BackgroundInterview Date:April 2019
Gender Identity: Non-Binary
Sexual Orientation: Pansexual
Graduation Year: December 2020
High School Experience: Private school in Buffalo, NY with a graduating class of about 35 students. There was a culture of going to college.
First Generation College Student: No
Major: Computer Science
Extracurricular Activities: I’m part of the Atlanta University Center chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers, I [have a leadership role] in the Atlanta University Center chapter of Aurora Game Development Club, and I’m a member of Afrekete, which is an organization at Spelman that supports and advocates for LGBTQIA+ students on campus. I’m also a part of the Joseph and Evelyn Lowery Institute and I am a change agent so I do a lot of social justice and community service work with them.
Have any of your extracurricular activities had a particularly big impact on your experience?
The Lowery Institute helped me get started with social justice and community service work within my community. My freshman year we did something called the Barbershop Series where we talked about certain issues that affected the Black community with people at the barbershop. This year I worked on Mimi’s Pantry where we give out food to college students who aren’t on a meal plan or a meal plan that doesn’t give them enough food to eat. I also write blogs and articles for them, so that gives me more social justice and community service work.
Afrekete has helped me be more comfortable with myself and giving me an environment where I can be open about my sexuality and gender, whereas some other parts of campus I might get weird looks or not be as welcomed.
The National Society of Black Engineers has been a community of support for me in the technology and sciences area. Through them, I’ve been to conferences where I’ve been able to talk to top companies which helped me get my internship last summer.
Can you describe the weekly coursework for your major?
This semester, my Computer Science courses are comprised of Data Structures and Algorithm Analysis and Computer Organization. For Data Structures and Algorithm Analysis, it’s a lecture-based class and the homework assignments are usually mini-projects that are due within two weeks. They’re pretty intense assignments and take some time to figure out and learn. But, that class has helped me think more like a software engineer. For Computer Organization, we’re basically learning how computers work, what components are made up of, and how they translate coding language into machine language they can understand. For that, we have worksheets and some coding assignments, and we have a big final project where we build a MITS processor, which is basically a way that computers can translate code.
Is there anything you feel your major’s department does especially well or poorly?
They definitely helped reshape my mind to think more professionally about how to solve certain software issues and program certain things. I’ve learned how to separate things into small steps and then program them as neatly and efficiently as possible. In terms of poorly, some professors don’t go through the content as thoroughly so you have to teach it to yourself outside of the classroom. But, that’s probably the only complaint I have.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
It depends on what class you’re taking and who is in your class. For the most part, people are pretty friendly with each other and people are pretty collaborative. Usually in the classes, we’ll make a group chat where we can ask each other questions. But, there are also classes where people don’t talk that much to each other and you’re on your own.
Why did you choose your major? Are you happy with your choice so far?
Originally when I came here I was a Dual-Degree Engineering Major because Morehouse has a dual degree program where you do your applied physics work at Morehouse and then your engineering work at another school. I was in that program at first but, honestly, I wish I came in undecided. I came in as an Engineering major because I thought it had a good safety net financially but I didn’t have a passion for it. As I got more into my major courses, I wasn’t doing too well and I realized I didn’t like the subjects very much. I didn’t know about Computer Science until I came to Morehouse, but I then realized I liked to code and liked that you can do a wide range of things with computer coding. Even though I don’t necessarily know what I want to do, I can do a lot with Computer Science because it’s pretty flexible.
How has going to an HBCU impacted your academic experience?
I think it has a pretty positive impact. I went to a predominantly White school from kindergarten through 12th grade, and being here is the first time being at a predominantly Black school. I’m really appreciative for that because at my predominantly White school I was always trying really hard not to be a Black stereotype and I don’t think I really shared my full self with a lot of my friends there. Coming here, it’s full of people who look just like me so I never had to worry about being a stereotype, so being at an HBCU I’ve been able to learn more about myself and find what I like and what I don’t like.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Living Learning Center with one roommate.
Sophomore: Perdue Hall with one roommate.
Junior: Kilgore Hall with one roommate.
How was transitioning from Buffalo, NY to the AUC in Atlanta in terms of location?
For me, it went well. Atlanta is a pretty big city so there are a lot more things to do here and a lot more communities here than there were in Buffalo. It is also a predominantly Black city and Buffalo is diverse but leans more towards being a White city, so that was a major cultural shift for me. I got used to it pretty quickly and I enjoy it a lot here. I like that there is a lot more activity here. [About 51% of the population of Atlanta is Black/African-American.]
