Christina Ellsberg, BC ’16, has a wall in her room covered with her paintings of the lamentation of Christ. It’s not for the irony, she tells me, with a smile and shrug. “Nobody knows if I mess up Jesus’ face—no one knows what he looks like.” The practicing Quaker and self-proclaimed “Catholic science person” signs her emails “In science” and has a tattoo of the symbol of Saint Eustace—the warrior that forsook killing after seeing a cross between a stag’s antlers—on her arm. She points out that it also doubles as the Jägermeister logo. Though admittedly, she says she doesn’t even really like Jäger that much.
Ellsberg, a medical anthropology major, is currently working on her thesis about patienthood and personhood across veterinary and geriatric care. While it’s a topic that interests her, like most seniors, she’s unsure about its broader implications. “I’m not doing something that’s going to change the world, I’m doing something I want to think about for the next year.” But Ellsberg has already changed the world, at least as far as equine mortality goes. Having worked in barns from the age of 10 to pay for the cost of horse riding, in high school she joined a University of Pennsylvania research team that identified a way to test horses for laminitis, an often deadly condition in which the hoof becomes bonded to the bone.
Ellsberg is the leader of three campus comedy groups, Control Top, Chowdah and Low Cut, and has served as chairperson of NSOP for Barnard, for which she created a comedy/variety show event called “Bear With Us,” in which she and her friends performed stand-up routines. In the event, which she says was packed, first-years were treated to belly dancing with a Game of Thrones theme accompaniment, and “Christina’s meme hour.” She gives her experience at Barnard “five Mickeys”—the highest accolade of the metric system used to measure the enjoyability of Disney rides. She concludes, “I’ve not taken a single class here that has not profoundly altered the way I see the world.”
“Christina just gets into shenanigans,” says her roommate and fellow Control Top member Molly McBride Jacobson, BC ’16. When I meet Augusta Chapman, BC ’18, Ellsberg’s girlfriend, she tells me that Ellsberg is at that moment at a film festival in Virginia. “She was supposed to drive Bo Derek one place, but Bo Derek liked her so much she hired her for the rest of the day,” says Chapman. “All day Christina has been driving [Bo Derek’s] Lamborghini around from place to place at a film festival taking care of her dogs.”
Ellsberg says her ideal life would be “to have five different jobs and I do each one of them for one or two days a week.” These would include bioethics in research in developing nations, making the “coolest radio show ever,” a sketch show that focuses on women’s comedy, and “cool films about cool things.” She is also considering going into teaching, citing her experiences helping other students edit their work as a Writing Fellow. “It’s amazing to see how many ideas and how many areas of expertise students have,” she says, adding that she is “not totally giving up on her dream of becoming professional wrestler.” She has me touch her bicep, and indeed, Ellsberg is rather strong. Saint Eustace flexes in solidarity.