BackgroundInterview Date:May 2019
Gender Identity: Female
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
Graduation Year: 2020
High School Experience: Public high school in Coatesville, Pennsylvania with about 600 people in my graduating class. There was a culture of going to college.
First Generation College Student: Yes
Major: Design & Merchandising with a focus in Public Relations
Extracurricular Activities: I’m in the Retail and Design Club, but I’m so busy there isn’t much time to do a lot with it.
Did the Retail and Design Club have a big impact on your experience? In what ways?
Yeah, it provides us with different opportunities to do things in the fashion industry, such as providing us tickets to certain events.
Can you describe your weekly coursework for your major?
Our major courses are all design based, and with that comes critiques. Other coursework includes lots of hands-on window displays. Right now, I’m running a store for the major’s shop. We have to do Design 1-3, which includes different techniques with color, Black and White, and 3D design.
Is there anything you feel your major’s department does especially well or especially poorly?
Especially well is giving us actual work experience with the co-op internships. I just got back from a 6-month internship in New York, and that really got me ready for what my real career will be like. Even now, the coursework that I’m doing is creating actual business plans for different companies and actually designing store windows for a real store.
Can you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s competitive or collaborative?
Most of our classes are collaborative, and there’s lots of group work. I will say the competitiveness is always there because our major is so small and we’re all reaching for the same type of goals.
What has been your favorite class in your major?
A logo design class where we designed a logo for a local non-profit organization.
How accessible have the professors in your department been?
It depends because a lot of our professors are still in the industry. They are good about having office hours, but a lot of them are more accessible by email.
Why did you choose your major? Are you happy with your choice?
I chose Design & Merchandising because I like fashion and business, but I didn’t want to be a fashion designer and I don’t want to have my own collection. I want to run my own business and focus on branding.
How was transitioning academically as a first-generation college student? Are there systems in place that help you transition?
There’s a lack of that. I transferred into Drexel from a community college [my sophomore year], and there’s a huge lack of help and explanation, especially when it comes to financial aid and how classes are going to transfer over for me. For the incoming freshman class, they do a good job of getting them to meet and network with one another.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Sophomore: Off-campus with one roommate.
Junior: I lived in New York for six months, then when I came back I lived in an off-campus apartment with three roommates.
How was transitioning from living in the suburbs of Philadelphia to the city?
It wasn’t that bad. If you live in the suburbs of Philadelphia you’ve definitely been to the city before. Drexel’s campus is super close to everything, so I’m not traveling far to get to my classes. Everything is a walk is you live around campus.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
It’s one of the safest universities in Philadelphia. We’re right next to UPenn, and the campuses focus a lot on safety. We have our own police station on campus, and there are public safety people that will walk you home anytime at night.
Pros and Cons of being in the University City neighborhood of Philadelphia?
1) We’re in the middle of everything and it’s close to downtown. Travel wise it’s good, because 30th Street Station is close, and from there you can get everywhere else.
1) A lot of small petty theft crimes happen around us, and we’re constantly getting alerts for that.
What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you like to participate in?
I don’t participate in a lot of nightlife or weekend activities. Drexel’s not a party school because of how much work we have, and parties get shut down so easy. People go to Penn’s fraternity or sorority parties, and downtown Philly for clubs when you’re over 21. I’ll go for drinks after class every once in a while, but during the week we’re working a lot. The workload is crazy. [About 1,700 undergraduate students (11%), make up the Greek life scene.]
What are your favorite events or activities on campus?
We like to go to basketball games, and sometimes they have concerts during the spring.
How happy are you with the weekend activities or nightlife at your school? Is there anything you would change if you could?
My major requires a lot of work on the weekends too. We’ll do a lot of work involving the store or visual merchandising. You can always find something to do.
How did you meet your closest friends?
The [Westphal College of Media Arts & Design] had a mixer, and I met a girl who introduced me to twenty more.
How did being a first-generation student impact your social transition, if at all?
It made me realize the difference between me and a lot of the other students going here. We weren’t focused on the same things when we go here. A lot of people wanted that party life and didn’t have to worry about their financials, or how to figure stuff out. Meanwhile, I was stressed about figuring out if I was going to be able to afford to come back the next semester.
