University of Florida
BackgroundInterview Date:February 2019
Gender Identity: Male
Sexual Orientation: Straight
Graduation Year: 2019
High School Experience: A public school in Jacksonville, FL with a graduating class of about 330 students. There was a culture of going to college.
First Generation College Student: Yes
Major: Public Health
Minor: Health Disparities
Extracurricular Activities: I’m in the Black Student Union, I work for GatorWell Health Promotion Services, and I intern at the Florida Alachua Health Department.
Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience? In what ways?
My involvement with the Multicultural and Diversity Affairs has had the biggest impact on me. Going to the leadership program helped me understand the world, my identity, and how these interact with each other. The Black Student Union taught me leadership qualities and showed me the complications of how a social justice organization tries to exist in a very institutionalized system at the University of Florida. This makes things a lot harder, and [determines] what the BSU should or could be doing for Black students.
Did you conduct undergraduate research, and how easy was it to get involved with it?
I did during my sophomore year for one semester. It was one of the research opportunities I was most interested in, but I ended up not really liking it. There was an application process, and you go through training before becoming a full-fledged research assistant. I finished the training and was asked to return, but I wasn’t interested in doing so.
Can you describe the weekly coursework for Public Health?
It’s a lot of writing and essays. I’ve had exams, and for my learning practicum I had to do a journal every week. One of my favorite things about the program is the service practicum I have to do. It consists of 7 hours per week in the Health Department, and then during my junior spring, I did another optional practicum where I interned at the Veterans Affairs. I enjoyed the hands-on, tactical experience. I would say for courses it’s been up and down for me. My epidemiology class was my favorite, but that was more so because of how enthusiastic and invested the instructor was in making the environment conducive to the learning of everyone there. The larger issue we see in universities are instructors who are knowledgeable, but you just know teaching is not why they are there.
How would you describe the learning environment? Is it particularly competitive or collaborative?
I would say collaborative. In just about every Public Health class I’ve had a group project. Public Health is in a limited access program, so you are only in the college taking college classes your junior and senior year. I personally haven’t built relationships with anyone in my classes.
How was transitioning academically as a first-generation college student? Were there any resources that helped you adapt?
I’m not under the first-generation student scholarship, and I’m not involved in the first-generation services. Although I’m a first-generation student, my mother got her bachelor’s degree when I was in high school while she was also working. I definitely did feel a lot of the confusion of how college works.
Why did you pick Public Health? Are you happy with your choice?
I think of Public Health as a very social justice type of study. It looks at certain populations that have disparities and gaps in health outcomes, and what can be done to improve them. I really like the idea of how can we continue to improve health for all by improving the access to health and understanding that health is a right for everyone. it’s a matter of how can we train people to work within the system, or in different institutions to make sure that people do have access to health care.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived during college?
Freshman: Infinity Hall with one roommate and two suitemates
Sophomore: RA in Hume Hall with no roommates
Junior: RA in Hume Hall with no roommates
Senior: Off-campus with one roommate
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
I feel pretty safe. I used to get worried when they would send out alerts, but not so much anymore.
What are the pros and cons of being located in Gainesville, FL?
1) I think it’s a lot busier than where I come from. But, I have friends from Miami that would say the complete opposite.
2) There are a lot of educated people in one area, who are committed to academia.
3) I think there are very active community activist organizations. They do grassroots organizations and community change stuff. I think Gainesville has a good presence for this.
1) The disparities are very present. Working at the health department and driving to the East side of Gainesville is a very different environment than where UF is. There doesn’t seem to be much effort to expand accessibility for the people in this community. [The poverty rate in Gainesville is about 35%.]
2) Transportation is centered on the accessibility of UF students, but not as accessible for people around the Gainesville area.
What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you participate in at Florida?
It depends what I’m looking for. If I want to go to the club, it’s very segregated. Downtown is where Black cultural celebrations happen. The type of music they play and the organizations that reach out in the downtown areas are majority White, except for the places we go to.
A lot of the Black organizations host cultural celebrations. Especially during Black History Month, the Black Student Union is doing an event every day. There isn’t a culture of going out all the time because since the community is small, so many people have responsibilities to their organizations. I can’t speak for everyone, and I think my circle is mostly made of other student organizational leaders, but a lot of us are focused on how we can uphold the health and sustainability of the organizations. A house party happens once in a while, but it’s not a big thing. People don’t even go to the clubs that much, it’s mostly kickbacks and just hanging out at someone’s apartment.
How happy are you with the weekend options at Florida? Is there anything you would change?
A lot of my weekends at UF are committed to other things, or I’m just tired. I’m not too worried all the time about what is happening on the weekends because I’m just tired. I’ll sleep in, but there are things to do. You can go hiking, go to Lake Wauburg, Paynes Prairie, or go to Disney and Universal.
How did you meet your closest friends?
Through organizations and my involvement. I don’t think I’ve met a friend through class.
How would you describe the overall social scene at Florida?
It’s a social place. I think people get comfortable in their groups and there isn’t too much mixing and mingling. People are driven in their academics and involvement. It’s a high achieving place.
To what extent do people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
I think it happens but is not a normalized thing. There are some places where it happens and is understood, but it’s very homogenous in a lot of spaces. [The undergraduate population at UF is about 57% White, 15% Hispanic, 7% Black, and 7% Asian.]
How would you describe the Black community on campus?
I think it’s a strong community. It’s a family and I say it’s hard but I’m biased because of the role I play in the community. A lot of the time my focus is on community building, and how to build that feeling. Some people may feel it’s not a welcoming community based on the identities they have. It depends on the person and what they’re looking for. For me personally, I do think it’s a good community. There are very driven people opening to learning, who have open hearts.
Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
No, not at all. I haven’t reached out to alumni. Things that have happened to me occurred more naturally.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about Florida before you entered as a freshman?
It’s very political in the sense of involvement. A lot is based on whose agenda is being pushed, and what role the administration is playing in it. It’s image based, and when you take this into account more, the experiences of marginalized students aren’t taken into consideration as much. It’s taught me a lot and I’ve learned how to navigate different environments, and how to work with very different people. Accessing resources is really great here, and UF has lots of educated and passionate people.
What is something somebody a prospective Black student should know that we haven’t touched on?
Know that if you want to develop more in your identity as a Black person, that’s something you are going to have to actively seek out. I don’t think there are systems in place that provide positive growing opportunities for an individual. You have to have tough skin. Sometimes it kind of feels like it’s every person for themselves.
Reasons to attend Florida:
1) Access to resources. The school has a lot of money, and if you’re interested in research you can get great funding.
2) If you like sports, they are great.
3) The student body is diverse. Although there definitely are the dominant groups, you can find people from a lot of different places. [The undergraduate population at UF is about 7% Black, 15% Hispanic, 57% White, and 7% Asian. About 35% of the Class of 2022 are from out of state.]
Reasons to not attend Florida:
1) Even in academics and culture, a lot of it is washed in privilege.
2) There are no classes or representation talking about how we can fix this major health disparity.