An Interview On
Grinnell College

Background

Interview Date:April 2019

Gender Identity: Female
Race/Ethnicity: Caucasian
Sexual Orientation: Bisexual
Graduation Year: 2019
High School Experience: Private all-girls school in the Bay Area, CA with a graduating class of about 200 students. There was a culture of going to college.
First-Generation College Student: No
Major: English
Concentration: Neuroscience
Extracurricular Activities: I played Ultimate Frisbee for most of my college career. I [have a leadership position] in National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) because I care about my mental health and other people’s mental health and we don’t have many resources for that being in the middle of Iowa.

Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience?
NAMI brought me into contact with a lot of administrators and professors that I may not have interacted with. That’s been interesting in terms of getting leadership experience and social networking experience.

Academic Experience

Can you describe the weekly coursework for your major?
English has a lot of reading, about 90-pages per night per class depending on the class. There will be a couple of papers throughout the semester as well as two longer midterm and final papers. We have pretty small class sizes so you’re going to know the professor pretty well and sometimes on a personal level. There also might be group work. There are also creative writing courses which are different. For those, there is very light reading and you’ll have to turn in a portfolio for your final assessment.

Is there anything you feel your major’s department does especially well or poorly?
I’m very impressed by all of the professors. They’re really passionate and also friendly and personable. They want you to succeed. They don’t choose favorites either and seem to be impressed with everyone’s skills. But, that may be because recently I’ve been in the higher-level classes, so I’m with students who take the work really seriously.

How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
It’s collaborative. With English, the only thing that gets competitive is you may have a professor who challenges you to really turn around your paper from the rough draft to final draft and maybe you’ll get a lower grade on the rough draft because of that. But, that’s more so being competitive with yourself. A lot of the classes are discussion-based and you’ll talk about the different nuances of the readings or impacts in different disciplines, so what that reading would have to do with the history of the time or social policy and all sorts of things.

How accessible are your professors?
Very accessible. Every professor has office hours on the syllabus, but they’re also really flexible with setting up a meeting. For the most part, you’ll be able to meet with a professor if you need to within that week. That goes for all departments.

Why did you choose your major? Are you happy with your choice?
I’ve always wanted to major in English. I sat in on a class before I was admitted and that confirmed that I would be coming to Grinnell. That was always my intention and I haven’t questioned that decision.

On and Around Campus

Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Younker Hall with one roommate

Sophomore: Gates Hall with one roommate

Junior: Clark Hall in a single

Senior: I live in an off-campus house.

I have a pretty typical trajectory to what a lot of people have here where I lived with one roommate freshman and sophomore year and had a single junior year.

How was transitioning from your hometown in the Bay Area, CA to Grinnell, IA?
It’s very different in many ways. One of the hard parts is during the bitter parts of winter and I’ll see my friends walking around in flip flops on social media. It’s also very different in that I’m kind of isolated to campus. I don’t have a car, and even if I did have a car I’d have to drive an hour to be in a city or twenty to forty minutes to go to something that I was excited to go to. I have an appreciation for learning about small town life and what that entails and how it’s different. It’s a valuable experience to have even though it’s different, but it was for sure a transition.

Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
I feel very safe. It’s a very safe town. We have campus security that goes around in their cars or golf carts pretty often. It’s a small campus and we have lights around campus. That’s definitely something that the administration does well is making sure the students are safe.

Pros and cons of being in Grinnell, IA?
Pros:
(1) It’s been fun to explore the Midwest and have access to many states. I’ve been able to see so many different places. Like, for spring break I went to a bunch of different national parks and it was super easy to drive.
(2) All the major presidential candidates come to Iowa. It’s very easy to go listen to them speak. I think it’s pretty cool that it’s so convenient.

Cons:
(1) The weather. Especially with how long the winter lasted in the spring semester this year. I get seasonal affective disorder, so the difference is like night and day with the weather.
(2) How far it is from my friends back home.

Social Opportunities

What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you participate in at Grinnell?
The school has a building called the Harris Center and the dances that happen there are called “Harrises.” There are dances throughout the year. We just had “Disco Harris” and there will be other themes for the dances. There’s also another building called Gardner Lounge and there will be concerts there with local artists and student artists. Otherwise, there are off-campus parties. Those are nice, but if you’ve been to one you’ve been to them all. We have one street of off-campus houses, so it’s nice, but it’s always the same thing. The best part of nightlife is whatever you do with your small group of friends before going out.

What nights of the week do you regularly go out?
Friday or Saturday. If I go out both nights, I won’t stay out too late. If I go out one of the two nights, I’ll stay out late and then have a chill night in the next night. A lot of people go to Wednesday night parties off-campus, but I don’t really like those. They’re just smaller.

How happy are you with the weekend options at Grinnell? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I’m happy with them now. When I was a first-year I wanted more, but I was really fine. I was still having a lot of fun. I also think that’s partially that the college you see in the media isn’t the real college life experience. Now I’m more of a person who likes to stay in and I’m completely fine with the level of partying or non-partying that they have here.

