An Interview On
Bard College

Background

Interview Date:April 2019

Gender Identity: Female
Race/Ethnicity: Biracial: Afro-Latina
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
Graduation Year: 2019
High School Experience: Private boarding school in Western Massachusetts with a graduating class of about 120 students. There was a culture of going to college.
First Generation College Student: No
Majors: Human Rights and Written Arts
Minor: None
Extracurricular Activities: I [hold a leadership position] for a club called Code Red, where we provide free menstrual products to the school. Before senior year, I [held a leadership position] for Women of Color United.

Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience?
Women of Color United was really important for me. It helped me find my friend group, along with my footing at Bard. It connected me with a lot of women of color who had similar experiences as me.

Academic Experience

Can you describe the weekly coursework for your majors?
I have a lot of reading for my majors. I usually have about two essays per class for the whole semester, which isn’t too bad because I never really have tests. The midterm essay is usually 10-15 pages long, and the finals are usually 15-20 pages long.

Is there anything that you either of your majors’ departments do especially well or especially poorly?
The Written Arts Program is really great. It’s organized, and there are great advisors in my department. The Human Rights Department at Bard has a lot of really cool professors and really important people who are great to have connections with. They are pretty unorganized, which can be frustrating. It’s hard to get in touch with professors sometimes, I guess because they are really busy and have their feet in a lot of places outside of Bard. Sometimes I’ll have to email a professor multiple times to set up meetings or to look over pages for my senior project.

How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
I think it depends. I wouldn’t call it competitive, but I think Bard is definitely a place where you find smart students who put in their hardest work. There are also students who aren’t on the high end of that scale and might be here because their parents want them to be or are trying to figure out what they want to do so they don’t put as much work into their classes.

How accessible are your professors?
They are really accessible. Most professors make a good effort to connect with students, and want them to pass. They make an effort to hold office hours at a time where most students can get to them. They will also set up extra meeting times with students if they can’t make it.

Do you feel that people are open to multiple schools of thought in the classroom?
For the most part, they are open to multiple schools of thought. Politically, Bard is on the liberal side of the spectrum and so I’ve heard that people who aren’t on that side often feel they are outsiders here. In most classes, conversations happen when both sides are respectful, regardless of political preferences.

What has been your favorite class you’ve taken for both of your majors?
Human Rights: It was Women’s Rights, Human Rights, which looks at feminist texts chronologically. It was important for me because we talked about how the patriarchy came to be and what it is today. I think that’s something every person should know and understand.

Written Arts: Part of the requirement is taking workshops where two people will write a creative piece each week, while the rest of the class reads and critiques it. I think having to take workshops where my peers and professors are looking over my work and telling me what I could be doing better has really shaped me as a writer.

Why did your combination of majors? Are you happy with your choice?
I originally came to Bard because of the Written Arts department. I decided I wanted to be a writer and Bard had a pretty well-known department. When I got here, I knew I wanted to combine it with something related to political justice. Bard is distinguished in the Human Rights world, so I thought it would allow me to pursue a combination of gender and race.

On and Around Campus

Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Sycamore with one roommate.

Sophomore: Robbins with one roommate.

Junior: Village B in a suite with no roommate, but three suitemates.

Senior: Robbins in a single.

What was your favorite living situation?
Living in the suite was the best. I had a single, but I also had a kitchen and a nice bathroom that I was only sharing with three people who I got to choose. It was just like living in an apartment with my friends, and it felt like I was living in a home versus a dorm.

How was transitioning from Western Massachusetts to Annandale-on-Hudson, NY?
It was pretty similar. My high school was near cities, but they didn’t have a lot going on. Here it’s kind of the same thing. The two towns next to Bard, Red Hook and Tivoli, are pretty small and there’s not much happening. We are two hours from New York City, which is nice, especially because my family lives there. [Red Hook has a population of about 2,000, and Tivoli has a population of about 1,000.]

Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
Because we have a great security team, I feel very safe on campus. They are all really nice, and you can generally tell that they just want kids to be safe. They aren’t really out to get students, which is something I’ve seen at other schools. Around campus, there’s the Red Hook Police Department, and there have been a few instances where people feel they’re being targeted unfairly or harassed, so I don’t always feel super comfortable when I go off campus. I also feel comfortable knowing that if anything I was unhappy with happened regarding the police officers off campus, Bard is a pretty supportive place while dealing with those complaints.

Pros and Cons of being in Annandale-on-Hudson, NY?
Pros:
1) Bard’s campus is beautiful, and you have the Hudson River nearby. There are always places we can go camping and hiking.
Cons:
1) There’s not a lot going on in the towns. Being two hours away from New York can be a pro or a con because it’s pretty accessible by train, but at the same time, that means you have to spend money to go.
2) There aren’t a lot of options for ordering food if you don’t want to go to a dining hall, or another on-campus option.

Social Opportunities

What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you participate in at Bard?
I haven’t been doing a lot of that this year because I’m working on my senior project, but there are usually on campus parties thrown by the Student Activities Office. Those could often be things like dance parties, which are fun to go to. There are also off-campus house parties thrown by people not affiliated with the Student Activities Office. I enjoy going to those if they are at my friend’s houses. Also, there are usually fun things to do in the campus center on the weekends. The Student Activities Office will turn one of the rooms into an ice skating rink or a bowling alley. There are also two music venues at Bard, so sometimes parties will happen there that are either hosted by clubs, or someone who will pay bands to come. There is always something to do at Bard.

