After much anticipation from students and deliberation from faculty, Professor Edmund Santurri announced the winners: Cody Venzke '10 for the Kildahl cohort and Matthew Jobe '10 for the Ellingson cohort. Santurri also announced his plans to step down as director of the Great Conversation program this year.
When their names were announced, Venzke and Jobe made their way to the front of the room, while their peers cheered and chanted, "speech speech!"
From the Kildahl cohort, Venske spoke first. "I just want to underscore the idea that we are representatives of a great community," Venzke said. "If the great conversation program was just one person, we'd be insane. We've encountered great works and great thinkers, but the people have made a huge difference. To my fellow Kildahlians who have had to endured my company for the past year and a half, and to the students of Ellingson (although there's some rivalry), we owe ourselves a great deal of applause. I'm eagerly anticipating our last semester."
"First of all I want to say thank you to those that have provided this scholarship," Jobe said. "I have grown a lot personally. It has impacted who I am and challenged my perspectives on life, not just from reading the work. I go to class and I learn so much more from my classmates."
Santurri emphasized the importance of celebrating the community's journey together. "We celebrate individuals as representative of the community," he said. The event acknowledges the learning community that develops in each cohort after two years of living and studying together. "The occasion of selecting a 'student of the year' is an occasion of celebrating every student's ambitions," said David Booth, professor of religion.
Lowell and Barbara Johnson established an endowed scholarship in 1996 to benefit an outstanding student completing the Great Conversation program. Each year the teaching teams and director of the program select a student from the final course to award the "Great Conversation Student of the Year" merit scholarship.