College of Wooster
BackgroundInterview Date:Fall 2018
Gender Identity: Male
Sexual Orientation: Homosexual
Graduation Year: 2019
High School Experience: Private school in a suburb of Cleveland with about 97 people in my graduating class. I was the only Black male, there were two Black females, and the rest of the population was White. I was there on a scholarship.
First-Generation College Student: Yes
Major: Earth Sciences. It used to be called Geology, but the name was recently changed.
Extracurricular Activities: I’m in Black Student Association, I’m in Greek life, I serve on the Student Government Association, which is one of the two governing bodies on campus, and I’m on the Outreach and Diversity Committee and the First Year Governance Committee
Have any of your extracurricular activities had a particularly big impact on your experience?
The Student Government Association (SGA) because I feel that I have been able to make an impact through that club. Being part of the Outreach and Diversity Committee has allowed me to connect to so many different people who don’t look like me on this campus, which I do find important because so many times people get used to being around people who look like them, and when you get acclimated to people who don’t look like you or think like you it allows you to have some incredible dialogue.
Can you describe your weekly coursework for your major?
It’s a lot of lab work. This year I have three labs a week, and each is about two hours long. Outside of that I’m typically doing homework for about 3-4 hours. Homework also consists of writing my Independent Study (I.S.) which takes a lot of time. On top of that you have all the other projects and work for the other classes.
Is there anything that you feel your major’s department does especially well or poorly?
One thing that isn’t really seen is that every professor is incredibly empathetic in the sense that they truly want to get to know you as a student. Every single one of my professors has made an effort towards every single student to get to know them. It’s not something they do forcefully, it’s just something that happens whether it’s through lab work or office hours. They are just really genuine people. On top of that, they do incredibly well with communication. They communicate with each other to make sure that exams don’t overlap, to not overwhelm the students. They communicate with us as well far in advance that we have an exam coming up.
How accessible have the professors in your department been?
It varies. I’ve had some professors who are really busy have limited office hours, so you have to go online and schedule meetings well in advance. I’ve also had professors where they have a little sheet outside their door where you can sign up for a slot and get all of your questions answered.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
It’s definitely more collaborative than competitive. We have so much to learn, so we’re all struggling together. The students in the department are all communicating. We all have group chats for each class. Very rarely have I felt a competitive environment.
Why did you pick your major? Are you happy with your choice?
I originally came in with a strong desire to be a Chemistry major. I came here and took Organic Chemistry my second semester, and it was the first time in my life I failed a course. That summer I had to evaluate what I wanted to do, and one of my fraternity brothers who is a Geology major came up to me and told me to take this Geology course with this professor because I would really enjoy it. I signed up for the class and within a month of taking the course, I declared my major because it was amazing. I would go to those classes wanting to learn. That professor is still my advisor and has been a great mentor and is part of the reason why I have gotten some of my research opportunities as well.
How was transitioning academically as a first-generation college student?
I’m an outlier because I was fortunate enough to go to such a high-quality high school. My high school had a college format with two semesters, and I was used to writing papers and having long nights of doing homework, so academically I was ready to rock and roll.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on and around campus?
Freshman: Compton Hall with one roommate for one semester but then he left
Sophomore: Bissman Hall, which is where all the fraternities and sororities used to live. I lived with members of my fraternity but I had a single.
Junior: Armington Hall in a single
Senior: Holden Hall in a single and then next semester I’ll live with my fraternity in a house
What has been your favorite living situation?
Holden Hall is definitely my favorite.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
I feel unsafe, and that is because [I have had two incidents where I have been in danger]. That is something that not all students feel no this campus, but students of color have been feeling unsafe on campus [primarily] because of the Wooster townspeople. There have been so many incidents that have happened over my four years. Things have been thrown at students, people have been hit by cars. The college is increasing security, but at least right now there is the sense that students of color need to do things differently than our White counterparts.
How was transitioning from your hometown to Wooster, OH?
That was definitely the most challenging part. I grew up in not the best part of Cleveland, and I was used to seeing people who looked like me. I was used to code-switching in the sense of when I went to my White high school I had my White voice, and at home I could be myself. Here, at least at first, I felt that I had to code-switch all the time and that was really taxing. It wasn’t until I found people who related to me and looked like me that I started to be myself.
What is your favorite off-campus restaurant?
Basil, which is a Chinese place.
What is your favorite place to get away from campus?
Spangler Park, it’s very tranquil.
Pros and cons of being in Wooster, OH?
Pros: (1) Because Wooster’s a small town, you get to know the community very well.
(2) Wooster is very comfortable because I know where everything is.
Cons: (1) There are racism problems and incidents. With the political climate, you’re bound to see it. It’s not something that is predominant, but you do see it.
(2) The fact that it’s a small town.
What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you like to participate in?
