Student Blog: Senior Reflection Claire Schaefer | Briar Cliff University

Student Blog: Senior Reflection - Claire Schaefer

Claire Schaefer

All of our students have incredible stories about the journey that brought them to Briar Cliff and how their experience here helped them become who they are today. In our Senior Reflection series, we'll share a few of these stories from students graduating in May 2020, and walking in September of 2020. #ThisIsBCU

Everyone graduating in the 2020 class has their own story about what brought them to Briar Cliff, and many of them are far more profound than mine. For me, it was April of my senior year of high school when my dad sat me down and showed me an excel document that made it clear Briar Cliff would be the most financially viable college choice for me. And I’ll be honest, I was not terribly thrilled. I grew up in Sioux City, and the notion of going to college in my hometown was hardly what I had in mind for my future. I imagined watching all my high school friends begin the next chapter of their lives in some exciting new place, while I was stuck in the same zip code that I had lived in my whole life.  

Now, when I look back at these last four years, I regard that decision as one of the most pivotal moments in my life so far. I could not have been more wrong. Slowly but surely, I fell in love with Briar Cliff; because there is simply nowhere else like it. Four years full of early morning Java City runs, long Tuesday track workouts, beautiful prairie sunsets, Juhnke exams, snow days, and so many other memories have made a secluded batch of brick buildings on top of a hill my home.

It didn’t matter what brought me to Briar Cliff, what mattered was what made me stay. Or rather, who made me stay. I love Briar Cliff because it has character. If I would have decided to go to a different college, I would have missed out on so much. I wouldn’t know what it’s like to hold the door open to Heelan Hall for thirty seconds when I spot a friendly face halfway across Heffernan Mall because that’s just what you do at Briar Cliff. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to compete in college track and cross country, a sport I love. I wouldn’t have discovered my passion for the career path I’ve chosen. I wouldn’t have engaged in my faith life and formed unbreakable bonds with my peers at Antioch retreats. Most importantly, I wouldn’t have met some of the people who have come to be my best friends and greatest role models if I hadn’t given BCU a chance.

It’s relatively common to hear students say things like “it’s the people,” or reference the “community feeling” on campus when asked what they like about Briar Cliff, and there is a reason why. BCU has an incredibly unique, diverse, talented, and friendly student population for a school its size. There are people here who grew up in Sioux City like me, people who are from rural midwestern towns in the surrounding area, people from coastal states who aren’t quite sure what to make of Iowa winters, and people who came to the United States from halfway around the globe with only a suitcase. All of them, like me, have found a home here. For four years, my fellow Briar Cliff students have continued to impress me. I’ve met nontraditional students who work full time while raising kids and going to school, first-generation students who had to figure out how to fill out the FAFSA on their own, international students who speak four languages fluently. I’ve made close friends who started out as teammates, across-the-hall neighbors, library workers, Gotcha competitors, and fellow history majors.

In the classroom as well, BCU has been so much more than a typical college experience. One moment, in particular, comes to mind. Spring semester of my freshman year, I took American History post-1877 with Dr. Eric Juhnke. It was once a week, on Wednesday nights. The night he handed back our first response papers, he stopped me after class, and asked, “Have you ever thought about being a history major?” I hadn’t really, but after that, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Now I know that that’s one of his more frequently used tactics for recruiting history majors, so I wasn’t as special as I thought I was. But it felt special. I decided to switch my major the next fall. For the next three years, every time I went to his office for advising, I knew we’d end up talking about politics or my future career for at least an hour. And this isn’t an isolated case: Dr. Tricia Currans-Sheehan texts me at 7:00 AM to get her mail for The Briar Cliff Review. When I pass Dr. Korchin on the stairs, he always says, “Good morning Claire!” I took one class with him, sophomore year, with forty other people.

But that’s the Briar Cliff difference. I crack jokes with my professors during class. I’m never afraid to ask questions or give my input on different topics. They have been supportive of my ambitions and understanding of my shortcomings. Throughout the last four years, I have had the opportunity to learn from brilliant scholars who are experts in their fields of study, and formed personal and professional relationships with each of them. My professors have helped me develop my academic skills, endlessly encouraged and accommodated me, and have profoundly guided me in so many ways. I don’t know who I would be today if I chose not to attend Briar Cliff, however I couldn’t be more grateful that I chose to becomea Charger.

When I reflect on the Briar Cliff University Class of 2020, going forth into the world. This ending might not have been what we expected, graduating in a pandemic, but I would still challenge my peers to take the values and lessons Briar Cliff has given you and pay it forward. Be that caring community, that friendly face, be open, be honest, and work hard in everything you do. Together we can make the Briar Cliff impact on everyone we meet. And I, for one, can't wait to see where the next chapter takes us! 

Tags: Campus, Graduation, BCU, Student Life, Commencement, Student Blog