Campus Character: Xan Faber

by Channing Prend

Xan Faber, CC ’16, was brought up Episcopalian in the small town of Hays, Kansas. “My church at home has 9 people, maybe 13 on a good day and they’re all about 80 years old,” she laughs. “They actually power our organ using a vacuum.”


“Episcopalians are pretty chill people,” Xan tells me. “I would actually define us as the chillest denomination, which is not to say we’re Methodists.”


Despite always considering herself a spiritual person, she didn’t anticipate leading or even becoming involved in the Canterbury Club, Columbia’s Episcopal student group, which she affectionately refers to as the “Episco-posse.”


“When I got to Columbia, I found out that they were the nicest people who still think critically about their faith,” Xan says. As the daughter of a philosophy professor, she was raised to question her faith in this way. “My dad likes to interrogate people about their beliefs all the time.” Xan’s father was also the one who gave her her name, which comes from Xanthippe, the wife of Socrates.


Xan is the only student at Columbia majoring in Medicine, Literature, and Society, a track within the Comparative Literature and Society department. “It seemed like a perfect way to combine my interests in philosophy, psychology, and foreign languages,” she recalls. “I don’t feel like I came out with any concrete skill set though,” she adds before bursting out in laughter.


Xan may not know what she’s doing with the rest of her life, but she knows what she isn’t going to do: “I think consultants suck. You’re actively perpetrating a really messed up system of wealth inequality and…” she abruptly stops herself and scrawls her face. “You’re not going into consulting, are you?”


After graduation, Xan is moving to Taipei to conduct bioethics research. She says she isn’t nervous despite not knowing a single person in the city or speaking Chinese. “Once you get excited about a place you just want to move there and do something.”


Xan has this same sense of adventure about New York. “One of my favorite things to do is find bizarre art events around the city,” she says. She tells me about several of these, including an Ann Hamilton installation at the Park Avenue armory with huge wooden swings hanging from the ceiling (“It was absurd!”). “Xan’s always doing weird things and finding random events all over the city,” Brigid Connell, CC ‘16, Xan’s roommate and friend says. “We’re going to the Westminster dog show next week.”


According to Brigid, there is never a dull moment living with Xan. “We actually had this plan at the beginning of the year that I was going to teach her Spanish and she was going to teach me German,” Brigid says. “So I labeled everything in our suite with post-its in Spanish right when I moved in. She never did it for German though and she never learned Spanish, but those post-its are everywhere now!”


Perhaps the most impressive thing about Xan is not her diverse set of interests but her genuine desire to experience and learn about new things. Over the course of our interview she speaks animatedly about everything from German folk music to hiking to public health. Still, Xan seems unconvinced of her own
uniqueness. “I honestly don’t feel like I’m that worthy of being a campus character,” she remarks.