“I think it’s really important to appreciate what you’ve been given,” says freshman Giana Cirulli. “I think that can be daunting sometimes when you’re given so much responsibility, so much work. But I’m very passionate that the joy is in doing the work and doing it well. I hope that I can be someone who does that and portrays that to others.” Giana is one of many wonderful, hard-working students in the Templeton Honors College. A native of Phoenix, AZ, she is passionate about many things, including chemistry, the works of Flannery O’Connor, theology, volleyball (she is a member of Eastern University’s team), and great conversations. It quickly became clear during our interview that although Giana manages a busy schedule, she takes great joy in the work she is doing and the community to which she is contributing.
Jordan Kolb: What drew you to the Templeton Honors College?
Giana Cirulli: When Paul Charles came to my school, he asked us, “What is education?” I really appreciated that question, because a lot of people are trying to sell college just as a means to make more money. I don’t really think that’s what education is. I don’t just want to go to college so I can get a higher paying job. I want to go to college so I can see things that I’m really interested in. So that got me interested in Templeton, and about a week before the deadline I decided to apply. I came here for my interview and interviewed with Dr. Putnam (known by his students simply as Mr. P.), and I loved our conversation. That kind of just sealed the deal.
Jordan: How has your experience been going so far?
Giana: I actually think this was one of the best decisions of my life . . . I definitely love Mr. P’s class, and I love the seminar style, and I love what we’re reading in Templeton courses. I don’t particularly love sitting through lectures . . . In high school we always did Socratic learning, so I know how to do it and it works really well for me. I really like having conversations, because I think that’s more than a debate, more than a lecture. [Conversation] is a way to get to truth, and I think that’s why seminar is so important: because it’s a conversation. And that’s how life is. It’s not a lecture, it’s not reading a book and just taking what you can—it’s talking about it. Education isn’t practical in some senses; it’s not utilitarian. But when you make the ideas you’re talking about in a class something true to your life, that’s when it’s impactful and education becomes part of you.
Jordan: Are there any particular conversations you’ve had or books you’ve read in your classes that have impacted you on a personal level?
Giana: The two books we just finished reading in Good Life—The End of the Affair and The Minister’s Wooing—have actually been tearing my head apart. They give such different ideas about love, and I’ve been thinking about my experiences, thinking about my parents and about God’s love and which one of those ideas of love is true. And that’s really impacted me, because [the two books] put forth really different ideas of love and how to love people.
Jordan: Tell me about playing volleyball—how’s that going?
Giana: I’ve wanted to play college volleyball since I was twelve. The team is one of the best I’ve ever been on, both skill-wise and culture-wise. They have a really strong background in being there for each other and loving each other. Our two mottos are “Love each other. Love the game.” So first we love each other, and then we go play the game that we love. And it’s an amazing team. They’ve gone to NCAA tournaments and we’re going back this weekend. Balancing athletics and schoolwork is crazy sometimes. It’s hard . . . It takes focus and requires me to not waste a lot of time, but it’s worth it.
Jordan: Do you have thoughts on what you would like to study, or what kinds of things you’re passionate about?
Giana: Right now I’m taking the required Templeton courses and chemistry, and I love chemistry. I might want to pursue something in chemistry throughout my time here, but I also just really love philosophy and literature. I love reading books, I love talking about them, and I love poetry too . . . I think I want to at least study science, but I kind of want to do something after college outdoors, like be a hiking guide or be a zip line tour guide, or white-water rafting. Doing that, and then coming home and reading for four hours—that’s my perfect day.
Jordan: What books do you love?
Giana: I love Flannery O’Connor. She might be my favorite author of all time. But I think my favorite book of all time would have to be Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis. It’s so good! I read it in two hours and then had to go read it again. Oh, and The Brothers Karamazov. Every philosophy—everything—comes back to The Brothers Karamazov . . . Also, East of Eden. Steinbeck is awesome . . . I really like reading Aquinas, too. I want to read all of the Summa throughout my life, so I’m going to go slowly and get started now.