go out and find things that
will be rewarding for their education, because a significant portion of what
students learn is outside of the classroom,” Downard says. “And we think our
students have really built an atmosphere where they can share and help one
another grow as budding intellectuals.”
initial hesitation, Rapp is thankful for the knowledge and experience he earned
through the program.
enjoyable,” Rapp said. “I’ve always been kind of hesitant about teaching anyone
who is significantly younger than me – like a high school student – but I was
dead wrong about that. It’s a lot of fun.”
On top of
his academic life, Rapp also works in McKay Village as a resident assistant. He says the
everyday experiences and interaction with residents has been an invaluable
“This is my third year here in McKay,” Rapp
says. “I really enjoy it: I’ve learned a lot about people in general. More so
than just conflict resolution; I’ve learned things that I can apply to everyday