What is a Reedie, Anyway? (continued)

Photos by Matt D’Annunzio

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Jessica Gerhardt

“After seeing a Flight of the Conchords concert with some fellow Reedies at the Arlene Schnitzer Hall, Bret McKenzie signed my ukulele chord chart: ‘Ukes, not nukes’. Wise words.”

Jessica Gerhardt


Hometown: Santa Monica, California

Thesis:A Crying (Prejudice) Shame: The Effects of Confronter Gender on Perceptions of Sexism

Adviser: Kathryn Oleson

What it’s about: Research has examined how confronting prejudice may help reduce prejudicial behaviors in the future. What makes someone an effective confronter or ally? My thesis examines the role a confronter’s gender plays in perceptions of sexism.

What it’s really about: Why male allies are important in combating sexism.

Who I was when I got to Reed: I came here with an open mind and a lot of excitement.

Influential book:The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.

Favorite spot: The frog on the west lawn. It’s a great place to sit and watch the sunset.

  Jessica plays "Dreamer"

Cool stuff I did: Peer mentor. Ism. Oh For Christ’s Sake. Improv comedy. The Vagina Monologues. Playing ukulele and singing with my band, Just Orange. House adviser. Admission intern. Pool.

Random thoughts: I love that people can be themselves here, like the kid who plays his lyre on the lawn. Walk around campus and you’ll see weathergrams, those little brown pieces of paper hanging from trees with poems on them. You’ll overhear people talking about colonialism and contemporary pop—that’s so Reed. I’ve been so blessed to be able to come here, and I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have financial aid. Sophomore through senior year I worked as a house adviser, which covered my room and board. I loved living with freshmen because they kept me rejuvenated—reminding me of the excitement I felt as a freshman about Reed.

How Reed changed me: I was raised Catholic and my faith has really deepened in the time I’ve been at Reed, which is ironic because our unofficial slogan is “Communism, Atheism, Free Love.” I’ve developed incredible relationships with unique and inquisitive people. I have become someone my friends can confide in and trust. I have confidence in my passions and my future, vulnerability in my heart, and a desire to love and serve others.

What’s next: I’m going to pursue music for a year.

An Epiphany in the Chapel

There’s a Christian group on campus called Oh For Christ’s Sake, and after I read The Alchemist, we were having a prayer vigil in the [Eliot Hall] chapel. I took a shift from 1 a.m. to 2 a.m. and I was sitting in the chapel praying and something related to that book struck me. It was as if God was telling me, “You need to do this with music.”

I was like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. No I don’t. I’m a psychology major. There’s a billion wannabes out there. Music is a really competitive field.”

“Go for it. Give it a chance. Think about all the ways things have already been handed to you.” I thought about the idea of beginner’s luck, the connections I have back in L.A., the people who have encouraged me, how my confidence has grown because of music. And I thought, “Maybe I do have a shot at this.”

In his book Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton talks about how it’s important to strike a balance where you’re in wonder and awe, but also have the audacity to spit at the stars. A fairy tale isn’t a fairy tale if the knight isn’t afraid of the dragon. He has to have the audacity to take on the dragon in order for there to be a story. It’s important to have that balance in life. —JG