An Interview On
Colby College

Background

Interview Date:January 2019

Gender Identity: Female
Race/Ethnicity: Caucasian
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
Graduation Year: 2020
High School Experience: Public school in a town outside of New York City with a graduating class of about 500 students. There was a culture of going to college.
First Generation College Student: No
Major: English with a focus on American Literature
Minor: None, but I take a lot of liberal arts classes
Extracurricular Activities: I [have had leadership positions] in Hillel, I work in the Writers’ Center, I sing acapella, and I volunteer as a mentor to a middle schooler through Colby Cares About Kids. Outside of Colby, I [am a leader] of a political opinion magazine.

Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience?
All of them are very important to me. For me, the Jewish community in Hillel has been really important to me because I took a leadership role as a sophomore, and it helped me make some friends and get some leadership experience. One of my big concerns coming to college was how will I meet friends, and some of my deepest connections come from activities or when I have a similar interest or identity.

Academic Experience

Can you describe the weekly coursework for your major?
A big part of the workload is just reading novels. I have a focus on American Literature, so last year I took a class about Toni Morrison that I loved. We had to read five of her novels within the semester and there were about three or four short essays that would be due throughout the semester. I liked the class because we got to rewrite our essays over the semester and work with our professor very closely during office hours.

Is there anything you feel your major’s department does especially well or poorly?
They have good visiting professors. They have good experiences with people who are experts in their field and they come in and teach. People love the Poetry classes, and the visiting professors are really strong in that department. What they do poorly is they aren’t as accessible as a department because there are so many White professors and there are very few people of color in classes. There have also been one or two incidents when people of color have felt marginalized in the classroom. [In the 2015-2016 academic year, Colby employed 28 full-time professors of color, making up 16% of the full-time faculty population. See Colby Bias Incident Report Log here.]

How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
It’s definitely collaborative. People are ready to help each other and share the load. Group work is really common. I did a group paper the first year which was challenging but also rewarding.

How accessible are your professors?
Professors at Colby are happy to help and insist that you come to office hours. They’re very accessible. I’m lucky that in my major the classes are small, sometimes there are 10 or 15 people in the class. Both inside and outside the class you get a lot of attention and care from professors if you seek it out.

Do you think people are open to multiple schools of thought in the classroom?
I would lean towards no. Yes, on the surface level, but afterward the small talk is, “Oh that person is so conservative. I don’t know how they could say that in this classroom.” Colby has pockets of very politically active people and pockets of people who are very complacent about politics and our community. The politically active people on campus will bring up how greater issues are impacting the school because talking about systems within your own community is a very important part of being in college. In the classroom oftentimes there will be debates, but the baseline assumption in classes like Sociology, English, and American Studies is that everybody leans more left.

Why did you pick your major? Are you happy with your choice?
I knew I wanted to do writing and I love to read, and I also might want to teach, so I think the major fits me well. If all I was doing at college was English, I wouldn’t be happy. A professor told me that my major is English and my other liberal arts, and I think that is right. It defines my experience because at Colby you have distribution requirements but a lot of room to try things that appeal to you. The liberal arts classes have been the most rewarding, along with the English classes.

On and Around Campus

Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Leonard, which is part of the Hillside Complex. I had one roommate.

Sophomore: Goddard-Hodgkins with one roommate. It’s one of six residence halls on Roberts Row, which used to be frat row.

Junior: Averill in a triple with two roommates for the first semester. Second semester I’m abroad.

What was your favorite living situation?
Junior year. I had random roommates my first two years because I had things go wrong sophomore year with housing. It’s an interesting experience to live with people of very different backgrounds with a random roommate.

How was transitioning from living outside New York City to Waterville, ME?
It was a transition. For me, I noticed very subtle demographic changes. My town didn’t have many people of color, but there were a lot of people in New York who maintained a portion of their family culture from immigration. I had friends who were Jewish with Eastern European roots and Italian-American roots. In New England and Maine, I find people who have lived longer in America and it felt more White as an aesthetic. Because I’m Jewish and that is a big part of my life, I met people who had not interacted much with Jews before, so it was a transition culturally.

Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
I have had really good experiences with the Colby security and reporting system. Overall, I think people have good relationships with security and it’s safe. There’s an element of a drinking culture at Colby and, as a young woman who has been present at those parties, I don’t feel as safe there. But, on the other hand, I do think people look out for each other. I’ve intervened and have seen other people intervene many times when people are too inebriated and somebody tries to take them away from their friends. I also think the Community Advisor system makes people feel safe because they’re your peers. I respect that program a lot.

Pros and cons of being located in Waterville, ME:
Pros: 1) It’s an hour drive from Portland, which is a really cool city. There’s lots of good food and culture there.
2) There are lots of winter sports opportunities.

Cons: 1) Portland is the closest place, which is about an hour away. Augusta is also 25-minutes away. It feels very rural.
2) There is a divide between the campus and the town, but I think the college is doing a good job of trying to mend that now with different community engagement programs.
3) It’s really cold here, but it’s not as bad as I thought it would be because there is comradery around it.

Social Opportunities

What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you like to participate in?
I mainly spend time with my friends or go to the senior apartments for parties, but the parties aren’t my favorite thing. I tend to go to those on Saturdays. I also like seeing the shows the Theater department and theater clubs put on and going to dance concerts and acapella concerts.

