When Faith Briars ’23 decided to attend Valparaiso University, she knew the class sizes and community involvement of the close-knit campus would allow her to shine. Faith’s first year at Valpo revolved around experiences made possible by a small university and the relationships she made in community with other students and faculty mentors.

As a psychology and criminology double major and Christ College — The Honors College scholar, Faith attributes insightful discussions and faculty connections as essential elements of her Valpo experience.

“Class discussions have allowed me to get to know awesome Valpo people in a small setting and learn more about them,” Faith says. “The ability to have study buddies and professors who not only know my name but also my interests has been the difference in my time here. Professors are open to getting to know their students, connecting with them, and helping them reach their potential.”

Edward Upton, associate professor of humanities, echoed Faith’s sentiments on the importance of smaller classes and the collaborative spirit of group discussions, especially in Christ College.

“Faith brought to our discussions a keen curiosity, a constructive mind, and a fierce intellectual courage,” Professor Upton says. “I always got the sense that Faith is concerned with two things: challenging the status quo, and bringing others along with her as she asks tough questions. That’s a good combination for CC!”

The ability to ask tough questions will benefit Faith in her planned career. She is passionate about criminal justice reform, and hopes to use the skills she’s learned in Christ College and in her majors, such as analyzing mental processes, working with diverse communities, and demonstrating findings to her peers, to positively impact the criminal justice system.

While Faith has actively been building community in the classroom, she has also been able to connect to her religion through faith life on campus.

“During my first semester, I only went to Sunday services, which not a lot of students attended,” Faith says. “My second semester, my friends encouraged me to attend Celebrate!, and I was heavily impacted by seeing by peers come together to worship. This became the highlight of my week as I was able to participate with my friends and connect back to religion, which can be difficult in college.”

Faith took the lessons she had learned in Christ College discussions and her passion for community and decided to share her first-year experiences with incoming students as an Orientation Assistant (OA) for FOCUS, Valpo’s new-student orientation.

“I was given the opportunity to welcome and guide of a group of incoming students and show them the Valpo experience.”

While Faith was passionate about introducing Valpo to a new generation of students, she relished in the ability to from community and connect with her fellow OAs.

“It was very cool to see how the OAs had different personalities but everyone worked well together and played off each other’s strengths and weaknesses,” Faith says. “It was a mixing pot of personalities coming together for a common goal.”

While her second year at Valpo is just beginning, Faith is confident that the lessons she’s learned and relationships she’s made in her first year will help her serve her passions and contribute to the greater good, whether in the classroom or the courtroom.