But several years and college degrees later, the Homewood, Ill. resident found herself at the University of Roehampton in the United Kingdom last spring, teaching, researching and giving talks about both topics as a Fulbright Scholar.
Conroy, an associate professor of philosophy at Purdue University Calumet, grew up in Mount Vernon, Wash. From age 3, she studied and performed dance forms of ballet, jazz, tap and musical theater.
“I have loved the arts, thinking about the arts, and thinking about artful thinking ever since I can remember and have spent much of my life enjoying the pursuit of activities in these domains,” Conroy said, adding a comment of thanks to her parents for encouraging these activities.
Self-described as “bookish”, Conroy said that in high school, her interests in dance met an interest in philosophy when she joined the debate team, which sparked an interest in argumentation. During summers, she attended dance and debate camps even though, as she put it, “As a younger person, I had no interest in having my philosophical life intersect with my artistic life, because I didn’t want my artistic life ‘sullied’ by too much analysis.”
Deciding to become an expert
After earning independent baccalaureate degrees in dance and philosophy at the University of Washington, as well as the Dean’s Medal in the Arts, Conroy worked as assistant to the Chief Financial Officer at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle. She also taught dance and performed with and choreographed for various companies in the Pacific Northwest.
While conducting research for her boss, she discovered that little had been written about the philosophy of dance. Subsequently, Conroy applied for the graduate program at her alma mater with a plan to write her dissertation about the intersection of philosophy and dance. She eventually earned masters and doctoral degrees in philosophy
“My father always advised me to try to find a career I would do for free for which I would feel lucky to be paid,” she said. “This area of philosophical aesthetics fit the bill for me.”
Conroy came to Purdue Calumet in 2009, conveying her passion for art, philosophy and ethics in the classes she has taught, as well as helping students appreciate the roles all three play.
In 2013, Conroy succeeded in becoming a Fulbright Scholar—a designation less than 10 percent of Fulbright applicants achieve.
Department Head of English and Philosophy Dan Punday said that Conroy’s acceptance to the Fulbright Fellowship program is an accomplishment to be noted because of its difficulty.
“It’s really a great way to increase the visibility of this campus,” Punday said. “We’re moving from being a regional campus to an international identity.”
Conroy spent the 2015 spring semester at the University of Roehampton teaching a course in the philosophy of dance, conducting research for a monograph on the subject and presenting professional papers on such topics as improvisational dance, the nature of grace as an aesthetic property of dance and modern ruins.
“It was great to get to talk to new people about ideas that have occupied me for a long time,” Conroy said. “There was, throughout the academic adventure, a sense of recapturing my joy for philosophy and a rediscovery of my original enthusiasm for aesthetics.”
Influences and experience
Conroy said she began thinking about applying for the Fulbright fellowship after a friend at the University of Roehampton mentioned the opportunity. But it was her now late mother-in-law, she said, whose encouragement really moved her to pursue it.
Back at Purdue Calumet, Conroy said she has attempted to bring her Fulbright experience to her students. She also plans to use her new professional associations to attract art-specializing international scholars to Purdue Calumet in future years. Additionally, she is developing a new course—“Thinking through Dance”—she hopes to introduce next fall.