Bylone dances his way into our hearts

North-East RLC Chris Bylone poses for a photo with his dog Lance. - Cait De Mott Grady

North-East RLC Chris Bylone poses for a photo with his dog Lance. - Cait De Mott Grady

What drives North-East Campus RLC Chris Bylone?

“It’s that intrinsic thing inside of me, that I want to do good for others,” said Bylone.

Born on a family farm in New Jersey, Bylone has spent much of his life being active in a community setting.

After his parents divorced when he was two, he split his time between his father and mother. “I basically had two different lives,” Bylone said. During weekends and summers, Bylone would work with his father on the farm. “I was basically business partners with my dad at the age of 15,” Bylone said. During the week, Bylone lived with his mother, took dancing lessons and performed with a professional dance troupe.

In 2002, the Bylone family farm went out of business. “So, we stopped farming and it kind of started the path to get where I am today,” he said.

With poor high school grades, Bylone decided to start fresh at Cumberland County College. “High school wasn’t the best time for me.” Bylone said. “I was beaten up almost every day. I was the one who was picked on because I danced. So, my grades suffered.”

After a fruitful time at Cumberland, where he started a Gay-Straight Alliance and participated in Student Government, Bylone transferred to Rutgers University. Immediately, Bylone again became active in Student Government and the Rutgers’ Gay-Straight Alliance. “I was president of
the [Gay-Straight Alliance],” Bylone said. “I was the one who really took that organization from five people and grew it to about 45 people over about a two and a half year time.”

At Rutgers, Bylone majored in Agricultural Ecology, which allowed him to study the effects of production agriculture on communities and the environment. “My senior thesis was basically on what happens when family farms go out of business,” Bylone said. “What happens to the community, and looking at all of the things that are interconnected to a farm in a local community.”

After Rutgers, Bylone attended Eastern Michigan University (EMU) to get a Masters in Educational Leadership. At EMU, he founded a Graduate Student Organization.

“I sat on the board of Regents as a graduate student representative,” Bylone said, “So I represented 5,000 students to the college. I had to represent all of their interests to the administration as a grad student president.”

Now as an RLC at Grinnell, Bylone continues to show concern for student interests. When interacting with students, he said he prefers to listen first, then give advice. “You can’t tell somebody how to fix a problem until you know what the problem is, so you just [have to] sit and listen,” he said.

Bylone’s dedication to students transcends the everyday duties of his job as an RLC. “The first thing I think [in the morning] about is how I’m going to make a life of a student better today,” Bylone said. “And, so that’s my job and that’s my life. I don’t consider this to be a job. I consider this to be a life,” he said.

In addition to a passion for helping students, Bylone has many hobbies. He likes to garden, read books on leadership, participate in queer activism, dance, cuddle with his dog, watch Anderson Cooper 360 and Kyle XY, and listen to music. Music has a special importance to Bylone. He even has a personal anthem, Madonna’s song, “Like it or Not.”

“There’s a line in there that says, ‘Cleopatra had her way / Mata Hari too / Whether they were good or bad / Is strictly up to you.’ So, what that’s saying is that I am either a good or bad person but … I’m not going to be the judge on whether what I did in my life is good or bad. Other people will be the judge of that.”

As for after Grinnell, Bylone hopes to get his doctorate. In the long run, Bylone has greater aspirations. “My agenda is to be a president of a university,” Bylone said. “It’s not all about me. It may look it, but a lot of times a leader needs to put himself out there.”