I do go out. There are a few bars here and there’s a brewery that’s down the street. We go there on Fridays usually. On Saturdays there are parties on campus, but they are not like a big state school. Some of them are great and some of them are not so great, but you find a way to be comfortable with it.
Can you describe how your nightlife was different before you joined the fraternity?
Beforehand I was nervous and so uncomfortable. I was a freshman and I went to parties and didn’t know anybody, and it felt weird. After I joined the fraternity it because much easier. I had a group of guys always with me who I went to parties with. Outside of that, if we threw a party it felt like it was my party. It gave me lots of confidence and comfort.
What is the impact of Greek life on nightlife?
It is the impact. If there was no Greek life on this campus, I do not think there would be a nightlife. I say that because whenever I do hear there’s a party outside of a party that my fraternity is hosted by another fraternity or sorority.
How has being a person who identifies as LGBT influenced your nightlife experience?
It has not at all. That is partially because I’m not the kind of person who goes to parties and tries to hook up with people. I’ve always been a laid-back guy, so at least for me, I’ll go to a party and talk to whoever.
How happy are you with the nightlife at Wooster? Is there anything you would change if you could?
If I could change anything it would be the variety. Every weekend it gets monotonous because the same people throw parties. There is nothing fresh, it’s always the same thing. I also wish there were bars and a more of a college feel to the bars.
How did you meet your closest friends?
Through my major and my fraternity.
How would you describe the social scene?
It needs improvement in that outside of Greek life if there is a group that you are not part of, the likelihood of you knowing somebody in that group or even where they hang out is pretty unlikely. My friends and I talked about this, and it’s like you’re either in a fraternity, you play a varsity sport or intramural sports, and if not you’re in some club. Every student is in one of those four things and their friends are in one of those four things with them.
To what extent do you feel people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
Not very well. In the Black community, those who are gay are not represented that well. I feel like there’s a divide in that you choose to be part of the LGBTQ community or you are part of the Black Student Association. There isn’t a lot of blending.
Do you think people are happy with their choice of Wooster by senior year?
No, I’m sorry, but they don’t. I can tell you by senior year there are so many seniors, including myself, who are like, “Wooster, it’s been great, but I need to leave.” I talk to a lot of people on campus because I am in student government, and there is a growing sense that the administration doesn’t care about the students very much and run the school more so like a business. It sometimes feels that your education is secondary to the college.
Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
Not yet. Some alumni have started reaching out to me.
Have you used the career office at all? If so, how helpful have they been?
They are incredibly helpful. I’ve been working with them this entire semester. I meet with them on a weekly basis. We have revised my resume and cover letter so that I have multiple resumes and cover letters that I have tailored for the different jobs I’m applying to.
Have you learned any computer programs that will be helpful to you professionally?
In Research Methods 1 we learned SPSS, and now in 2 we’re learning R Studio. Those are for psychology research and will help me in grad school for sure.
Have you used financial aid? If so, how accommodating are they to your needs?
For me, very accommodating. They are always in communication with my parents, and they have been able to break things down for my parents where they’re paying at a comfortable rate for themselves. When they do have communication errors, which they have a couple of times, they take ownership of that and they accommodate us accordingly, which I really appreciate.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
Something you wish you knew about Wooster before entering as a freshman?
I wish I knew that I would not have to try so hard to be known and recognized. I wish I knew that if I had been myself from day one, it would have been a much more relaxed transition to college.
What is something that a prospective Black, First-Gen, or LGBT student may want to know that we haven’t touched on?
Your communities are small if you’re a Black student or a first-generation student. Even though they’re small, find solace in those who also have the same experiences as you. I have found that those who have been able to empathize with me have been able to help me grow and allow me to know that you’re not alone. Sometimes being on this campus can feel kind of suffocating with all the work they give you, so being able to find other people like you who are also going through the same stuff as you and have gotten out of the fire will give you extra motivation.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
Uptown and downtown Wooster so you can see some of the restaurants and amenities off-campus. I would also say that one thing freshmen always tell me they wished they knew was how the scheduling system works. When you go through your sessions, you need to be specific about your questions about classes and if they can’t help you ask for somebody who can answer that question, because if you don’t the first semester will be more chaotic and frustrating.
Reasons to attend Wooster:
1) If you are somebody who likes to be pushed, definitely look at Wooster.
2) Our study abroad program is pretty accommodating.
3) If you are someone who is thinking about getting your Ph.D. or going those extra educational steps outside of undergrad, Wooster is excellent because the Independent Study is a high-level dissertation.
Reasons to not attend Wooster:
1) If you are a student of color, coming here means that you are going to face certain problems that other students
2) You’re not going to have crazy wild parties every night.
3) If you’re not ready to be pushed academically and work really hard, maybe reconsider coming here because it is academically intensive. [Princeton Review ranks College of Wooster #8 of schools where students study the most.]