What nights of the week do you go out?
It’s interesting because Colby is very academic during the week. Nobody goes out Sunday through Wednesday. For seniors, there are more opportunities. Friday and Saturday are when most people go out, Thursday night is bar night for seniors, and Wednesday night is Pub Night.

What is an alternative to going to a party or a bar that you like for a night out?
People love to go to dinner in Portland and there are concerts there. Sometimes there is stuff going on in Augusta too. There are also activities the school puts on, like paint night.

What is the impact of sports teams on nightlife?
We have a lot of sports teams who host a lot of parties because they are the bigger friend groups on campus. There is sort of a divide between athletes and non-athletes, but, because so many people play sports, it doesn’t really matter. It’s not that if you don’t play a sport you can’t have that kind of social life.

How happy have you been with the nightlife at Colby? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I’m pretty happy with it. It was an adjustment for me because in high school I wasn’t used to the culture of what you do every weekend is party. I wish there were more options for what felt like the thing to do because everybody just goes to the senior apartments for parties. I wish there was another culture, but I think Colby is doing what it can. It’s just that party culture is pretty prevalent at college in general.

Campus Culture

How did you meet your closest friends?
I have a lot of close friends from different places. I have a lot of friends from Hillel. I did special-interest housing my sophomore year called “HoPE,” which is the Hall of Purpose Exploration. We had monthly meetings to discuss deep topics which were led by the Dean of Religious and Spiritual Life and small group meetings. Every person who opted to live in that environment was someone who I wanted to live with. I met five of my best friends through that. I also have friends from my freshman hall.

How would you describe the overall social scene?
It’s pretty active in that there are a lot of ways to socialize and feel included. I think the school does a good job of integrating first years and clubs help with that integration. Colby is a very focused place during the week and people will socialize by studying together.

To what extent do people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
To a pretty good extent. In terms of [how people are], you gravitate towards people who are like you. You have to be the kind of person who wants to know people not like you, but there are people at Colby who think that way. Hillel is in the Pugh Center [for Student Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion], and all the different identity groups are in there so there are a lot of opportunities to mix there and a lot of good intention there. But, I also think it’s easy for people to stay in their homogenous groups [if they don’t try to mix with others].

How would you describe the student body?
There isn’t one definition because to say everybody is one thing is incorrect. With that being said, there is a strong culture of wealthy, White, outdoorsy people from privileged backgrounds. People are very studious and outgoing. People are willing to open the door for you and smile at you. Once you meet somebody they will say hi to you around campus. [Socioeconomically, 51% of students come from the top 5% and 2% come from the bottom 20%. Racially, over 20% of the student body are students of color.]

Do you think people are generally happy with their choice of Colby by senior year? Do you think people leave loving Colby?
Yeah, I do. I know that I will. It took me a bit of time to feel comfortable there but it’s been amazing for me and I was sad to leave when I went abroad. I think [a person’s happiness with Colby] depends on if it’s the kind of place where they can find their pocket.

How do you like the size of Colby in terms of undergraduate enrollment? How has it influenced your social experience? [Colby has about 2,000 undergraduate students.]
I like it. I think it feels small socially, but having small classes makes it worthwhile.

How strong is the Jewish community on campus?
I think the Jewish community is very strong because we have really good adult leadership. We have two different rabbis who are both really great. Hillel is also doing really well. I think there are some Jewish people who don’t want to go to Hillel because going there can other you in a way, and some people don’t want to do that so they don’t come.

Careers

Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
Not technically, but I have used Handshake, which has been good. I applied for my internship last summer through a professor.

What have you used the career office for? How helpful were they?
I’ve been to a few meetings with the person who does the media and education careers and she helped me figure out what kind of internship I might want and helped brainstorm ideas for careers. I also went to some speaker panels. There was one with a journalist that was interesting.

Have you learned any computer programs or languages that will be helpful to you professionally?
I haven’t learned them through my classes yet, but in my internships and for extracurriculars I’ve learned Adobe InDesign.

Advice for Prospective Freshmen

What is something you wish you knew about Colby before entering as a freshman?
I feel like I was guided really well and I went in with the idea that I would learn, which I did. I wish I knew my Community Advisor was really accessible and that it doesn’t get warm until May, but I think I knew that.

What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
Walking through the Pugh Center and talking with people on campus. People breeze by the Pugh Center in the tours. I also think sitting down and having a conversation with someone that is different than the guided tour is important. I’d also suggest to actually go to admitted students’ day if you’re admitted because it helps.

Reasons to attend Colby:
1) We have really skilled professors. There are no graduate programs so the professors are focused on you. We don’t have any T.A.’s teaching classes.
2) The small class sizes.
3) The campus culture of friendliness is really nice.

Reasons to not attend Colby:
1) The campus can feel very homogenous. There is a feeling of White privilege on campus that can lead to questioning if you are not of that background. [About 20% of the student body are students of color. The median family income of a student at Colby is $236,100.]
2) It gets very cold and gets dark early in the winter.
3) Sports are very prevalent, so if you don’t play sports or are part of that culture it can feel hard.

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

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