Spotlight: Brian Credo

Author: Joachim Castellano

Brian Credo at St. Peters

Time and again the quiet ones make the biggest yet unhearlded splash. We’re starting out 2014 with a bang—a few consonant beats, actually. Our January Spotlight, Brian Credo, nominated by Dr. Tadeusz Mazurek of the Department of Classics, is a Notre Dame junior majoring in Classics and a member of the Glynn Family Honors Program. If you were to come into the CSLC on a crowded or sparse afternoon, you might miss the very unassuming Greek and Latin tutor, Credo, crouched quietly over his laptop or slouched low in a tutoring booth. Don’t let Credo’s under-the-radar comportment fool you: he’s a drummer and a bongo player—a brilliant rocker with a 4.0 GPA.

Credo's unique academic gifts haven't gone unnoticed. Indeed, Dr. Isabelle Torrance, who has taught Credo in two upper level Greek courses, says he "is a student of astonishing ability. In my fourteen years of teaching Greek language and literature in three different countries (Ireland, England, and the US), Mr. Credo easily falls within the top 1% of students I have taught."

The New Orleans, Louisiana native, who turned down Princeton to attend Notre Dame, embodies excellence and humility, and he has a strong undercurrent of humanitarianism shaping his life and driving his future, which you’ll soon discover.

Projects and Goals

What is your 3 to 5 year trajectory?
After graduating from Notre Dame, I hope to attend graduate school and eventually earn my Ph.D. in Classics. I hope to apply to some of the best classics schools (Harvard, Princeton, UNC Chapel Hill).

What are your current projects?
I have been looking into topics for my senior thesis. I am very interested in Latin and Greek meter and how it can be used to analyze the content of a particular poem.

Foreign Language Experience

Brian Credo at the Colosseum

Which foreign languages do you know and/or study? Give us a history of your foreign language experience.
My study of Latin began as a happy accident; I took it simply because I was placed in it for my first year of high school. However, the critical thinking involved in learning an inflected language, combined with the sheer allure of being able to read the language of the Romans, engaged my interest more than anything I had studied before; I started Greek the next year and derived just as much enjoyment from it. After taking my first Greek class at Notre Dame, I realized that studying the classics was more than just a hobby for me: it was a major. Classics has provided me the opportunity to learn modern languages as well. In order to enhance my research skills, I have taken both German and Italian here at Notre Dame, and the skills I learned from the ancient languages have been quite helpful for the modern.

What has been your favorite part of learning a language at Notre Dame?
One of the most rewarding aspects of learning any language at Notre Dame is the opportunity to interact with both professors and other students. Given the inherently communicative nature of language, it is no surprise that you can learn a lot about people in a language class. Any field of study at Notre Dame will engage one’s mind, but only language classes provide the more basic pleasure of meeting a new person and asking “Wie heißen Sie?” or “Come stai?”

What has been your favorite language class and why?
I would have to say that my favorite classes so far have been Professor Catherine Schlegel’s Roman Lyric Poetry class and Professor Brian Krostenko’s Latin Survey. These classes, more than any others, have provided me the opportunity to analyze Latin meter, which I have been interested in ever since I was a drummer in my high school band.

How do (or have) you use your language – here or abroad?
Studying abroad in Rome last semester allowed me to put my language skills into action more than ever before. In addition to using Italian to go about my daily business and interact with locals more efficiently, my Latin enabled me to read inscriptions on monuments and appreciate more fully the amazing sites I was seeing.

What advice would you give to anyone learning a language?
Unlike most language learners, my first serious engagement with a foreign language came through reading and writing rather than speaking. The most important piece of advice I can give anyone seeking to learn a language is basic yet very often ignored: applied understanding is the best route to improving one’s ability. Whenever you learn a new grammatical concept, make an effort to understand both how it differs from a similar construction in your native language and how it is most effectively used in the language you are trying to use. Don’t just learn that “Mi piacciono le mele” means, “I like apples.” Learn that it means, “Apples are pleasing to me.” Then, think of five other sentences with similar constructions.

International Experience: Culture & Perspective

Describe any significant experience abroad--study or work programs.
Last semester, I studied at the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies in Rome with thirty-five other students from around America. The curriculum was built around a nine-credit course called the Ancient City, which provided us the opportunity to see countless archaeological sites in and around Rome and throughout Sicily and Campania. In conjunction with my other courses, the Ancient City allowed me to place my literary interests in a topographical and historical context. Also, when thirty-six budding classicists are put together in one program, it makes for a very interesting and unexpectedly eclectic group of people. Among my classmates were two amazing pianists, a phenomenal dancer, a talented actor whose quiet demeanor only belied his dramatic passion, and a self-proclaimed pop-culture aficionado. Getting to know them and my professors proved almost as interesting as the ancient city herself.