How would you describe the overall social scene?
Very individualized and you’re focused on what you’re doing. It’s hard to maintain a group of friends because six months out of the year half of us aren’t here, we’re doing internships somewhere else.
To what extent do you think people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
I think they mix a lot. I’ve been to one or two parties on campus, and I’d say everyone is very accepting of each other. There are a bunch of organizations on campus where these groups mix. There are BSU and LGBTQ organizations on campus. There’s a lot of different types of people at Drexel. What we have in common is that we’re all career driven and we’re here to make the most out of our college experience. [In the Class of 2022, about 50% of students are White, 22% are Asian, 10% are international students, and 6% are Hispanic.]
How would you describe the Black community on campus, and how strong is it?
I would say that there aren’t that many Black people on campus. Last year Drexel let in the biggest African-American class that they ever have. They have a BSU, but I will say the Black community isn’t largely connected. The groups are full of separate groups of friends and is not focused on getting all the Black students on campus together. A lot of us are so focused on our own thing we don’t really have time to join a whole organization.
Do you feel more so like you’re a resident of Philadelphia than a student at your school?
I think I’m a resident of Philadelphia because I was raised outside of Philly, and I was never living in the dorms. I’ve always lived off campus, so I think that had a big part.
How has the size of your school influenced your social experience?
I think it’s perfect. It’s not super huge where you’re getting lost or can’t get help if you need it. The class size, especially in my major is usually twenty. You can get hands-on, one-on-one help with the teacher. Our campus is small enough that you know where everything is but big enough that you’re not crowding over anyone. [Drexel has an undergraduate population of about 15,500.]
Do you think people are happy with their choice of Drexel by the time they graduate?
I think so. Many people leave with job opportunities or connections in the field that they want to work in because of our co-op program.
What have you used the career office for? How helpful have they been?
There are mandatory meetings you have to go to with the co-op office because they are your liaison between the school and the job you’re applying to. They help navigate exactly how to talk to a professional in the real world because that can be a little intimidating. They also do regular check-ins during our co-op to make sure everything is going smoothly.
Have you learned any computer programs or computer languages that have been or will be especially helpful professionally?
We have to know Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign for my major. Another thing they introduced us to is SketchUp through Google. It’s mainly knowing your way around Adobe Suite, along with knowing 3D rendering programs.
Have you used financial aid? If so, accommodating was the office to your needs? Were they responsive to your questions?
I’ve used financial aid, and I’m here mostly on scholarship. Everything else I work and pay for out of pocket. I’d say it’s confusing because I’m a second generation, so no one explained to me how it works at all. I’ve received the help that broke down my financial stuff for me, but I’ve also gotten brushed along and told this is just what I’m going to have to pay, so it’s 50/50.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about Drexel before entering as a freshman?
I wish I knew how much extra money I had to put in for supplies. In my major, you’re not buying textbooks, but you’re buying computer programs, paint, and all these art supplies. After a while, they rack up and become extremely expensive.
What is something a prospective student may have missed on a visit that is worth checking out?
Push to sit in on one of the design classes and see how they actually are. When I visited, I was shown the pretty lab room and the rooms with mannequins, and I think my idea of what I was getting into was incorrect until I started.
What is something a prospective African-American student may want to know that we haven’t touched on?
In terms of being African-American, don’t come here expecting it to be an HBC, it’s a PWI. From any students’ perspective, don’t expect to come here looking for a great social experience. You’re going to really want to focus on what you want to do, and you have to be driven.
Reasons to attend Drexel:
1) The co-ops.
2) If you’re determined, you should attend it for the program you’re enrolling in. I think it’s important to know what your program entails, so you don’t waste money.
3) The faculty are still working in the industry.
Reasons to not attend Drexel:
1) It’s super expensive and may not be worth it going into the major you’re planning to. [First-year total cost is around $67,000.]
2) It’s a mostly engineering and research dominated school.
3) If you don’t work well at a fast pace.