Dr. Kevin Pybas, the University’s pre-law advisor and associate professor in the political science department, managed to make a career out of interests and curiosities that were once just hobbies.
“As a teenager and as I entered college I was interested in American history. More specifically, I was interested in the American political founding and how a nation as religiously and philosophically diverse as ours worked as well as it does,” said Pybas.
As a first-generation college student from rural Oklahoma, Pybas says that at the time it did not occur to him that he could earn a living pursing his intellectual interests. Having grown up working in the oil fields, he obtained his undergraduate degree in geology and worked as a petroleum geologist before deciding to go to law school.
“There are things in life that we have to do even if we don’t like doing them, but if possible a career shouldn’t be one of them,” said Pybas. “My goal became to find a way to make a living doing what I had long been interested in.”
Law school provided Pybas a gateway to explore his interests further. From the beginning of law school, Pybas says he had the desire to pursue a doctorate in the future. After graduating from law school, Pybas practiced corporate law for two years before beginning his doctoral studies.
“My firm represented clients who were in industries that were highly regulated. My practice thus mainly involved helping clients comply with all federal and state laws applicable to their companies,” said Pybas. “For example, I did a lot of securities law for privately held companies in the process of going public and having a stock offering.”
Pybas obtained his PhD in political philosophy in 2000. After a post-doctoral fellowship and two years at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, he began teaching at Missouri State in 2003. Pybas teaches various constitutional law courses and is the University Pre-Law Advisor.
As pre-law advisor, he works with students from any and all majors who are applying, or contemplating applying to law school. Most of his pre-law advising involves counseling with students in their junior and senior years at MSU. He also regularly meets with alumni who are making a career change and want to attend law school. Prospective Missouri State students with an interest in going to law school upon obtaining their undergraduate degree also meet with Pybas.
Meeting new students is something Pybas enjoys. “Every person has a story. I try to learn a little about each student’s story, what their interests are, where they are from, etc,” he said.
In addition to his duties as pre-law advisor, Pybas conducts research on topics that he once chalked up to curiosity. Presently, he is working on a book titled, “The Political Philosophy of the U.S. Supreme Courts Religious Liberty Jurisprudence.” The book examines the Supreme Court’s understanding of religious freedom, as it has been expressed in decisions over issues of church and state.
Teaching political science courses has given Pybas the opportunity to challenge his students much like his professors once challenged him.
“It’s very satisfying to challenge and push students, to see them begin to realize that they are capable of greater intellectual rigor than they have previously known,” said Pybas. “I am glad I get to do what I do. I am where I am because when I was a student I had professors who pushed me, and said, ‘this is the way it’s going to be, here’s an opportunity, let’s see what you can make of it,’” he added.
Pybas wants his students to realize that they cheat themselves if they don’t take advantage of the opportunity to learn something about themselves during their time at Missouri State.
“Coming to understand oneself a bit helps put you on a trajectory of life-long learning, of pushing yourself to achieve and of never becoming complacent with what you know,” said Pybas. “You may master a subject and become an expert in that area, but what you don’t know always exceeds what you know, there is always more to learn.”