Down the Rabbit Hole of Knowledge!

For much of high school, I was not a very good student. These days, besides working at the Cambridge Centre for International Research (CCIR), I’m a PhD student studying philosophy at Georgetown—after having just recently obtained my MPhil from the University of Cambridge. What happened? How did the kid who never used to do homework become an academic researcher?

The turning point for me, I suspect, was AP European history in Junior year. This class transformed me—mainly thanks to my teacher Mr. Musk. What was so special about this class? Well, for one, Mr. Musk, being himself a PhD in political theory, was someone who just seemed to know a whole lot. Until then, I had never heard anyone talk about Marx, Machiavelli, and Newton in the same breath. But perhaps more importantly, Mr. Musk was a teacher who not only asked deep, probing questions but who also truly listened to us—someone who for some reason seemed to genuinely believe that we (which seemed to include me, the person who never used to talk in class) might have something to say.

All of a sudden, I found myself doing the readings and speaking up in class; the next thing I knew, I was doing readings outside of class, on my own, because I felt like I couldn’t say the things I wanted to say if I didn’t—and just like that, I found myself slipping into the rabbit hole of knowledge.

At CCIR, our mission is to provide these sorts of transformative educational experiences for students. These are experiences that happen, unfortunately, to be all-too-rare in most ordinary high schools. Our aim, more floridly put, is to inspire and empower our students to explore the rabbit hole of knowledge. So whenever we are thinking about how we should design our courses, or looking into which lecturers to approach, this is what we keep in mind.

At CCIR, you’ll learn directly from lecturers at the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford in small group settings. Together, you’ll be exploring some of the most exciting and engaging topics available in academia today. Under your mentor’s wing, you’ll learn how to design and conduct independent research, and you’ll dive deep into a question that you truly care about. In the process, you’ll learn all sorts of things you did not before, and you’ll develop a whole battery of critical thinking, research, and discipline-specific skills. But most importantly of all, if we’re at all successful in what we were trying to do, you’ll walk away from this experience with a hunger to learn more about the world.

Oliver is the marketing and communications director for CCIR and a current philosophy PhD candidate at Georgetown University, with interests in social epistemology and the philosophy of language. Previously, he obtained his MPhil at Cambridge, and his BA from Tufts, where he graduated from Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude.


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