Humans of UVM: JP, The Thinker

Hey! We’re back with another Humans of UVM feature! Meet this down-to-earth, neighborly, and incredibly philosophical Human of UVM: JP!

JP has been working at the Davis Center since its fruition in 2007. Other than being a Davis Center employee, JP is an artist, poet, and philosopher. He says that all of his creativity and outlook on the world stems from the “incredible openness and energy” he has received from UVM students throughout his ten years working at the university. I met with JP on a sunny Friday afternoon in Henderson’s to talk about his work as well as his hopes and dreams – this is what we talked about:

JP on college education:

“The purpose of university isn’t to keep that information here, but to take what you learn and practice it in the community. The education you receive here isn’t just for yourself, but it’s to give back to the world. It should not stop after that four-year period [learning, expressing yourself, working towards social justice], it should continue and flourish.

We save ourselves by reflection and observation, and it’s great for me to see this process emerge from the students. I may come across as knowing something or being wise, but it’s really learning from the students that matters most to me. Inspiring them is great because you in turn are learning from them; it’s great to be inspired, it’s even better to inspire.

JP on co-existing:

“The other week I saw this wild aster – a wild purple flower. There was a monarch butterfly and a honeybee only 3 inches apart, but doing the exact same thing – feeding the flower and also taking what they need from it. The butterfly wasn’t bothering the bee, and the honeybee wasn’t bothering the butterfly. They’re two very different species of insect, yet there they were communicating and surrounding the same plant.

I’m interested in getting students to study the relationships in nature and compare them to relationships in human life; it’s the same.”

JP on hate speech and violence:

“We’re so connected; we’re all valuable. Every human being is precious, and a miracle. We are the creations of nature; each one of us was created by nature through reproduction. We have this ability to grow to be independent; everyone has a unique way of being themselves, yet we are social. It’s the most important facet we have, and we need to be social –  in order to survive. It’s interesting to me that we haven’t figured that out yet. We let people who hate turn us into victims; we are way beyond this. We resort to primitive ways to communicate. We resort to violence. It’s primitive, it’s so primitive that it’s barbarism. Inflicting harm on someone else is the poorest way to express any kind of discontent or anger. You’re not accomplishing anything, but destroying someone or destroying others.

JP on his hope for the future:

“I believe that your generation is on its way – through environmental activism, understanding basic principles of life, law, government, and justice, and working towards food justice, and universal health-care – to making the world a better place. These all derive from connectedness. We can see it in the LEAF program, the GreenHouse program, and Living/Learning communities; they’re incubators for learning how to connect with others and nature. Rather than having this knowledge stay within the university, which has been the tradition – you graduate and suddenly you just become another part of “the cog in the wheel”; you work, you try to survive, you start a family, you get caught up and retire – take it into the real world.

A lot of college students now are choosing careers not for the money, but choosing careers that give back. That made me so happy because when you’re giving back, you’re also giving back to yourself; you’re seeing the fruits of your labor. It’s very nourishing to see your work come into fruition, and that is its own reward in itself.

It’s more than just making money, it’s about family and about community. We have an opportunity to do that in this country; we have the opportunity to change the world’s perception of us – we can rebound. America is an experiment that’s still evolving, and [I believe] your generation and the young people after you, are going to make sure that freedom remains and hope remains in this country.”

JP’s message to UVM students:

“No matter what, this community is going to stay open-minded; no one is going to close the minds of young people, especially if universities and colleges stand strong. We have to stand strong. You are in a very powerful environment, but it’s your obligation that when you leave this environment, that you carry on these principles, and not let society say: ‘You’re a dreamer, you can’t do that’.

The great thing about college, universities, and higher learning, is the ability to preserve the good in civilization and remedy what is wrong. This is your opportunity to learn. You’re shaping your mind and you’re investing in this university to help you shape your mind, and that’s a big deal. What UVM wants is for you to become a lifelong learner.

What you stand for here is what you’re going to have to stand up for in society. It’s all about making society a better place.


JP is not only a major celebrity among UVM students, but he’s also well known in the state of Vermont for his artwork and love for his community. Check out his interview with Stuck in Vermont:

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