What are your favorite events or activities on campus?
Spring Fling happens every year during the first weekend of May. It’s Bard’s version of a music festival where music artists come for the weekend. There are also video game and food trucks that come. Sometimes there are conferences at Bard, but other times clubs will buy tickets to conferences that are off campus and give them away for free to members or people who want to go to the conferences. I’ve been to conferences at Columbia and Yale for free.

How happy are you with the nightlife options at Bard? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I think I’m pretty happy with them. Sometimes I think it would be cool if they had more off-campus trips. Sometimes they have a shuttle that goes to the mall, but it would be cool if there was a shuttle to a bowling alley or other venues near campus.

Campus Culture

How did you meet your closest friends?
It was definitely a combination of a lot of things. Freshman orientation at Bard is a little different, it’s called The Language and Thinking Program and lasts for three weeks in August. All the new Bard freshman come and take classes together. They are kind of philosophical classes that aren’t really graded. Because you’re here three weeks early without anyone else on campus besides freshman, you grow really close with your class and the new people you meet. I also think the clubs I’ve joined have been really important to the friendships I’ve built.

How would you describe the overall social scene at Bard?
I don’t want to say that it’s cliquey, but I think the social groups here are visible and tend to stick together. They are often made of people that have a lot in common with each other. I think there tends to be a divide between athletes and non-athletes, but I don’t think it’s super strict.

To what extent do you feel people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
In terms of sexual orientation, I think Bard is a pretty open space for Queer folks. I don’t know that many athletes that are open about their Queerness, but other than the athletic sector, there isn’t a divide between people of different sexual orientations. Racially, I think it’s getting less distinct, but in my time here the number of people of color has grown immensely. I would say freshman year the people of color were more grouped together than they are now. [13% of students in the Class of 2022 are Hispanic, 8% are African American/Black, 12% are Asian, and 54% are White.]

How do you like the size of Bard in terms of undergraduate enrollment? How has that impacted your experience? [There are about 1,900 undergraduate students.]
The size is really good. For me, it’s just small enough where I don’t feel like I’m being swallowed by the population. I still feel like I’m heard in my classes and my professors know me, but I also still meet new people when I go out, and I’ll see new people every day. [98% of classes have 29 students or less.]

How would you describe the Black and Latina communities on campus? How strong are they?
The Black and Latina communities often overlap each other, but I think they are both very strong on campus. There’s a huge sense of community among these students. A lot of it has to do with the clubs, and it just happens that the people who run the clubs are really good friends, which helps to bridge any gaps. There is often a lot of conversation between these two groups regarding race and support between one another.

How would you describe the student body at Bard?
Bard is kind of a meme of itself. There’s a very Bard vibe, which is kind of grungy and liberal. A lot of students here are pretty wealthy but dress like they’re not. People here are outdoorsy, but a lot of them are also from big cities like New York City and Los Angeles. I feel like when I’m describing these things, it’s important to note that I am not thinking of the athletes. Maybe that says more about the separation between athletes and non-athletes. [Socioeconomically, 28% of students at Bard come from the top 5%.]

Financial Aid

Have you used financial aid? If so, accommodating was the office to your needs?
They’re not super warm, so it can be nerve-wracking going in there sometimes. Usually, it’s my dad who talks to them over the phone, so I don’t know them that well. The times I have gone in there, it hasn’t been great.

Careers

What have you used the career office for? How helpful have they been?
They are great. I use them a lot for checking over my resume. During my sophomore and junior year, I was shy about reaching out to people for a job or networking opportunities, but [the career center] was really helpful. I could tell them what I wanted to do and they’d sit there and help me write an email, or practice what questions I should ask people who I wanted to network with. They’ve always been really helpful and supportive.

Advice for Prospective Freshmen

What is something you wish you knew about Bard before you entered as a freshman?
Bard is really a place where it’s what you make of it. For example, during freshman year I didn’t do much besides go to class, hang out with my friends, and party. This was fun, but sophomore year my experience was completely different. That’s when I started becoming involved in clubs. I realized Bard was a completely different place when I was really active in the community versus being passive and letting everything happen around me. I wish I had known how different my experience had been if I had jumped into Bard ready to get involved with all the things that were happening.

What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
The scenery. Blithewood is one of the really cool and beautiful mansions at Bard, and I don’t think that’s included on the tour because it’s a little bit of a walk from the main buildings. I would tell any prospective student to be sure and spend extra time exploring the campus before and after their tour. There are lots of beautiful hidden historic gems, beautiful scenes of the mountains, and the Hudson River that you wouldn’t see if you were just walking around from the dining hall to the academic buildings.

Reasons to attend Bard:
1) The academics are amazing, and you’ll have the chance to study a lot of great things with amazing professors.
2) How pretty the campus.
3) It provides a lot of opportunities for you to get involved in the community around Bard. There are lots of opportunities for teaching local kids. You can also join organizations that are either social justice oriented, or community service based.

Reasons to not attend Bard:
1) If you’re looking for a huge athletic culture.
2) If you don’t know what you want to study at all and just want to spend a lot of time taking random classes, Bard isn’t really the place for you. Although it’s a liberal arts school, there are still quite a few requirements for your major. I’d say you have a year to take classes that you don’t know what you want to do with, but after that, you have to begin taking your major classes.

Notice: Bard College is a trademark. Induck uses it for descriptive purposes, not to imply affiliation with, endorsement from, or sponsorship by Bard College.

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