An Interview On
Hobart and William Smith Colleges

Background

Interview Date:April 2019

Gender Identity: Male
Race/Ethnicity: White
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
Graduation Year: 2020
High School Experience: Public school in Woodbridge, CT with a graduating class of about 400 students. There was a culture of going to college
First Generation College Student: No
Major: Economics
Minors: Sociology and Entrepreneurship double minor
Extracurricular Activities: I’m in a fraternity, I’m a member of the Entrepreneurship Club and the Investment Club, and I take part in HWS Days of Service, which is a community service organization.

Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience? In what ways?
The Entrepreneurship Club has because it’s helped foster new ideas for potential business ideas that we might want to create in the future. Then Days of Service is important just because it gets us out in the community and makes us as students understand that it’s not just a school in a random town and that there are other people that live in the town too.

Academic Experience

Can you describe the weekly coursework for your major?
It’s mostly essays because a lot of the classes I’m in now are essay-based as opposed to exams. It’s usually a lot of readings, anywhere from 30 to 300 pages, on a week-to-week basis, and then we have three essays a semester on the readings we previously had.

Is there anything you feel the Economics department does especially well or poorly?
At Hobart, the Economics major is the most popular major, so there are a ton of students. I think the department does a good job of not glazing over any of the students. At least my advisor is always available for me whenever I want to drop in. It’s also easy to get into office hours with the professors. [About 13% of students are Economics majors.]

How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
I’d say it’s pretty collaborative, especially in the upper-level classes where people tend to work together more. For example, last semester whenever I had an exam in one of my Economics classes there was always a group of people that were willing to work together and study together. It’s definitely collaborative in the sense that everyone’s trying to fulfill the same goal.

How accessible have the professors in your department been?
They’re pretty accessible. Hobart’s in Geneva but some professors live farther away in Syracuse so their office hours are once a week and sometimes you’re not able to go. If you can’t go, they’re always available to meet outside of their office hours, so I’d say they’re pretty accessible. They’re also very accessible via email.

What has been your favorite class you’ve taken for your major?
Political Economy. It talks all about the historical thought of economics through time going from Adam Smith to Marx to Keynes and then to present day and talking about instability in the stock market, which has been really interesting.

Do you feel people are open to multiple schools of thought in the classroom?
I would definitely agree with that. There are a lot of different opinions on various topics and I’ve been in some humanities classes where there were a lot of differing opinions and everyone was open to say what their thought was. I have never seen somebody be criticized for their opinions. I was in a Men’s Studies class, which is pretty topical with the #MeToo movement. A huge topic has been men and their masculinity and they are forced to be strong and stuff like that. In those classes, there are people with lots of different opinions where some will say that masculinity shouldn’t be a scapegoat for their actions and there are people who say otherwise. But, there has never been a heated debate where people [make assumptions about each other]. Both the men and women in the class take it seriously.

Why did you choose your major? Are you happy with your choice?
I’m definitely happy with my choice. Going into freshman year I already thought that I would major in Economics because it’s not really a finance major and is more diverse. There have definitely been some classes that have been tough and didn’t help with my GPA, but it’s definitely a major I would pick again if I had the option to.

On and Around Campus

Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Potter, which is part of the JPR Complex with one roommate.

Sophomore: Fraternity house in a double

Junior: Fraternity house in a single.

What has been your favorite living situation?
Probably my current living situation because the house is nice and we have more amenities than living in a dorm on campus.

How was transitioning from Connecticut to Geneva, NY?
It was definitely tough because I live near the water at home but the only water near here is lakes. It also gets pretty cold up here very early on and there is a lot of snow, which took some getting used to. It’s just starting to get warm now and it’s been cold since September. That’s been the biggest adjustment.

Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
I’ve never really had to deal with any instances where I’ve felt unsafe. There have been some late nights downtown where there were some people from the town of Geneva who had poor interactions with students, like screaming matches, but I’ve never had to deal with that. It usually is a kid from Hobart being a drunk idiot and then the local not taking them as that and viewing them as some kid from Hobart who doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Those are few and far between and I’ve never had to deal with anything like that. On campus I feel really safe.

