This time of year, first impressions mean everything, especially during freshman year. Aidan Fontenot is no exception to this rule. Whether he’s hanging out with friends, chatting up a storm at the dinner table, or sharing his killer moonwalk to “Smooth Criminal,” Fontenot has an inviting character that serves as a reminder of how the UD community encompasses a wide range of exceptional personalities and interests.
Fontenot hails from Lake Charles, Louisiana, and is a double major in computer science and philosophy.
“I absolutely love philosophy. I think that it’s just the most enjoyable subject matter that I can deal with. And it’s also incredibly important, especially in our society, which has kind of rejected philosophy and things that give life meaning as opposed to simply allowing life to exist, which is very bleak,” Fontenot said.
I probed him a bit further on why he chose computer science as his second major since it’s in many ways a separate field from the liberal arts.
“[Philosophy] pairs very well with computer science. […] AIs tend to mimic human behavior because they basically just scan a ton of human data and try to predict what a human would do in a given situation. So if you know philosophy, you know the moral parameters for an AI to act within so they don’t do something really bad or destroy the world,” he continued.
When it comes to my first impression of Fontenot, two things that immediately stood out to me were his attitude and his love of learning. From the first time I met him to the entire time I interviewed him, Fontenot has a smile on his face and is focused on making every conversation meaningful.
“I can make every precious moment I have with people as meaningful as possible by being honest and showing genuine interest in them; otherwise, I feel like a little joy is lost – and part of the God-given opportunity of those moments is thus wasted,” he said.
Fontenot has become known on campus for his unparalleled ability to dance like Michael Jackson. His current accolades include winning the 2023 Charity Week Talent Show and thus performing as the Opening Act at the Male Auction.
Fontenot, although a fine dancer now, attributes the origins of his dancing hobby to mere circumstance.
“Well, dancing like Michael Jackson was actually my start into dancing. I was a homeschooler and had no idea how to dance in any way shape or form, whether with a partner or myself. […] One day I wanted to go to a dance – and there was a certain person I wanted to impress – so I just looked up on the internet, Who is the greatest dancer of all time? Michael Jackson came up. I watched his first performance of Billie Jean at Motown 25 and was like, that’s the guy. I’m going to learn how to dance,” he said.
A key test of Fontenot’s skills as a Michael Jackson protégé came in the form of a performance on the piazza of Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome. Alongside other members of his diocese, he spent ten days in Italy and finally had the opportunity to grace a large crowd with his moves.
“Our [group] leader comes up and says, ‘There’s a guy dancing like Michael Jackson.’ So I went over there, saw the guy, gave him two Euros, and then said, ‘Hey, I can do Michael Jackson too! Do you think we could dance together and I could get a video?’ […] So I’ve got a really cool video of this guy who looks exactly like Michael Jackson, […] and we danced to ‘Smooth Criminal.’ […] We drew quite a crowd,” he recalled.
Fontenot finds his talent to be fulfilling as well as entertaining. “[Dancing] is one of those things where you’re doing it to try to please the crowd,” he said. “But to be honest, my favorite part has been the actual performance of it. I just enjoy doing it.”
Fontenot has also spent nine years playing the violin, a few years of which were spent performing in a local youth orchestra. He’s naturally a diehard fan of 80s pop and classical music as well.
When asked about his favorite part of UD, Fontenot made note of how he cherishes the dynamic between campus Catholicism and the academic exercises underpinning the faith. This dual culture is what enables him to connect with his friends and classmates, and at the same time grow in faith and knowledge.
“[…] I think that the community gives you a baseline to start from. It’s a beautiful, beautiful baseline with very virtuous people. And then, the intellectual side of UD – the academics – actually shows us the means in order to achieve these goals that we have as virtuous Catholics,” he said.