Strengthening Bonds On and Off the Field

Mitchell Dryden likes building things.

“Growing up, I had a knack for being hands-on, and I had a creative mind,” he says. “When I decided to attend Dordt, I knew I was going to study engineering, and I chose to focus on civil engineering because it was a way to incorporate my love of building.”

Dryden’s engineering classes include plenty of problem set-based assignments, which he says are “all designed to set you up to do well on the test.” The problem sets, though, can be very difficult to work through.

“As engineering majors, we spend a lot of time spinning our wheels trying to figure out how to answer the problem sets,” he says. “Engaging with problem sets and talking with our professors through the struggle helps us to learn better and to develop a better understanding for what the engineering program is trying to teach.”

He appreciates how his engineering professors set up the classes so that he and his fellow engineering majors “can have that opportunity to learn and struggle through.”

“My engineering professors want to help, and I feel like I can always talk to them, and they provide good guidance on how to move forward,” he says. “And with smaller class sizes at Dordt, I can engage with my classmates better and get to know my professors well.”

In addition to shoring up his engineering acumen, Dryden has worked at building culture on Dordt’s soccer team.

Dordt’s soccer team is unique because we come from different backgrounds. It’s definitely a challenge sometimes, when we’re all navigating different perspectives. But it’s been a good challenge.”

He says that, when he first started playing soccer at Dordt as a freshman, the team culture was lacking; he recalls how teammates felt like they didn’t need to care about one another on or off the field. “My class and I have been part of the cultural growth, and from where we started to where we are now is tremendous. It’s great to know that, as we graduate, my class and I can leave something for the next players, and they can keep building on that.”

The Defender Way has been a big influence on shifting the soccer team’s culture. “Also, being intentional in relationships and remembering that this is a brotherhood on and off the field—we want to be there for one another,” he says. “The overall motivation is that my class wants to succeed, so working hard and supporting one another even through adversity has helped us grow and incorporate our faith into how we play.”

At the end of the day, there’s something bigger than soccer, something bigger than the individual players on the soccer team. “We try to focus on our love for the Lord, and we try to show that in how we play and how we compose ourselves on and off the field.”

One of the reasons Dryden chose to attend Dordt is because he wanted to be more intentional about his faith. “I’ve had so many opportunities to grow my faith while I’ve been here. “My engineering professors often talk about how your values and what you believe in shape the way you engineer. I think about that a lot. I’ve also been able to make my faith my own and to develop friendships with people who also want to be strong Christians.”

His friendships at Dordt have pushed him in other ways, too. During his sophomore year, he and a group of soccer guys competed in Airband; they ended up placing second. “Last year, we decided to do it again, and we won, which was surprising but cool. We’ve now made it a tradition. I can’t dance, and I have no rhythm. But we go out there, and we have a good time,” he laughs.

There isn’t a lot going on in Northwest Iowa, which for Dryden – who likes to make his own way – is a plus. “It’s good to be able to figure out what to do—to find stuff to do and get creative. My friends and I have don’t things that are fun that you would never expect. Stepping out of your comfort zone, having an open mind, and seeing what happens: that’s been a really great part of being at Dordt.”