A Family of Peers

Bryn Cooley

Class of 2016
Majors: English and History
Hometown: Waukesha, Wis.

Bryn CooleyBryn Cooley wasn’t looking for a new home when she left Wisconsin for Valpo, but at Christ College, she says, “I found a place where I feel like I belong. It really does feel like a kind of family, and even though I wasn’t looking for it, I think it’s just what I needed to grow as a person.”

Commitment to the Christ College community is what motivated Bryn to join the Christ College Student Advisory Board after she returned from study abroad in Cambridge, England.

“The SAB was created to give students a voice in important issues at Christ College, and to help preserve the sense of community that develops very intensely during the freshman year. We love Christ College, being part of that family, and we want to maintain that atmosphere of closeness that we developed freshman year,” Bryn says.

The SAB hosts social events – the Christ College Back to School Picnic and a celebration of the College’s founding known as Christ College Day, for example – and encourages participation in other Christ College events with activities like a couplet contest that introduced Shakespeare Week. The student group also presents suggestions and concerns to the Christ College administration.

Responding to a suggestion from the Student Advisory Board, Dean Peter Kanelos recently made a series of additions to the Christ College Symposium, the speaker series the College offers to the community each year. Titled “Fireside Symposia,” the new sessions are informal, small, interactive discussions at which Christ College faculty members share their scholarly work with undergraduates.

Bryn considers the Fireside Symposia a great success; they’ve already provided what she considers some of the most memorable moments in her Christ College experience. In the first Fireside Symposium of the year, Christ College Professor David Western marked Martin Luther King Jr. Day with a presentation on King’s writings on creating a “beloved community,” a society based fundamentally on love, rather than rights and laws.

“The way the conversation developed among my peers was awesome,” Bryn says. “We started to hash out the logistics of trying to create a beloved community, whether everyone is capable of that kind of love – talking with such brilliant people of my own age was an amazing experience.”

That kind of spirited, informal, and intimate discussion is the hallmark of a Christ College education, Bryn says. It is deeply engaging, and it vastly expands understanding not only of the topic, but of the differences and commonalities among people: “Some people think like you and some don’t, and that’s really illuminating. It’s great to be going through this process with other people who are growing with you.”

According to Bryn, Christ College professors are very skilled at encouraging such discussion: that’s one reason the SAB proposed creating a series that would allow them to share their work with students.

“They’re so brilliant and so in touch,” Bryn says of the Christ College faculty. “They really want to know the students and make the class as interesting and salient as possible. The do a great job of applying the concepts we’re dealing with to our lives, to things we might encounter in the future. It really helps you grow as a person. It’s not just about passing a class. It’s about making a better life.”