Skip to main content
Luca Barba
More Than I Imagined Seniors reflect on accomplishments and look ahead

Luca Barba

Graduation year: 2024

High school: Auburn High School

Hometown: Rockford, Ill. 

Major: Philosophy; pre-dentistry program

Minor: Ethics

Activities: Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, Socratic Society of Augustana, Go & Chill Out (founder), Heterodox Academy Undergraduate Affiliate

Internship: Learned how to run a dental office with a local dentist

Post-grad plans: Dental student at Southern Illinois University

Why Augustana?

Back in its heyday, Auburn High School's gifted program was a feeder program for Augustana. I really identified with my high school and wanted to carry on that legacy, even when my time as a student there was over. 

Plus, I knew that Augustana was a pragmatic choice — it had strong STEM, which mattered to me because I had planned to become a psychiatrist, and I wanted to learn how to think critically, which my Auburn teachers said Augustana could do for me. They were definitely right.

Are you where you thought you'd be when you first came to campus?

It surprised me how much faster I grew than I expected. When I first stepped foot on this campus, I was a bit awkward and not 100% sure about what I wanted my future to look like. I quickly learned that I would get out of Augustana what I put in: when I applied myself, I would thrive. 

I didn't expect to become a dentist, the first non-musician president of a music fraternity or a presenter of my own epistemological work at a conference in Memphis. It's cool what can change in four years.

Who helped you get to where you are now?

It takes a village to raise a mind, so I have plenty of thank-you's to offer. I have a deep sense of gratitude for almost every professor I've had over my time here, especially those from my philosophy and pre-dentistry classes. 

But if there was one person who catalyzed my professional and intellectual growth the most, it would be Dr. Deke Gould from the philosophy department. He was my freshman advisor and got me involved in the philosophy club from the get-go. That organization would teach me to think critically extemporaneously. I also remember being intimidated to take his metaphysics and epistemology course my freshman year, but the challenge it offered me was exactly what I needed, and the paper I wrote for that class would be the groundwork for what I presented at a conference in Memphis as well as my senior thesis. 

In particular, he taught me to think with subtlety, which has opened countless doors in my everyday life that I never could have seen before.

Peak experience?

My peak Augustana experience happened off campus but was inextricably linked to my time studying ethics. Growing up in a Western society, there tends to be a common, deontological understanding of morality. (Simply put, we think good people follow moral rules.)

But then I learned of Plato, who thought that entire systems could embody justice. That caused me to have an epiphany while shadowing a dental office — more than just "acting good," I could create goodness in the world through dentistry.

What surprised you?

I never expected my time with philosophy to be so valuable for my career in dentistry. Studying philosophy taught me how to approach the world with an inquisitive, caring lens. That mindset and its corresponding skills helped me not only discover my vocation but also excel in getting there by leading me to an exceptional purpose statement and interview responses.

What will you miss the most?

In a weird way, I'm not sure I'll "miss" Augie. I had a great time here, and I wouldn't change anything. Just like throwing in the towel after a long day of work that I'm proud of, I will be satisfied to have my undergrad behind me. I appreciate that my life changes, and I am happy to let this experience go to make room for the next chapter.

Advice for the Class of 2028?

Follow masters.

That means continuously noticing what wisdom and skills you lack and seeking them from experts or role models. Learn healthy relationships from counselors, budgeting from personal finance educators, and socializing from popular friends.

Act on these lessons, and you’ll flourish so quickly that you can't believe it.

"From the very beginning, Luca recognized the value of striking into paths that are less commonly traveled. It will always give me great pleasure to report that one of my very best students is a philosophy and pre-dental double major. While this is surprising to many, it shouldn’t be. Luca is an exemplary case of what an enterprising student can do with a liberal arts education. His commitment to understanding nuance and seeking criticism will carry him far."

– Dr. Deke Gould, continuing lecturer, philosophy