At home in the city
Katie Ness '08
Adam ’99 and Kate (Bryan) ’00 Nicely appreciate the integrated community life of South Philadelphia, where they own a
home. After her exciting undergraduate experience with Messiah’s Philadelphia Campus, Kate now works as the recruitment coordinator for the College’s urban program.
Many alumni drawn to urban settings experienced city life for the first time as students in Messiah’s urban residential programs, says Craig Dalen, Messiah’s director of community life in Harrisburg, where he also makes his home. According to Dalen, it’s the personal investment students make, the relationships they develop, and the education they receive in these programs that connects them to the city.
“Part of the education here, from a Christian perspective, is helping students to become street-wise without having it negatively affect their character,” explains Timothy Peterson, professor of urban studies and program director at Messiah’s Philadelphia Campus, who adds that it’s easy to get caught in the fast pace and impersonal interactions that tend to characterize urban life. A lifelong resident of cities, Peterson says, “It’s important for students to have a strong faith community that sustains them.”
That Messiah students, generally speaking, have a very positive experience in Philadelphia “usually comes as a surprise,” Peterson adds, because there’s a tendency for Americans from suburban and rural areas, including many Messiah students, to grow up with an anti-urban orientation. Yet, over time, he says, about 20 percent of the program’s alumni move to Philadelphia at some point after graduation—a statistic Peterson attributes to the holistic support students receive in the program.
Alumnus Matt Zieger ’01, biology, recalls the program’s influence on his decision-making process. “The Philadelphia Campus was probably my first major experience in an urban environment,” he says. “I came with fears about the city and left [the program] wanting to live in the city and be part of it.” Today, Zieger believes that the success of any region depends on the health of its urban hub, and he has chosen a lifestyle to match his convictions. Currently, he lives in Harrisburg, where he volunteers for non-profits and directs investor relations and initiative outreach for Team Pennsylvania Foundation, a public-private partnership that supports business initiatives likely
to boost the state’s economy.
Alumna Kate (Bryan) Nicely ’00 is another convert to city living who enrolled at the Philadelphia Campus as a journalism student simply to fulfill course requirements, but left at the end of the semester in a completely different frame of mind. “I was surprised at how comfortable I felt in the city and how easily I could feel at home,” she says. After graduation, Nicely stayed in the city and worked with children in an after-school program. Today, she and her husband, Adam Nicely ’99, own a home in South Philadelphia, where they try to engage the neighborhood children. Nicely also works as Messiah College’s recruitment coordinator for the Philadelphia Campus, sharing her excitement for city living with current Messiah students.
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