Defusing Conflict

Student Joshua Hunt Hopes to Increase Cultural Understanding

Joshua Hunt — a veteran of the U.S. Air Force who is majoring in psychology and minoring in military science — knows that with the right education, diverse cultures can come together peacefully.

Hunt plans to graduate in spring 2015, at which time he will receive a commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army. He intends to pursue a master’s degree and doctorate in psychology, and hopes to return to academia one day to teach. Until then, he would like to work with the military on cultural diversity and inclusion. He wants to explore issues within the military and study how military forces interact with cultures abroad.

As the military becomes more diverse, programs that educate troops on cultural issues and promote understanding are critical, Hunt said. With the introduction of women to the front lines and the increasing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) population in the military, such programs will protect individuals within the ranks as well as support troops’ ability to fight effectively.

Hunt also wants to help educate troops about the cultures they are serving. Cultural disconnect has been a major stumbling block in efforts to bring stability to regions in which the U.S. is operating, he said.
Hunt believes that because the U.S. is a global leader, the country has the responsibility to properly educate those sent to represent the U.S. and create a culture of compassion and empathy among troops. This will empower the military to peacefully defuse conflict before it starts.
Hunt said, “Helping our troops understand those they interact with will save lives on both sides, prevent dehumanization and war crimes, improve our image abroad while strengthening alliances, and help sow the seeds of future cooperation and peace.”

On campus, Hunt was involved in the Weber State University Student Association (WSUSA) for three years as assistant director of diversity, executive vice president for the diversity branch and veteran senator. Currently, he is the vice president of WSU’s chapter of the Psi Chi psychology honor society.

Participating in WSUSA broadened his perspective and helped reshape his understanding of the world and the people around him through practical experience, he said. “The wide range of issues that we dealt with truly had an impact on me and have deeply influenced my civilian and military career choices,” Hunt said. “The leadership experience I gained serving the student body, immersing myself in the innermost workings of WSU, was invaluable.”

Hunt was the 2013 Wildcat Achievement Crystal Crest award winner. He served in the Air Force in 2003-09 prior to attending WSU. He has worked for five years in mental health and drug and alcohol treatment, helping people in the rehabilitation process. He taught life skills classes, assisted in event planning and coordinated with other community rehabilitation programs like Alcoholics Anonymous.

Hunt remembers one of his first reading assignments here at WSU: David Foster Wallace’s Kenyon College commencement speech. The novelist’s speech said that the purpose of higher education was to give students the ability to rise above their subjective human experience and empower them to choose how they experience the world around them, instead of just being shaped by it.

“I have thought of this message almost daily throughout my time at WSU,” Hunt said. “I have seen it prove true in powerful ways as I have continuously grown and changed over the last several years through the empowerment of higher education.”

Hunt’s education has led him to his current interest in diversity issues. Though he has a long list of mentors who have inspired him, Adrienne Andrews — WSU assistant to the president for diversity — has been a guiding force for Hunt.

“Despite her incredibly busy schedule, Adrienne has taken the time to personally mentor me,” Hunt said. “She has been a truly inspirational example to me. Whether in terms of academics, career goals or military aspirations, she always has the wisdom and insight that has helped me to grow as a person and continue moving in the right direction.”

As Hunt walks the halls of the Social Science Building, professors stop and ask him about his progress and plans. They know him by name, even though some taught him only during his first-year generals and others never taught him at all.

“From personally investing in Psi Chi and research groups I am a part of to taking personal time to mentor me in academics and career choices, they truly care,” Hunt said. “The faculty and staff have helped me develop my character and skill set over the years, preparing me for any course in life I choose.”

When Hunt isn’t busy serving on or off campus, he likes to hike and read. Bell Canyon in Sandy, Utah, is his favorite trail to hike — it is challenging but offers a reservoir, several waterfalls and great views. His favorite book is The Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan.