BackgroundInterview Date:April 2019
Gender Identity: Male
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
Graduation Year: 2020
High School Experience: Public school in Brooklyn, New York with a graduating class of about 120 students. There was a culture of going to college.
First Generation College Student: Yes
Major: Political Studies
Extracurricular Activities: I started a financial literacy program at Bard, and I’m part of the Nicaragua Education Initiative, where we help make scholarships for people in Nicaragua. I’m also a writing tutor, and I’m in a mentoring program for young men of color called Brothers at Bard.
Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience?
The financial literacy program because I started it from the ground up, which taught me leadership skills and how to work with Bard.
Can you describe the weekly coursework for your major?
It’s all readings and essays. Every week I’m supposed to send in a response to the weekly readings, but those are only for the higher-level courses. For the other Political Studies courses, the teacher sets a number of essays per semester.
Is there anything the Political Studies department does especially well or especially poorly?
They do a good job of coming up with interesting courses each semester. There’s never a point where I was discouraged while looking at the available courses for Political Studies. One thing they could improve on is thinking about preparing students to understand what they can do with a Political Studies degree. There isn’t a lot of post-graduation talk here.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
The environment is definitely collaborative. During class discussions, we try and build each other’s arguments up. I prefer writing my essays alone, but I’ve never thought of Bard as a competitive space, specifically in the Political Studies Department.
How accessible have the professors in your department been?
They are very accessible. They usually have a certain number of office hours every week. They are very flexible about accommodating to your needs if you can’t meet during their office hours.
Do you feel that people are open to multiple schools of thought in the classroom?
At Bard College, we swing more to the Liberal side. I’ve haven’t heard a point that reflects a conservative view. I either haven’t encountered any conservative people, or the people who have those views are pretty quiet about them.
Why did you pick your major? Are you happy with your choice?
My future plans are to go to law school, so Political Studies was a preferred major. When I came to Bard, it was around the 2016 presidential election, and it was something that piqued my interest. Looking back now, I wouldn’t change it.
How was transitioning academically as a first-generation college student? Were there any resources or systems in place that helped you adapt?
Transitioning to Bard wasn’t too difficult because my high school was very competitive. It was a specialized high school where only the top 500 test takers get into. In that sense, I was already accustomed to the workload.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: McCausland with one roommate.
Sophomore: Village C with one roommate.
Junior: McCausland in a single.
What has been your favorite living situation?
The single I have this year would be my favorite.
How was transitioning from Brooklyn to Annandale-on-Hudson, NY?
The transition was very difficult because Bard is in a very secluded area. There are a lot of times I wouldn’t be able to go out or do things the way I was accustomed to in the city. Everything here closes early. The demographic was different because I go to a PWI, so that was interesting. [Bard’s class of 2022 is 54% White.]
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
There’s never been a point where I’ve felt unsafe. I’ve heard racial marks targeted at my friends and me while off-campus in the neighboring towns, but other than that I’m completely safe.
Pros and Cons of being in Annandale-on-Hudson, NY?
1) Because there’s nothing out here, it’s easier to just do your work.
2) We have a lot of connections to outside organizations. If you have an idea and want to start a project, it’s easy to get involved in the small community because of its size, and the great network.
1) It’s not as inclusive as it should be.
2) Everything closes too early.
What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you participate in at Bard?
A lot of the time I’ll go back to New York City and hang out with friends or family. It’s so close, it’s only about an hour and a half train ride. If I’m here at Bard, I like to start working early on the weekends so me and my friends can hang out at night and either play video games or see what’s going on in the town. We started our own intramural basketball league, which takes up most of my time outside of school work. Bard isn’t really about the nightlife, so I’m not big on parties.
How happy are you with the weekend options at Bard? Is there anything you would change if you could?
For me, I’m satisfied. There are only a few weekends when I wish there was more going on around campus. All-in-all, I can’t really complain.
How did you meet your closest friends?
I would say through basketball, and during the summer orientation. I’m part of the Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) which requires me to do a summer orientation for Bard. This gave me a chance to adjust to the campus lifestyle.
How would you describe the overall social scene at Bard?
The social scene is very cliquey. People get into their groups and don’t really stray from them.
To what extent do you feel people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
I would say to a full extent. [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.]
I like the size because I went to a small high school, so I figured a small college would be best.
How would you describe the Hispanic community on campus? How strong is it?
It’s fairly strong. There is a Latin American Student Organization (LASO) here that I don’t attend, but I know they do a lot of stuff on campus.
How would you describe the student body at Bard?
People are very to themselves and stick to their own friend groups. I think this is due to the nature of being at a small school. Once you find the people you click with, you kind of want to just stick with them.
Do people generally seem happy with Bard by senior year? Do people leave loving your school?
I don’t think so. A lot of people say they are here because of the scholarship money, but all-in-all, I know I’m happy with my Bard experience. I’d say it’s down the middle. I know people who take advantage of the opportunities and they enjoy it by their senior year. Bard is definitely what you make of it.
Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
For sure. I got connected with a few recent graduates of The Brothers at Bard Program, and they’ve been trying to line me up with internships for companies such as JPMorgan.
What have you used the career office for? How helpful have they been?
A couple weeks ago they had an interesting workshop on real estate, focusing on how to rent in New York City. I’ve never gone to them for anything other than finding a job on campus, which they’ve been helpful at.
Have you used financial aid? If so, how helpful is the office?
I’ve heard some bad stories about the financial aid office, but for me personally, they’ve been very helpful if I ever have an issue.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about Bard before entering as a freshman?
I wish I knew its important to line up your internships early.
What is something a prospective first-generation student or a student of color may want to know that we haven’t touched on?
One thing a prospective student should know is that Bard is definitely a place where you can take advantage of all the resources. Bard offers excellent resources in my opinion, and I’ve taken advantage of them. People at Bard are willing to help, especially the faculty. That’s one of the biggest pros about being here.
Reasons to attend Bard:
1) The resources. People are willing to help.
2) Generous financial aid. [For the 2017-2018 academic year, the average Bard scholarship was $37,906.]
3) They are very flexible regarding what you can study here. They are flexible if you want to change your major, and are always adding new things.
Reasons to not attend Bard:
1) If you’re someone who really cares about the social climate, like parties.
2) If you’re not comfortable going to a predominantly White institution.