Pros and cons of being located in Geneva, NY?
Pros:
1) There’s not a lot to do, but the downtown has gotten better.
2) It’s really nice to be on the lake. The lake is probably the best asset that it has. Although it’s not nice all the time, when it is nice people will go and hang out at the Boathouse and have fun on the lake.
3) The food in Geneva is pretty good, which is something I didn’t expect.

Cons:
1) We’re 45 minutes from Syracuse and an hour from Rochester. Other than that, we’re in the middle of nowhere and there’s not much to do other than what’s in Geneva.
2) The people living in Geneva can get kind of crazy at times, which can be hard for Hobart students to deal with, especially going out on the weekends. I’ve had friends who’ve [had incidents] with townspeople.

Social Opportunities

What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you participate in?
It’s a little different this year because right now most of the fraternities are on probation so there haven’t been many fraternity parties. It’s mostly off-campus parties now on Fridays and Saturdays and then also going downtown to bars is pretty popular. Usually, everyone goes downtown to the bars after parties.

What nights of the week would you regularly go out?
Wednesday through Saturday are the big nights to go out. Friday, Saturday, and sometimes Thursday are when there are parties, but usually Wednesdays are when people will start going down to the bars because certain bars have deals.

What is the impact of Greek life on nightlife?
Before all of these sanctions hit, it had a pretty big impact because a lot of the parties were at the fraternity houses instead of the off-campus houses. But since the sanctions, there haven’t been any parties at the Greek life organizations. This has hindered their ability to get students involved in Greek life because incoming freshmen don’t see fraternities having events and then they assume that they don’t really do anything. Now, the only impact is we have parties at off-campus houses, which are now the only real sort of Greek life facilitated parties.

What’s an alternative to going to a party or a bar that you like for a weekend activity?
A big thing in Geneva is the wineries, so going on wine tours is a popular thing to do, especially when the weather’s nice.

How happy are you with the weekend options at HWS? Is there anything you would change if you could?
It’s pretty nice. It would be nice if there were more parties on campus that would take over the role of going downtown because that is pretty much where everyone goes. It’s also tough for people who aren’t 21 because they can’t get into the bars. I’m lucky that I was older when everything transitioned to being downtown.

Campus Culture

How did you meet your closest friends?
Well, actually most of them were in my dorm freshman year. I also met people through classes. Most of my friends ended up being in the same major as me, so we all took the same classes and became friends and that escalated to living together and stuff like that.

How would you describe the overall social scene at Hobart and William Smith Colleges?
It’s pretty good. It’s changed a lot since my freshman year. Freshman year there were a lot more options for social events whereas now there are fewer things you can do on the weekends. The cafeteria is the main place where you see everybody because everybody has to go there to eat. I personally have hung out with people from all walks of life, but there is a separation between different types of people as far as people who are more into partying and those who are less into it.

To what extent do people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
They mix pretty well. Hobart is a predominantly White, upper-middle class school and a lot of people come from boarding schools and prep schools. I’d say there is a pretty good mix as far as people of different races and sexual orientations mixing with each other and there’s no discrimination. [About 73% of the students are White and 6% are Black. Socioeconomically, 12% of students come from the top 1%.]

How do you like the size of Hobart and William Smith? How has it impacted your experience? [The undergraduate enrollment is about 2,200 students.]
I personally haven’t minded it. I like having smaller class sizes. I also like how you mostly know everybody and you can walk by people on your way to class and say hello. It’s small enough where you can know everyone but big enough where you don’t feel like you’ve exhausted your friendships with people.

To what extent do people in Greek life and not in Greek life mix socially?
It’s surprisingly a pretty good mix because a lot of people that aren’t in Greek life still go to Greek parties. It’s not like there’s a huge divide between those who are and those who aren’t. It’s not like you’re only friends with the people that are in your Greek organization. I’m friends with people who are in other fraternities and also people who aren’t in fraternities at all.

