BackgroundInterview Date:April 2019
Gender Identity: Female
Graduation Year: 2019
Sexual Orientation: Bisexual
High School Experience: Public school in the suburbs of Illinois with a graduating class of about 550 students. There was a culture of going to college, but it was mostly going to local universities or the military.
First Generation College Student: No
Majors: Double major in Classics and Art History
Extracurricular Activities: I work for Art Club where I go to the local Grinnell middle school and I teach kids about art and art education.
Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience?
I knew I wanted to work in museums, but I didn’t know how. My first thought was to work in education with kids and then was told I should work in Art Club because that will help you learn if you want to work with kids. I realized, that as much as I enjoyed being with the kids and teaching them art, it wasn’t for me. I realized I couldn’t’ do more than an hour or two of that sort of programming, so that pushed me to find other ways to work in a museum environment.
Can you describe the weekly coursework for your majors?
I have a lot of reading. I do about four hours of reading per day, but I’m also sometimes a slow reader. It’s a lot of paper writing, which I personally enjoy, so it works for me.
Is there anything you feel your majors’ departments do especially well or poorly?
They’re so supportive of their students and they’re really trying to make sure that they give you the best quality education and education while also sort of pushing you and making you look towards the future. I felt I really got everything I wanted out of the two departments I majored in.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
Once you find the right people, it can be collaborative. There is a bit of a culture at Grinnell that leans towards competitive learning. People are like, “You spent four hours reading? I spent five.” That can be prevalent. Once I found the people I really enjoyed hanging out with, it became more collaborative. When you come to Grinnell you have to be aware of your limits and not playing that competitive game because that can lead to a stress culture and not taking care of yourself. But, I also think people enjoy that culture because it pushes them further, I’m just personally not one of them.
How accessible are your professors?
Incredibly accessible. They very much outline their times that they’re available. I’ve had professors keep office hours open until 7 at night because they want to be able to cover every topic you want to discuss with them in-depth. Sometimes this can create a backlog of students, so maybe your appointment was at 4 but now it’s at 4:30, but I think it’s always worth it in the end.
Do you feel people are open to multiple schools of thought in the classroom?
I think it depends on the person you were when you came to Grinnell. I’ve noticed that people who were already very open to other schools of thought coming into Grinnell, you become more open. For others, it’s more of a process of opening up. For me, a lot of my classes were filled with people who already had open minds, but that was also them bringing in their previous experiences.
What has been your favorite class you’ve taken for your majors?
Greek Art and Archaeology. It was my first Art History course after the intro course and it was also my first course in the Classics department. It inspired me and made me fall in love with antiquities and classics.
Why did you choose your combination of majors? Are you happy with your choice so far?
I chose my combination of majors out of love, not strategy. That was a little bit daunting because I did have a few conversations with people who basically said, “What are you going to do with that?” But, the great thing about Grinnell is that the professors are always looking towards the future and I always knew what options were available to me. Where I could have majored in Anthropology to work in museums, I realized I really wanted to work with art, and I have the major combination to do that.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Smith Hall with one roommate.
Sophomore: Yonker Hall with one roommate.
Junior: Haines Hall with two other roommates.
Senior: I lived off-campus and then moved back on campus to live in a single in Langan Hall.
What was your favorite living situation?
It’s a tie between the single I have now and the triple last year. The triple gave me a single bedroom but also gave me a common space where we could hang out and talk and decompress after a day.
How was transitioning from living in Illinois to Grinnell, IA?
Grinnell is a lot smaller than my hometown and my high school was bigger than Grinnell College. I felt like I was a small fish who had moved from a big pond to be a big fish in a small pond. It was an interesting experience because everybody knows each other and was a little weird at first, but you grow used to it. [The population of Grinnell, IA is about 9,000.]
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
I’m unique in that I had to talk with Title IX because somebody tried to break into the bathroom while I was showering which was really scary. Title IX handled it brilliantly. I know that some people would describe their Title IX experiences as being less than ideal, but they handled my experience very well and ultimately the case was solved. I’ve always felt very safe on campus, but there have been moments where I’ll have somebody walk me somewhere because I’m a little worried.
Pros and cons of being in Grinnell, IA?
Pros: It’s small, so you get connected easily with the people on campus very easily. You make lifelong friends and will bring new and fresh perspectives into your life. It also forces that international community to branch out, forces the American students to branch out, and it also forces you to branch out into the local community. You just form these amazing friendships and makes you a more open person. Like, I know people who know their local barista. It can be a very welcoming environment if you choose to integrate yourself with it.
Cons: It’s a small town, it’s a small college, and sometimes those experiences aren’t going to be positive. As a bisexual woman, I’ve had moments where people [have made rude comments]. Because you’re in such close quarters with people, you learn everybody’s dirty laundry.
What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you participate in at Grinnell?
I’ve always participated and helped put on the Drag Show that goes on here. But mostly, I am the type who hangs out with a few close friends watching a movie, drinking a little bit, and then heading out to whatever party is on campus. Usually, parties are in an off-campus house where we have a close friend living there so we usually know the group that’s going to be there. Friday and Saturday are the biggest nights. [Students who are 21+ are allowed to consume alcohol in their on-campus residence hall rooms.]
What’s an alternative to going to a party or a bar that you like for a night out?
Usually, it’s just dinner and a movie. You can get really cheap tickets at the local movie theater because you’re a student. Also, buying a meal off campus is always a good break from the cafeteria menu.
