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An Interview with Secular Student Society at Miami University — Part 3


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Medium (Humanist Voices)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2017/07/11

Jacobsen: Does SSM provide for the groups for individuals who may not be explicit secularists?

SSM: Yes, we have members who come weekly, who identify as Christian, and SSM makes sure they have a chance, if they’d like, to give their perspective.

We also have students who I describe as a blending of belief in science and rationality, but through the lens of their belief system. They can separate their studies with the part they believe their faith plays in how they understand the world. This has given SSM a secular perspective that we haven’t heard before.

I appreciate the members who don’t identify as secularists. They are coming to broaden their understanding of themselves. We have members who come identifying with the cultural and social aspects for their cultural background, but not the faith within it. So, they are secular, but identify with their culture.

We have people who are not secular at all. They identify as faith-based believers. They come to hear what we have to say and liven up discussions.

We hope that like a sponge absorbing all types of liquids, they absorb some secular humanistic ideals. But it is a choice. We are a freethinkers group. I appreciate that aspect of SSM. It drew me to the group itself. There was no pressure to conform within it. Everyone has the right to express their beliefs.

We have done a great job of being inclusive and accepting. We can disagree at the end of the day. It makes for a good debate. These are knowledgeable and extremely articulate students having real conversation on hard topics, from so many different perspectives. I’m not seeing this anywhere else at Miami.

Jacobsen: You mentioned this was a forum to be neutral on beliefs. So, you presentation material and views from a secularist perspective and a discussion follows. But also, students have the ability to not feeling coaxed into one side or the other in the moment.

In terms of your own background, you have mentioned no formal faith, but you connect more with a sense of compassion and a sense of community while remaining rational and skeptical.

So, where do these values source themselves in personal background?

SSM: I attribute my disposition to a combination of the different circumstances that shaped me. My mom always made sure to remind us that no matter what struggles we faced it would be together as a family. This resilience was instilled in me.

We always got through struggles because we have been worse off before but we got through that, so we can get through whatever it is now. I was exposed to other people in similar situations, worse situations, suffering, I found purpose in helping others.

I try to be intentional in everything I do. I’m very self-aware, introspective in that I like to avoid complacency. A conscious control of behavior. Minimalism is a big part. Reduce the things I ‘need’ and just focus on breaking down barriers that reduce approachability and really reaching people — learning from human interaction.

In a Stoic sense, I take time find pleasure in the simplest things, like really appreciating that first bite into a perfectly ripe piece of fruit. To keep my mind clear and focused on my goals, I abstain from a lot of common indulgences most undergraduate students partake in. By living a simple life, I’m starting to find that fulfillment.

My character has always been one of compassion. I learned it from my mom. She’s such a caring person. I owe my compassion and success to her. She has sacrificed a lot, more than I can even comprehend, to get my family to where we are.

Now, she is a school nurse. Which requires a natural disposition for compassion and helping others. How can I not absorb some of that nature? But because I’m still young, I realize that I’m compassionate even to a fault. I’m stubborn and don’t like to give up on people. I want people to become the best version of themselves.

How does this compassion influence relations on campus?

I think students and my professors sense my commitment. I come with palms open, not arms crossed. I attend religious services for different belief systems so that I have the breadth of their perspective, and that my presence — and in extent SSM’s presence- is known as open and inclusive.

I don’t know if you’d call it altruism, but I feel this obligation to spread some of the success and community I have been given to other students who may be struggling. Even though I’m the same age as my peers, I often get mistaken for being much older because I give off this maturity and self-motivation. I’ve always been aware of this growing up. I found the solution in teaching.

In higher education, with such a brief stint at a college or university, I get that there is resistance to be committal in improving the community because in 4 years your life will most likely not center around your university.

I wish the community was a little closer and cohesive. As a college, it is constantly changing. There is a sense of detachment to the place itself because they are there for such a short amount of time. It is hard to make that difference in that short amount of time.

We are all trying to find ourselves [Laughing].


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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