Completing the Canvas: The Benefits of Building Your Own Major

When her sister visited Bradley’s campus on the long road to pick a university, Anna Celander ’13 felt she found the motherlode. The university’s size and sense of community drew her in.

“A school like Bradley is built to help you figure out where you fit in,” she said. “I mean, there are so many people who are just incredibly supportive, wanting to know what you're interested in and helping you find those networks.”

At Bradley, Celander did a little bit of everything. On top of leading tours around campus and adding walking backwards to her permanent skill set, the then-printmaking major was studying philosophy, psychology, fine art — anything and everything that sparked her interest.

“I had my hands in a lot of different communities,” Celander said. “I ran for the cross country team. I didn't end up doing Greek life, so I did sports instead. Then, I ended up feeling like it was a little bit much, and I ended up taking advantage of the study abroad experience.”

Through Bradley, Celander studied philosophy in London and art in Italy. But it wasn’t until she traveled to Copenhagen for psychology that the big a-ha moment of her academic career finally came.

“I was in a criminal psychology class, and we visited the prison system there, which is drastically different from here and really incredible. They provide services like art therapy and light therapy. Then, we went to a hospital, and I met an art therapist who specialized in oncology. I was able to talk to her and just absolutely fell in love. I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, this is exactly what I'm studying, just without the name.’”

From there, Celander collaborated with interdisciplinary studies to craft her very own art therapy degree. 

“I think it was absolutely incredible,” she said. “Rather than being with a group of people who are all interested in the same thing, I was able to build my own new network with all of these different types of people and take classes and gain perspectives that I just don't think are available everywhere because there wasn't another art therapy major in the room. I really got to build out what interests me and pick and choose those classes. It was just such a unique and cool experience.”

Now, Celander continues to tout the importance of this kind of educational approach as she splits her focus between full-time consultation for mental health coaching and serving on the board of a nonprofit that puts up accessible art making tents.

“People think it's mindless art making, but I really think it is mindfulness and mindful art making. It really is making you stay in the present moment. You're not thinking about something that's happened in the past. You're not worrying about what's happening in the future. You're just right here working with the art materials.”

— Jenevieve Rowley-Davis