If at all, how has being LGBT influenced your nightlife experience? Is there much of an LGBT nightlife scene on campus?
It’s really not influenced my nightlife here at all. There are a lot of LGBT inspired and hosted parties that are actually the most fun parties we have here. Everyone participates in those, not just the LGBT community. One of my friends said, “This school is like heaven for gay people,” because it’s its own little bubble away from the rest of the world and there are so many people who are gay. So, there are nightlife options but they aren’t that different than the heterosexual options.

Campus Culture

How did you meet your closest friends?
In the dining hall. The dining hall is a really social spot. My first couple of years I was so busy that I would be doing work and my break would be to go in and have a meal. It’s fun to go and sit with your group of friends at every meal. We only have one dining hall on campus so if you start going at a certain time you’re going to be eating with the same people every day unless you want to switch it up and go sit at another table, which is good too. Given the size of the school, you’re going to know everyone at the dining hall.

How would you describe the overall social scene?
Definitely liberal arts. There are different groups and it depends on what you’re involved in. The Grinnell “vibe” is standing out and dressing different. It’s popular to get clothes from thrift stores and design your style as you go through college. You’ll see people cut their hair and dye their hair. People are down to earth, funny, and really smart. You’ll have educated conversations with your friends.

To what extent do you feel people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
They do and they don’t. I don’t think of it as being a problem, there’s no segregation. People are friends with everyone no matter what their race or sexuality is. That being said, people do tend to hang out with people who resemble themselves because they’re more comfortable in those groups, but people also have friends who don’t resemble themselves also.

How would you describe the LGBTQ community? How strong is it?
It’s big and close-knit. There are a lot of people who have close friends who identify as Queer, so it’s very accepting and friendly. People are very open with their identities and it’s a good place to go if you’re gay.

How do you like the size of Grinnell in terms of undergraduate enrollment? How has that impacted your experience?
I chose this school because I wanted a small liberal arts school, so it’s just about right for me. You’re not walking through a sea of people, but you’re not going to see the same people all the time.

Careers

Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
No, it hasn’t. I know that they’ve helped other people and I also know that if you make a connection with an alum it can be super helpful. Grinnell is the kind of place where after you graduate from there you feel loyal to the school and the current students. Every alum I’ve talked to is very friendly, helpful, and engaging, I just personally have not had much success finding connections about internships.

What have you used the career office for? How helpful have they been?
I don’t find them very helpful. The advice I get in person is nothing revolutionary. You can make appointments with them and they’re accessible, I just choose not to.

Have you learned any computer programs that will be helpful professionally?
I’ve gotten better at Excel. SPSS is my preferred statistics software but I’ve also learned Minitab. I’m pretty well versed in the Adobe Suite now and that’s through my on-campus job which is completely unrelated to anything else that I do.

Financial Aid

Have you used financial aid? If so, accommodating was the office to your needs?
I would say they’re easy to work with. I used to push all that stuff to my Mom to deal with, but I’ve taken more of my financial situation on myself now that I’m getting ready to graduate and I find that it’s straightforward enough. When it’s not straightforward, you can just walk in and get your question answered by the people at the front desk.

Advice for Prospective Freshmen

What is something you wish you knew about Grinnell before entering as a freshman?
I would have liked to know more about all the changes that were going to happen. For example, the changes to the alcohol policy. There have been a lot of issues with the administration communicating the changes with the student body. They’ve been trying to make changes in mental health services and are not making much progress. Also, there has been construction going on on campus since my second year, so it feels like I haven’t had a full campus for three of the years here. [See The Scarlet & Black article, “College Faces Ongoing Health Services Challenges.”]

What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
I personally really like Pub Quiz, which is on Wednesday nights at 9:00 PM at Lyle’s Pub. I find that to be a really fun time and that the people who host it are really funny. It’s the kind of thing where it’s a no pressure trivia game where you can be intellectually challenged.

Reasons to attend Grinnell:
1) The biggest reason to attend Grinnell is the people that you meet. There is a really diverse set of interests and passions and everyone seems to have something they’re interested in that you can talk to them about and find out about if you ask the right questions.
2) I’ve really liked the professors here and the fact that at this age you can become somewhat friends with them. You can talk to them about the things that they specialize in and that you’re interested in with them.
3) With the open curriculum, my schedule has been set up the way I wanted to design it. As long as you fulfill your major requirements, you can do whatever you want with your courses.
4) There is a pretty strong international population here. I’ve been able to meet and become friends with people from India, China, Jamaica, Vietnam, and Japan. It has been really nice to get a lot of different cultural experiences. [About 18% of students identify as international.]

Reasons to not attend Grinnell:
1) It is a bit out of the way to get here.
2) I get the feeling that we’re somewhat unheard by the administration.

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