If at all, how has identifying as LGBT+ influenced your nightlife experience?
It has definitely affected the friendships I’ve formed. I’ve gotten amazingly deep friendships out of it. My other bisexual and lesbian friends are who I hang out with on my Friday nights. I wouldn’t say that there is a big party culture for the LGBTQ community because the Stonewall Resource Center often holds big events. The events are really fun. So, it’s more looking forward to those events than individuals hosting events themselves.
How happy are you with the weekend options at Grinnell? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I’m pretty happy with the weekend options. But, I know my friends who are substance-free can feel not great about them because the events can feel pretty juvenile because they are board game nights and stuff like that. They usually aren’t very creative or exciting, so it sometimes feels like you don’t have a choice but to participate in the substance culture.
How did you meet your closest friends?
My first year was the classic story of meeting a group of friends and we all became friends. I ended up having a falling out with one of them and was telling somebody about it and they said, “Well just come hang out with us,” so that’s how I found my current friend group. Just through branching out away from that original group to meet people who were more like-minded than that original group of convenience.
How would you describe the overall social scene?
It’s a good mix of cliquey and not cliquey at all. I’d call myself somebody who jumps around from friend group to friend group and I’ve had no negative consequences. I just made friends everywhere and anywhere, and there are a lot of people like me. The other half of campus are the type who are in the groups of sports teams hanging out with sports teams and art kids hanging out with art kids. But, if you don’t want to participate in that, you don’t have to.
To what extent do you feel people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
They mix a lot. One thing about Grinnell is, because I’m a White woman I’ve never had these experiences, but I have heard that students of color have had incredibly negative experiences off campus being called racial slurs from cars or being followed in the supermarket because somebody thought they might be stealing. But, that’s more of a town issue. At the college, it’s more mixed and there’s more socializing on the college campus.
How would you describe the LGBTQ community on campus? How strong is it?
There’s a very strong core group of people, and then you have people on the fringes who aren’t quite sure they want to jump in yet. It’s a good introductory way to get involved in the larger LGBTQ community later in life. You can be as involved as you want to be.
How would you describe the student body?
People feel like we can make fun of our school but you can’t make fun of our school. We’re very good at being self-critical and trying to make things better, but also making sure that students on campus feel protected and know they have a community.
How do you like the size of Grinnell in terms of undergraduate enrollment? How has that impacted your experience? [There are about 1,600 students.]
I think Grinnell is a little bit small for me personally, but a state school would have been way too big. Everybody knowing everybody can be a little bit much, but I think it was a good choice in the end because I’ve made lifelong friendships.
Do you think people are generally happy with their choice of Grinnell by senior year? Do you think people leave loving Grinnell?
I’m going to leave loving Grinnell, but with other seniors, I think they leave wanting to get out. In a good way, it pushes you to be more passionate about what you’re doing after college. But, I always hear that two or three years down the line you reminisce and love the experience you had.
Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
Not internships or jobs, but the alumni network has helped me consider my future. I’ve talked to a lot of alums about graduate school and moving to new places. I’m from the Midwest but I wanted to move to the West Coast for a long time and they’ve given me advice about where to go.
What have you used the career office for? How helpful have they been?
I used the career office mostly just for talking about jobs, internships, and practice interviews. They were incredibly helpful. You’re able to talk with somebody who knows about your major and what field you want to go in to, so you can get help that is specific to your career choice.
Have you learned any computer programs or languages that will be helpful to you professionally?
I know how to use the entire Microsoft Suite very while. I also took a Computer Science course during my freshman year as a way to try it out, so I gained a little bit of skill there too.
Have you used financial aid? If so, how helpful is the office?
Yes, I’m on financial aid. I find the office really easy to work with, but I’ve only worked with them about two or three times.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about Grinnell before entering as a freshman?
I wish I knew how much language was going to be incorporated into a lot of the majors here. I did not realize that for a lot of majors you have to take at least a year of a language. As somebody who is not very good at languages, I wish someone had told me that before. [The Classics major requires a minimum of one 300-Level course in Greek or Latin.]
What is something a prospective student who identifies as LGBTQ+ may want to know that we haven’t touched on?
Even if you don’t identify with the core group of LGBTQ people here because I know I felt like it was a lot of personality and a little too much for me at the time – I felt like I had thrown myself into the deep end on accident – there are people who are LGBTQ who feel the same way and you will find them. Even if you’re not part of the main group, you’ll find people outside of that and form your own group.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
My tip for prospective students is always to go off the beaten path. Ask a random student if they like Grinnell I think what a lot of people don’t realize is the Grinnell tour is very structured so you don’t get to ask average students about their experience. Everyone at Grinnell is happy to share their experience, so don’t be afraid to ask.
Reasons to attend Grinnell:
1) The professors. They are there to help you and willing to help you. I’ve never met kinder people.
2) The faculty who aren’t necessarily professors are so kind and just want to help you. You also might get a babysitting or dog walking job out of it.
3) The students. Everybody here applied to Grinnell for a reason and everybody’s here for a reason. You won’t find students who work harder or are more passionate about subjects.
Reasons to not attend Grinnell:
1) It’s really small. If you’re a person who likes to meet new people, you’re waiting for every incoming class to meet new personalities.
2) There is a substance culture. Because of the lack of free activities, sometimes people do feel a bit of pressure to participate in it.
3) You get a lot of work. It’s a tough school and you might not have as much time for extracurricular activities as you want.