Meet Bret

Hey there; I’m Bret.

Bret 2015 9x16I’m working to see a more generous Internet, one person at a time.

I consider my greatest credential to be my ongoing connection with my first online friend, starting in an AOL chatroom almost 25 years ago. I am currently a PhD student at Michigan State University, where I’m studying the Internet and human connection. More specifically, I am researching digital affinity spaces—e.g. online videogames, Twitter hashtags, fan forums—social capital, and feedback loops.

Previously, I was the founding National Director for Ministry in Digital Spaces for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA from 2014 to 2017, overseeing R&D, strategic foundations, and personnel recruitment for a team that spanned the corners of the United States. This team specialized in connecting meaningfully with college students wherever they were present online, especially via social media and video games.

In my few free moments, I’m also an avid gamer—motivated by exploration and social connection—and these days spends most of my (rare) free moments in Elder Scrolls Online.

Academic Background

As an undergraduate at Bucknell University, I studied mathematics and sociology, an interesting pairing to be sure, but one that balanced my empathy toward people with an affinity for abstracting patterns and building arguments in proof writing. I still think with the sociology lens I developed as an undergraduate student, constantly observing and seeking to understand the trends and patterns of student culture. I naturally gravitate toward new ideas, and I have participated in creative conferences such as IdeaCamp and NASAGA (where I served on the Board for two years).

During a decade of working with college students, I grew increasingly interested in how people learn and what tools are useful to aid this process. I returned to formal studies, first completing a Graduate Certificate in Serious Game Design and Research and then an MA in Educational Technology at Michigan State University. I am currently a PhD student in Educational Psychology and Educational Technology at MSU.

Professional History

I am a serial thought- and change-leader.

From 2003 until 2017, I worked with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA, a non-profit college campus Christian ministry of about 1,500 staff serving over 40,000 students on more than 600 campuses across the United States. I have been a frequent public speaker and group facilitator throughout this time. As a Campus Staff for six years, I worked on a primary campus to develop and coach student volunteers to become leaders; I also planted new student chapters on three different campuses in South Central Pennsylvania. As an Area Director for five years, I built my staff team both in terms of numbers and in our collaborative creative work together.

I have continuously worked to design tools that will make space for learning and ultimately help people change. I developed six-week immersion learning and cross-cultural experiences for students spending summers in three very different urban environments: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Manila, Philippines; and Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I created a successful card game to help graduating students prepare for life after college and a board game to help our Regional Staff Team work toward a more collaborative team culture. Through my Master’s program, I worked on an additional half dozen prototypes for digital games for change.

Be sure to check out my CV for a good summary of my experience and my digital gallery to get a more in depth view of the things I’ve been thinking about.

And, of course, please don’t hesitate to be in touch.