Montana State University

Opposites attract deep-thinking MSU student

March 31, 2005 -- By Evelyn Boswell, MSU News Service


Scott Hyslop (MSU photo by Erin Raley).   High-Res Available

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Opposites seem as much a part of Scott Hyslop's life as the mountains that call him to climb and the classics that summon him to read.

The Montana State University senior and Butte native is majoring in math, but also in philosophy with a religious studies option. He spent a summer mapping the religions of Montana, but doesn't attend church. He's a rock climber and hiker who reads Ovid's "Metamorphoses." Even his brother, Craig, is both an artist and geophysical engineer.

Though his interests may appear to be divergent, they aren't necessarily so, said Hyslop whose yin and yang tendencies might seem more typical of the Buddhists he discovered in Montana than his own Lutheran background.

"It seems like all my classes converge to the same idea, so I don't think they are really all that separate," Hyslop said.

In his eyes, math, religion and philosophy are the basic foundations for learning, Hyslop said. And that ever-sturdier foundation has made room for a variety of interests, activities and accomplishments over the years.

Hyslop's most publicized work was his 2003 involvement in a Harvard University project on religious pluralism. Criss-crossing Montana in his 1986 Buick, he not only mapped traditional Christian churches, but 10 different traditions of Buddhism, Baha'i communities, Muslim centers, Hutterites, a variety of Native American religions and a thriving group of Pagans and Wiccans.

"Many of these groups find that the isolation gives them some degree of privacy to worship as they wish," he said after completing that project.

Some of Hyslop's lesser-known activities occurred after he attended the University of Maine through the National Student Exchange. When he returned to MSU, he came with an increased interest in issues like sexual assault, rape, domestic violence and gender, said Lynda Sexson, humanities professor at MSU. Hyslop served as co-president of Students Against Sexual Assault and president of Men Stopping Rape. He is active with the VOICE Center (Victims Options in the Campus Environment). He recently represented MSU at a conference on gender and violence.

"Sexual assault and rape have a profound impact on people's lives," said Hyslop who prefers not to give a detailed explanation for his involvement in the issue. "It is disgusting, and it happens much more than one would think. It definitely impacts the survivor of the rape or assault, but then it also affects everyone connected to that individual. Some of the effects of sexual violence were brought very much to my attention a few years back, forcing me to be a little more aware of this issue."

Sexson, one of two faculty members who nominated Hyslop for Bozeman Noon Rotary Club Student of the Month in February, said, "He's a reflective young man .... His response to suffering is social activism; his response to the mysteries of living is profound thinking and hard work."

James Allard, a philosophy professor who also nominated Hyslop, said Hyslop was one of three students who organized MSU's Society of Miscellaneous Thought, a group for student philosophers. Hyslop helped organize the Bozeman Collective, a student organization dedicated to social justice. In 2002-03, he received the Landis Scholarship from the MSU Department of History and Philosophy. The following year, he won MSU's Best Philosophy Paper of the Year Award.

"Scott is a remarkable student, a caring person, a responsible individual and one who has made a difference in the lives of others through his service activities," Allard said.

Hyslop plans to attend graduate school after graduating in December. He wants to continue in religious studies and sees himself with a career in the academic world.

"Studying religion and the varieties of religion really shines a bit of light on the very different ways that people see themselves and see their place in the world," Hyslop said. "There's just so much variety, it's fascinating."

Evelyn Boswell, (406) 994-5135 or evelynb@montana.edu