Undergraduate, B.A. in Philosophy
In the days and weeks following George Floyd’s death, Caleb Charles joined others on social media working to raise awareness in Kingsburg.
“We named ourselves the Kingsburg Make a Change Organization. With the help of Central Valley Allies for Change,” said Charles, one of the founding leaders.
On June 20, 2020, Charles, leading a group of protesters in Selma, California, read a list of names of African Americans unjustly killed over the last several decades. The crowd dropped to one knee with fists raised. For 8 minutes and 46 seconds, they knelt as the names of the fallen broke the silence.
“In a time of deep division, members of the community came together and took a stand against police brutality while pursuing the very values (courage, justice, and equality) that I have studied in Philosophy and the Humanities,” Charles said.
After his parents divorced when he was a child, Charles grew up in Kingsburg with his mother and grandmother. He played was the captain of the football at Kingsburg High School and vice-president of the pre-law club. After graduation, Charles went to Whittier College in Los Angeles on a football scholarship. A career-ending injury cut his stay at Whittier to one year, but not before taking his first philosophy course.
“I love and appreciate Philosophy specifically, and the Humanities in general, because they have taught me to embrace myself as an intellectual by teaching me how to think creatively and rigorously.”
Coming back to Fresno, Charles enrolled at Fresno City College, where he discovered the Central Valley Regional Pathway to Law Pipeline, which aims to provide a pathway for underrepresented students of minority backgrounds to earn a law degree and increase the State Bar of California’s diversity. The program offers a clear path from Fresno City College to Fresno State – and then to one of 10 partnering law schools, including UC Berkeley, UCLA, USC, and the San Joaquin College of Law.
From his first year at Whittier College to Fresno City College, Charles maintained an extremely high GPA even while taking time to engage his community. During his time at Fresno State, his GPA has been perfect, and his professors laud his work ethic and the depth of comprehension of the theory he achieves.
“Caleb brings the discipline of an athlete to his studies. He seems to understand the Greek notion of virtue while also recognizing that there are injustices woven into the Western philosophical canon,” Professor of Philosophy Andrew Fiala, Ph.D. said.
Associate Professor of Philosophy Carolyn Cusick, Ph.D., agreed, “The quality of his work is just so high, and it is not only in his own thinking and writing. Caleb is the best participant in discussions. He engages with others in class, many of whom are not philosophy majors, in the spirit of philosophical inquiry. He finds ways to help answer others’ questions, to push their interpretations of dense text, and to think carefully about the implications of any given philosophical theory.”
Beyond his work in the classroom, Charles has a long history of community service and leadership. Beyond his leadership role with “Kingsburg Make a Change,” Charles was part of the Whittier College Leadership Council, a member of the Law Pathway Club, and a current member of the Fresno State NAACP Fresno State Phi Alpha Delta pre-law fraternity. Charles also volunteers as a student advocate representing citizens of Fresno in municipal court.
“I am currently participating in the student advocacy program, and I love it!” Charles said in a previous interview. After completing the training to do this project and upon receiving consent from the citizens of Fresno seeking help, students advocate on behalf of them as they appeal citations through the administrative hearing process in Municipal Court.
The cases are minor infractions such as unlawful dumping, illegal firework usage, or public nuisance citations. Still, it gives students the experience to craft legal arguments and advocate for those who may not be able to afford legal representation.
Charles says his identity as a “large framed black man” in the United States has come with struggles. His experience is a large part of why he is in the law pathway.
“From a young age, I have recognized the injustices found in society towards people of color, and this has provided the fuel for my ambition,” said Charles. “My purpose as a Philosophy student is to go to UC Berkeley School of Law and become a Civil Rights Attorney for the NAACP, arguing on behalf of the voiceless men and women of America as a zealous advocate, a humanitarian, and a philosopher.
The College of Arts and Humanities Students of Distinction represents the best of their department and will be honored at the Arts in Motion event at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 10 – the culminating event of the Arts in Motion Showcase week. From these students, one undergraduate and one graduate Dean’s Medalist will be selected. The Dean’s Medalists are then eligible to receive the President’s Medal, the university’s highest student honor.