Her students know her as “Biz”-a fitting title for the woman often regarded as the “Best in the Biz.” That is, the business of guiding Boston College students to “be their most authentic selves,” a motto by which the inspiring woman enforces in her students every day. A ’91 Boston College graduate herself, now both teacher and associate director of the Office of First Year Experience, it is hard to believe that Elizabeth Bracher, BC ’91, did not always see herself working with college students.
Bracher grew up in rural Michigan, where her mother, father, and sister were all teachers. “Teaching and reading have always been a part of my life,” said Bracher, who admits that she initially entered BC with the intention of teaching high school students. When Bracher entered BC as a freshman, there was no orientation program and no Office of First Year Experience . “I was poorly advised at first to take an intermediate level of a class that turned out to be both unchallenging and uninspiring,” she said.
It was not until several semesters into her college experience that Bracher realized that the key to inspiration was to take classes with inspiring professors-professors who would ask her the fundamental questions: “What are you good at?,” “What brings you joy?,” and “What does the world need you to be?”
Finding a mentor at BC strongly shaped Bracher’s education. Working in research with her psychology professor, Bracher discovered her love of psychology and research, which she has come to appreciate as “bringing all the variables together rather than taking them apart.” Bracher now realizes how directly this love of research plays into working with a class of freshman students at BC.
“You can’t just survey a class of freshmen to find out who they are,” Bracher said. “You’ve got to consider all the variables they’re experiencing: their relationships here on campus, their relationships with family and friends at home, their experience inside the classroom-all that stuff plays into how a student experiences college.”
Now working with First Year Experience, Bracher considers it her job to “help freshmen to be their most authentic selves.” Specifically, the Office of First Year Experience works closely with Orientation, 48 Hours, Convocation, and freshman advising.
“I see my role in this department as bringing students into a life that is unique here at Boston College,” Bracher said. “You chose to be a part of this, now take part in it! I want to help foster students’ curiosity. I want to help them become better readers. I want to help them become better friends. I want to help them become better lovers of life.”
In addition to programming in the Office of First Year Experience, Bracher adores teaching the freshman course, Courage to Know.
For those students who have taken the course with Bracher, the assignment that stands out in particular is the famous “Dating Assignment,” in which students are required to ask a peer out on a date without revealing it to be a class assignment, actually go on the date, and then write up their experience.
Having herself married a “BC boy” that she met her junior year of college, Bracher explained, “The reason why I have the assignment is because I think BC students want to find love and commitment but are going about it upside down. They get to know one another in the dark after a few beers, when they ought to be getting to know one another sober and in the daylight.”
Bracher is particularly fond of the assignment, as she has come to realize that many of her students ask a person on the date who they’ve been pining after and then come to realize by going on the date, “Wow, that wasn’t such a big deal.”
Despite the dating assignment’s particular notoriety, Bracher disclosed that her favorite assignment to teach in Courage to Know is the “Backpack Assignment,” in which students are assigned to write about the “bricks” that they’re carrying around in their backpacks, meaning the expectations that they carry with them entering into college.
“Most students say they love writing about this,” Bracher said. “It frees them up-plants the seed for them to change and to do what they actually love and what the world needs them to do.”
Bracher’s advice to any students, at BC first year or otherwise: “Find yourself a mentor-someone who can speak to your growth over your four years and who can ask you those defining fundamental questions.”