Leah Boynton

Little Rock, Arkansas native Patrick Kellycooper can often be found lounging around in Video Production Studios (VPS), scrolling through his scanned notes for class on his iPhone, picking out a recipe to make for dinner or daydreaming about where he wants to travel next. There is no question that this third-year student has a lot on his plate as a Whittier Scholar’s Program (WSP) major and a Nixon Fellow and a lot to wrap up before he graduates this Spring — one full year before he planned.

Kellycooper is a Whittier Scholar’s major studying political and social theory in the hopes of working in the public service sector, but he definitely isn’t limiting himself to one career path. “I knew I wanted to do something with the social sciences. I’m getting [a degree that] allows me to have a better intellectual basis for approaching politics and community issues,” Kellycooper said. “I feel like because I’ve also learned how cultures work and how religious beliefs influence personal values, I have a better approach to issues than other traditional Political Science majors.” 

His interest in religious studies led him to take Religions of Asia and Asian Literature with Professor of Religious Studies Jason Carbine as a first-year student, which opened a door to many other opportunities during his time at Whittier. “In the Fall of my sophomore year [Carbine] hired me as his research assistant. I signed up to go to Myanmar with him and I ended up getting really close with him as well as the practices of Buddhism and South East Asia. I was really satisfied by my work with him.” 

Kellycooper discovered his love of research through his time with Professor Carbine, but he also found a new love and connection with Myanmar while studying abroad during Jan term his sophomore year. “Myanmar was like a dream, I needed some time away from Whittier. It was a beautiful place with beautiful people. We went there with no cell phone service or Internet,” Kellycooper said. “I felt so at peace inside. ‘Go abroad’ is one of my top pieces of advice.” 

His appreciation for Myanmar turned into so much more once he was encouraged by Carbine to apply to be a Nixon fellow and discovered that he could connect his interests in South East Asia, foreign policy and Richard Nixon. 

“[Carbine] encouraged me to look into fellowships, and the Nixon fellowship stood out to me. When I was working for Jason, he pulled out this picture of Nixon in Myanmar wearing traditional Burmese garb with the prime minister and it was a funny picture,” Kellycooper said while laughing. “Here’s Nixon totally out of his element and not happy about it and I thought it was so funny. I realized I wanted to write my paper about his trip.” 

Kellycooper began his research and discovered the many connections of foreign policy to this trip which Nixon took while he was Vice President. “I was interested in why Nixon went to Myanmar, this random country in South East Asia. It didn’t make much sense to me. It turns out [his trip] had to do with our relationship with China,” Kellycooper said. “There are a lot of things you can see about the Cold War and the impact it had on American foreign policy through that Vice Presidential trip.” 

Besides doing research and completing his requirements for graduation, Kellycooper takes on a lot of side hobbies to keep himself entertained and tries todo a little bit of everything. He enjoys photography and making videos; while being a DJ in his spare time. Kellycooker had the opportunity to work at an independent bookstore in Little Rock and for the Clinton foundation. In his free time he enjoys meditating and finds the practices of Buddhism fascinating.

For Kellycooper, it’s all about becoming as well rounded as possible. “I want to diversify what I know and I want to learn a lot, so I do a lot of different things in an attempt to learn a little bit about everything,” Kellycooper said. According to Kellycooper, he has no trouble balancing it all, since he is very well-organized and on top of his busy schedule, often through the help of dailyorganizer applications. 

As for what’s next for him after college, Kellycooper is not quite certain yet. He’d love to explore other cities where a lot is happening, such as Seattle or San Francisco and is open to the idea of leaving the country for something completely new. 

He just knows that he wants to keep trying a multitude of things to see what fits. “These days, specialization is something we really pride ourselves on. I have a resistance to becoming a specialist in one particular thing because I like being a lot and doing a lot. I feel like, as a person, I don’t want to lose myself to one thing.”