Life Beyond Reed (continued)

Photo by Matt D'Annunzio

Emily Corso ’10

Mixed martial arts fighter, fitness coach

Emily arrived at Reed as a mild-mannered, self-described “goth nerd” with ambitions of being a librarian. Six months after graduating with a religion degree, she was stepping into a cage to do combat as a mixed martial arts fighter, dubbing herself the Mantis Shrimp after a notoriously vicious crustacean. She credits her time at Reed for teaching her to be tough, whether that involved writing her senior thesis,  pummeling an opponent in the ring, or, more recently, launching her own company—Bold & Badass Fitness.

Thesis: Opening the Black Box of Jewish Literacy: an Evaluation of the Florence Melton Adult Mini-Schools as a Response to the 'Crisis of Continuity.' Advisor: Prof. Steve Wasserstrom [religion 1987–]

Why did you choose Reed? Coming out of a small, rural town (Sitka, Alaska), I had purple hair and piercings and felt pretty misunderstood. I wanted to go where people cared about stuff, whatever it was, and where you could be into Shakespeare and System of a Down. Reed was my top choice.

How did Reed prepare you to pursue a career as a professional fighter? I was never very athletic; then I took a self-defense class freshman year for my PE requirement. At first it was a way to blow off steam and be something more than a brain in a jar. It wound up being a transformative experience.

What was your first job after graduation? I worked in a variety of fundraising jobs for non profits—Death with Dignity, Portland Art Museum, Planned Parenthood. I was working 40 hours a week, then catching the bus to the gym to train. Any time I got a new job, I had to tell them I might come to work covered in bruises or with a black eye. It took me time to decide I just couldn’t work in an office any more, and that’s when I bought into my dream of becoming a professional fighter. [Corso hung up her gloves in 2014, highly ranked as a flyweight with a 4-0 pro record.]

Did your Reed education play into your success in the ring? Definitely. I knew I would test myself at Reed. I learned you have to be mentally and physically tough to survive a challenging experience. And all that writing comes in handy now as a businesswoman with writing ad copy and marketing my brand.

How have you enjoyed the transition to becoming an entrepreneur? I highly recommend it! I like working for myself and knowing that the work you put in every day correlates to reaching more people and expanding the business. It’s a little like a student doing a senior thesis—you learn so much, yet there’s always so much more to learn.

Bold & Badass is a very different sort of gym experience—a bit nerdier and more intellectual. We’re oriented to change that goes deeper than your body and transforms your mind, too. And of course, we work with a lot of Reedies.