Avery Gessner grew up watching Indiana Jones movies with his father and even during those early childhood moments, he knew he was hooked on history. His mother had a passion for art history in university which is another reason Avery feels he’s always had a connection to the field. Four years ago Avery decided to turn that passion into a degree by enrolling in CBU’s Bachelor of Arts program with a focus in History. Now, with graduation only a year away, Avery says he’s glad he made the financially savvy choice to stay close to home for his undergraduate degree.
Avery believes one of the main reasons he enjoys his time at CBU so much is the connections he has made with his professors, especially Associate Professor of History, Dr. Scott Moir; Assistant Professor of Gender History, Dr. Julia Rombough; and Dean of the School of Arts and Social Sciences, Dr. Andy Parnaby. “Initially I was actually quite nervous about going to university because I had this fear that my professors would be pretentious or arrogant,” Avery admits. “I thought they would act like the professors portrayed in Hollywood films.” Thankfully Avery says the professors at CBU are so down to earth and supportive that they will go out of their way to help students succeed. What makes his professors so special, Avery says, is their approachability. “I have such a strong respect for them as educators, but I can also sit down and have a normal conversation with them,” he explains.
In addition to his developments in the classroom, Avery restarted the Historical Society in 2019 after the original society had closed before his arrival to CBU. He says it’s been one of the best things he’s ever done. “One of the events we would hold before the pandemic was something called ‘You Be the Professor’,” he shares. “Someone would host a discussion or informal presentation about a historical subject that they enjoy on a personal level, but that may not be taught in class.” It’s an opportunity for history-lovers to get together and share their expertise while expanding their own knowledge of the field. When COVID-19 forced the society online, Avery says he and Vice-President Shaundra McPherson took things to the digital world. “We adapted by creating a Facebook group, having virtual movie nights and hosting digital guest presentations,” says Avery. “It was a great way to stay connected during the pandemic but I can’t wait to sit in a classroom with my peers again.”
When online learning first began, Avery admits it took him a while to adjust. “Working out of my basement is something I never thought I’d have to do,” Avery says. “But on the plus side it’s been funny to see this other side of my professors and remember they’re normal people with their own homes, families and lives.” Avery says the highlight of online learning has definitely been all of the guest appearances by professors’ cats and dogs. “It helped distract us from that feeling of uncertainty and stress we were experiencing,” he explains. “Special shout out to Julia’s puppy Billie who made a few special appearances.”
In addition to the support he received from his professors and peers, Avery says his parents have been instrumental to his educational journey thus far. “They always know how to alleviate the normal anxieties I’m facing when assignments and exams start to pile up,” he says. “They’ve helped me so much throughout this experience and I don’t know where I’d be without them.”
For any students who are thinking about coming to CBU, Avery says it’s the perfect place to get your footing and feel supported throughout your program. He adds that the money he’s been able to save by staying in his hometown will give him an advantage in the coming years. For Avery, he hopes his next and final year at CBU will bring even more memories, new experiences and friends. With aspirations of becoming a Museum Curator someday, Avery feels confident that his time at CBU will set him up for success.
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