What has been your most memorable or impactful experience regarding other cultures? How has that changed your perspectives?
One of the most unforgettable experiences I had while studying in Rome was going to mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. Being a Catholic myself, I had a tremendous sense of being at home even though I was so far from where I was raised. Going to the Italian mass there taught me that some of the most memorable cultural experiences begin not so much with seeking out a foreign culture’s differences from one’s own, but rather with finding a point of common ground that transcends cultural boundaries.

University Experience

Can you tell me about any mentors you've had at Notre Dame and how they have encouraged and inspired you?
Professor Tadeusz Mazurek, who taught me Intermediate Greek as a freshman, always brought a great deal of enthusiasm to the classroom and showed me that teaching the classics can be a truly rewarding profession. In fact, I would like to follow in his footsteps, become an educator of the classics, and inspire students with the same enthusiasm.

brian_credo_club

What clubs or activities do you participate in at ND?
I serve as the secretary for the Classics Club of Notre Dame. My role within the Club is to keep a careful record of what transpires at each officer meeting in order to provide transparency between the officers and the rest of the club and to offer ideas for our campus-wide events, which range from movie watches to our annual Toga Dance, which my fellow Classics Club officers and I organize annually in the Spring.

What kind of awards or grants have you received?
I received a grant from the Glynn Family Honors Program to present a paper at the Sunoikisis Undergraduate Research Symposium at the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington, D.C., last fall. The paper discussed the way in which Aristophanes employs nostalgia through his treatment both of social and political conditions in late fifth-century B.C. Athens and of the art of poetry. Professor Isabelle Torrance made this opportunity possible for me by showing a great deal of interest in my topic, suggesting several starting points for the research, and helping me prepare for the conference. In fact, she, along with Professors David Hernandez, Elizabeth Mazurek, Tadeusz Mazurek, and Catherine Schlegel, was even kind enough to take time out of her schedule to hear a run-through of my presentation just before I left for Washington.

brian_credo_sunoikisis

How has the CSLC helped you these past few years?
I was given the amazing gift of five years of Latin and four years of Greek before entering college. The CSLC has given me the chance to tutor those who are just beginning. What is experience for if not for sharing? Well said.

Community Engagement

Can you talk about any community service work (high school and now)?
For three out of the last four summers, I’ve had the joy of participating in a program run by my high school called Operation Upgrade. The goal of the five-week program is to help some of the inner-city middle-school students from New Orleans to improve their skills in English, Reading, Math, and Problem Solving during the summer. The average student improves by a grade level in one or more of these subjects, the greatest improvement being in Math.

How did you find out about Operation Upgrade?
I first participated in Operation Upgrade in order to fulfill my required 100-hour community service requirement between my junior and senior years at Jesuit High School, but I soon discovered that it was a very rewarding use of my time. I came back after my freshman and sophomore years in college, and I hope to do it again this year.

What makes this particular program stand out to you?
Since I have been given such a good education throughout my life, I want to use my gifts and talents to give to those who haven’t been afforded such great opportunities. Operation Upgrade is really just a starting point for what I want to spend my life doing as an educator: passing on to others the knowledge that I have gained and inspiring them to succeed themselves.

What's something fun you want people to know about you?
I’ve been a drummer since age eight. I was the drum captain in my high school band, meaning that I was in charge of the drum line.  Basically, it was my job to count off cadences and run through drills with the rest of the drummers.  I did play in Notre Dame's Symphonic Band for two semesters, but I'd have to say that the best musical experience I've had at Notre Dame is playing bongos for Dillon mass on Sundays, which I started doing freshman year and have been doing ever since.

Do you rock out?
Yeah, from time to time. Banging on things can be a great stress reliever! It’s a lot of fun. I used to drive the neighbors crazy when I was younger. Then, I adopted the practice of not playing after 8pm.

When Professor Tadeusz Mazurek nominated Credo, he said of Brian:

"Brian Credo is clearly our finest junior Classics major. I first met Brian and his father during the incoming students' Arts & Letters open house before classes begin in August. Upon learning that he chose to come to Notre Dame instead of Princeton, I was immediately impressed with his good taste and wisdom. Even in the fall of his freshman year, Brian was translating Greek as well as the graduate students in our intermediate Greek class. Since then he has excelled in our curriculum, delivered a paper on Aristophanes' Frogs at the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington, D.C., and studied at the prestigious Intercollegiate Center for Classics Studies in Rome. In addition to tutoring students in Greek and Latin, Brian is always willing to represent the department at university events and serve as an ambassador for the Classics."

Suffice it to say, Credo is a rare individual. Without a doubt, his passion and gifts will help him ochestrate a motley ensemble of significant academic achievements, humanitarian work, and musical beats.