Do you think people are generally happy with their choice of HWS by senior year? Do you think people leave loving HWS?
Yeah, I definitely think so. I know we have a pretty high turnover rate freshman year and a couple of my friends transferred out after freshman year. People always say that if you’re here by your sophomore year you’ll probably love the school. I can agree with that because if you’re committed and build foundations with friendships with students and relationships with faculty, you’ll be happy. I can definitely say that when I graduate I’m going to miss it. [86% of the class of 2021 returned the next fall.]

Careers

Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
The career center’s nice because a big part of what they try to do is connect us with alumni. I personally didn’t get my internship due to someone in the alumni network, but I have made some connections that will be hopefully helpful to me in the future.

To what extent have you used the career office? How helpful are they?
They’ve been pretty helpful. The biggest thing they’ve done is working with me on my resume. Another thing they have that I think is really nice is conference rooms that you can rent out for phone or Skype interviews rather than doing them in your room or in the library. It’s a huge plus to be able to do those in a place that’s completely silent and you don’t have any distractions.

Have you learned any computer programs or languages through your coursework that will be helpful to you professionally?
Excel has been one of the bigger ones. I took a class called Quantitative Tools that was basically Excel 101 for statistics and accounting which has been really helpful. As far as statistics software, I have used SAS, which, from what I’ve heard, is something that is used at financial institutions.

Financial Aid

Have you used financial aid? If so, how easy are they to work with?
I have used financial aid and they’ve been pretty helpful. Each year I had to resubmit my application and I’ve gotten either the same or more money. Also, if I’ve ever had an instance where something was going to need some more time they were totally understanding. [92%] of students receive some sort of financial aid, so I think they’re pretty helpful.

Advice for Prospective Freshmen

What is something you wish you knew about HWS before entering as a freshman?
This is kind of a stupid thing, but it’s almost a six-and-a-half-hour drive from my house. I never put that into perspective with having to drive from breaks, which takes forever. The distance is something that I wish I put more thought into, but I don’t think it would have changed my decision. Also, the cold is a huge factor because when it’s cold outside people are just building hopping and the morale of campus is definitely lower.

What is something a prospective student interested in Greek life may want to know that we haven’t touched on?
I would personally recommend it pretty heavily regardless of what organization you join. Greek life isn’t like what you see in the movies where it’s just people partying all the time. So, as an incoming freshman, understand that Greek life in real life is a lot different than what they think it is.

What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
Go to downtown Geneva. It’s completely changed since I’ve been here it’s gotten more lively with more restaurants and mom and pop stores opening. When I was in high school I heard stories about how it was a run-down city with a lot of crime. That still exists, but the downtown area itself has gone through a complete transformation. [The poverty rate in Geneva, NY is about 19%.]

Reasons to attend Hobart and William Smith Colleges:
1) The alumni network. We always have alumni coming to campus to talk and connect with students. Having alumni who are in powerful positions in the world is definitely helpful.
2) The courses here are great. Every class I’ve taken has had a super knowledgeable professor and are really friendly to students.
3) The liberal arts education because it’s nice to be able to take classes in all disciplines. As an Economics major, I’ve had to take an art class and a science class that has opened me up to becoming a better critical thinker.

Reasons to not attend Hobart and William Smith Colleges:
1) It’s always super cold. I never expected it to be as bad as it is because I visited in April. If you’re not a fan of the cold, then it’s definitely hard to get through six months of snow on the ground.
2) Geneva has some places that you shouldn’t go. [There are 60 crimes per square mile in Geneva. The national median is 31.1 crimes per square mile.]

Notice: Hobart and William Smith Colleges is a trademark. Induck uses it for descriptive purposes, not to imply affiliation with, endorsement from, or sponsorship by Hobart and William Smith Colleges.

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