The many layers of Brant Ellsworth

Korean-speaking, star-gazing, book-reading, gameshow car-winning teacher, scholar and dad – he’s at home in many communities

Editor’s note: This story, by Knightly News reporter and photographer Alexa Shughart, is one in our series Layers of Community. The series began with an overview article by Knightly News reporter Ashley Reichard. The name of the series was Layers of Diversity, but the Central Penn College committees, and The Knightly News, that created the project have changed the name to Layers of Community, to better convey the intention behind the series: to unfold for our audience the layers of people and the environment – and, in those, the diversity and inclusiveness – of the Central Penn community. We hope you find the series informative. Please share your thoughts on our blog page and on social media. You can also email the editors, and the reporters. The editors’ email address is at the end of the article. Reporters’ email addresses are with their byline.

Cutout-style people of various colors holding hands in a circle.
If you would like a diversity, equity and inclusion training for your group or organization, contact the Central Penn College Center for Equity and Multicultural Affairs at

By Alexa Shughart

Knightly News Reporter

I met with Brant Ellsworth, program director of humanities and associate professor of humanities, to find out a bit more about who he is, and why he feels diversity at Central Penn is important.

Shughart: What are some of your values?

Ellsworth: I have heard it said that “Honesty is the best policy.” I agree. I believe in honesty—honesty to self, honesty to others, and though it sounds really simple, in practice, I know it can be really tough. I also believe it is important as a person to be loyal, to be proactively helpful, to be friendly to all, to be courteous and to be cheerful.

Professor Brant Ellsworth. Photo by Alexa Shughart

Shughart: How important is diversity to you?

Ellsworth: I’d like to answer this question by describing how diversity fits into my professional work. The topics of diversity, equity and inclusion are central to my research, writing and teaching. In graduate school, my dissertation examined how marginalized religious groups navigate inequalities within society and fight for inclusion. This project has framed the way I approach many of my courses, whether we are examining racial, ethnic, religious, political or socioeconomic “insiders” and “outsiders” in American history, exploring the lived experiences of African Americans during the Reconstruction Era, or narrating the nation’s arc towards Civil Rights. I want my students to see the historical fingerprints of all Americans.

Student interviewing professor
Knightly News reporter Alexa Shughart interviews Professor Brant Ellsworth, director of humanities, in his ATEC office.
Photo by Jared Rife

Shughart: What background do you come from?

Ellsworth: My father was an officer in the Air Force, from Phoenix, Arizona. My mother grew up in the Great Lakes Region: Ohio and Minnesota, (and) North Dakota. I was born on a military base in North Dakota during the Cold War, and spent my childhood and adolescence moving from military base to military base across the country. My family was certainly never rich. My parents were frugal, but I did get a new pair of shoes every year before the school year. Racially, I am considered white, non-Hispanic; my immediate ancestors immigrated to the United States from Czechoslovakia, England and Ireland.

Shughart: How do you feel Central Penn is diverse? Or, do you feel Central Penn is not diverse?

Ellsworth: I find the Central Penn student body are collectively a very diverse group, representing a spectrum of races, ethnicities, socioeconomic classes and sexualities.

Shughart: What are some of your interests?

Ellsworth: At this stage of my life, I have become more and more interested in learning about the past in order to pretend to understand the present. I love doing genealogical work and learning about my ancestors. I grew up playing sports, but I do not get to play them as much these days as I want to. I love reading and listening to audiobooks. I love learning. At night, I enjoy studying constellations and becoming more familiar with the night sky. I also love traveling to parks—playgrounds, amusement parks, state parks and national parks.

Ellsworth, a historian, ethnographer, folklorist, amateur astronomer, father, husband and former “The Price is Right” contestant who won a car on the show, and who speaks Korean, makes a point to Shughart. Photo by Jared Rife.

Shughart: What are some of your ethnic backgrounds?

Ellsworth: Ethnically, my ancestors were Czechoslovakian, English and Irish, but I pay little attention to that cultural background, nor do I consider myself ethnically connected to them. My most prominent ethnic affiliation is with my religious organization, whose members have long been ostracized and persecuted and, as such, have developed a strong sense of group identity. (Ellsworth is a Latter-day Saint, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.)

Shughart: Why is diversity in the workplace important to you?

Ellsworth: It is important that the decisions that are made at any workplace reflect the input and interests of all groups and identities. As such, it is important that the faculty, staff and student populations are diverse.

Shughart: What do you feel makes you unique?

Ellsworth: According to Myers-Briggs (a psychological-preferences and perceptions test), I am an INTJ: introverted, intuitive, thinking and judging. I’ve won a car on “The Price is Right.”I’ve been involved in a bank robbery—as an employee, not the robber. I speak Korean and prefer Korean cuisine to anything on the menu at an American restaurant (he lived and worked in Korea).  … I read “East of Eden” every year and think Richard Powers’ “The Overstory” is the greatest book of my lifetime. I worked in finance before pursuing an academic career. I’ve been married 15 years, have (four) kids, and would jump at the chance to go to space.

Read the previous article in the series here.

Shughart is also the media club’s photographer.

Have a comment or a story idea? Contact KnightlyEditors@CentralPenn.Edu.

Edited by club co-adviser and blog editor Professor Michael Lear-Olimpi.