Challey Spotlight: Garrett Bryan

The Challey Institute for Global Innovation and Growth is highlighting the impact of our faculty and students at NDSU and in the community. This month, we are shining a spotlight on Garrett Bryan.

Challey Spotlight: Garrett Bryan

Senior, Philosophy and Political Science

Garrett Bryan is a senior studying philosophy and political science at NDSU. He returned to college after several years of employment in the energy and public infrastructure industries. Originally from Witten, SD, he worked on a variety of projects for a geotechnical firm in the Bakken oil fields. He enrolled at NDSU with the long-term goal of applying for law school. 

Challey Institute activities: “Why (Some) Nations Fail” reading group; “Dystopian and Utopian Novels” reading group; Menard Family Distinguished Speaker Series; IDEAS Research Workshop; Human Progress and Flourishing Workshop

As a non-traditional student, I am curious what made you decide to come back to college and why you chose NDSU?

After working in the energy industry for six years, paths forward in the company and the industry were becoming increasingly less obvious. I didn’t like the thought of having already topped out, so I started thinking about other options. One of my friends convinced me that I should pursue higher education and go to law school. Because I had been living and working in the Bakken, I decided to look at schools in North Dakota, and I chose NDSU because of the admissions process and the value it offered.    

You have been a part of two reading groups with us, including this semester’s discussion of why some nations are rich and others poor. With so many options to become involved at NDSU, why do you believe this program is valuable for students?

I was initially interested in the reading group because I was looking for ways to be involved in the wider intellectual community on campus. Last semester, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it, and that led me into why I wanted to do it again. You guys do a really good job of creating a dynamic conversation with a positive collective experience. There are a lot of smart and engaged students at NDSU, and you capture the best of that with the reading groups.

We launched the Human Progress and Flourishing Workshop, formerly the IDEAS Research Workshop, in-person this semester. What have you enjoyed so far?

It’s a very accessible seminar series. I think it’s great that students, even freshmen, are able to have a seminar experience that is relatively low pressure and exposes you to a lot of different ideas. The discussion strongly benefits from meeting in-person. We recently heard from a gentleman from Ghana, Ben Klutsey, who I really enjoyed. He shared a personal narrative while explaining the relationship between the state, property rights, and private enterprise. 

How have scholarships and philanthropic support had on impact on your time at NDSU?

First off, I am not aware of any directly comparable organization at NDSU. Without the Challey Institute and what it brings, my experience at NDSU would not be as rich. Secondly, I’m in a non-traditional student role so financial support is what allows me to be here. Every little thing, every scholarship, makes a difference. That support is what makes actually going back to college feasible. 

The Sheila and Robert Challey Institute for Global Innovation and Growth aims to advance understanding in the areas of innovation, trade and institutions to identify policies and solutions that enhance economic growth and opportunity. Learn more at
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