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
It isn’t always that safe. I know people get robbed here. It’s not too often, but enough for it to be a red flag. I know the administration is trying to improve security, but it’s still pretty bad. It’s not as safe as it should be here on campus.
What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you participate in?
If there’s a festival in Atlanta or something going on on-campus, I usually like to go to those with a few friends and hang out there. In the beginning of the year, there are a lot of things going on, like, we have Black Pride and regular Pride, and there is Dragon-Con and Anime Weekend in Atlanta. So, there are a lot of festivals and conventions going on. Sometimes when I’m feeling a bit lazier, I’ll just stay in and try to get some homework done. Usually, I’m going to a festival or going to an event, party, or something hosted by an AUC person.
How has being LGBTQ+ influenced your nightlife experience? Is there much of an LGBTQ+ nightlife scene at Morehouse or in Atlanta?
There isn’t a Queer nightlife scene on campus but there is one in Atlanta. I have a lot of friends who have participated in it, but I haven’t done so myself. I’m trying to be more involved in it, but I don’t really get involved in the nightlife in Atlanta. There’s definitely a Queer community in the AUC and the clubs and organizations will have events from time to time, but I wouldn’t say there is a Queer nightlife on campus.
How happy are you with the options for weekend activities at Morehouse? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I’m pretty okay with it. If I was able to change something, I would like to have more Queer spaces to go to on the weekends and more Queer safe spaces on campus where we could all get together and eat food and watch movies.
What are some of your favorite events on or off-campus?
I liked going to the Afro-Punk concerts. There an organization that brings in Black rock bands and Black alternative musicians to perform in different locations. They come to Atlanta every year and this year was my first year going. I had a really fun time because I really like music and all the bands that I listen to that other people don’t listen to were there. It was nice to get hyped up with other people who also knew the bands so I wasn’t the only one getting hyped up.
How did you meet your closest friends?
One I met at the beginning of my freshman year during orientation. One of them I interned with last summer, she goes to Spelman and we have very compatible personalities. Another I met my sophomore year and his freshman year, but we didn’t start getting close until this year.
How would you describe the overall social scene?
It’s a very social school. There are always events and parties going on. If you want to do something, there’s always something you can find because, usually, some organization is throwing a party or some kind of social gathering. On Wednesdays, we have Hump Wednesdays where there is a DJ who plays music and some organizations on campus advertising for their group and people selling merchandise and food. Then on Thursdays Clark Atlanta has Market Thursdays where there is also a DJ and people selling merchandise, and the same thing happens on Friday at Spelman. So, at least three days a week there’s a social event going on.
How has going to a traditionally all-male school impacted your experience?
It definitely has impacted my experience. When I first came here I identified as a straight man. I decided to identify as pansexual at the end of my freshman year and to identify as non-binary at the end of my sophomore year. Because I don’t identify with the majority of people here, my identity does get erased a lot. I do try to tell people that I’m non-binary and I don’t use he and him pronouns, and some people do remember, but most people forget and call me “bro” or “dude” and other masculine words to greet me or describe me. At this point, I’ve gotten used to it, but I do get misgendered here a lot. Usually, the only times I don’t get misgendered are in Queer spaces where people try to respect my pronouns.
How would you describe the LGBTQ+ community on campus? How strong is it?
There’s definitely a presence here on campus, but it’s divided because there are people who are openly Queer on campus and there are a lot of people who dress femininely and a lot of people who dress masculinely and then there are also a lot of people who aren’t open about their sexuality and keep it hidden because of the climate at the school. There is definitely a strong bond between the people who are open. People in the community are all over the place, some people are close and some people are not.
What is the climate around the LGBTQ+ community at Morehouse?
It’s not as accepting as some people would like it to be. But, also because of the political climate in America right now, they won’t say anything. If they say anything, they might say something behind your back. People won’t be up front and say something to you [about being LGBTQ+], but they might say something behind your back and people talk behind each other’s back more about the people who dress more effeminately on campus. I know that they’re a little bit more isolated than the Queer people who are more masculine on campus.
To what extent do people of different sexual orientations mix socially?
We mix a lot. It’s very common to see Queer and straight people be in the same friend group, especially with the Queer people who are more masculine.
How do you like the size of Morehouse in terms of undergraduate enrollment? [There are about 2,200 students.]
I think it’s a pretty good size. It’s a pretty small school which makes it so pretty much everybody knows everybody so we have a good close community that I really appreciate. It’s nice to talk to somebody about knowing somebody on campus and they know them too.
How has going to an HBCU impacted your social experience?
It has a very positive impact on my experience. I have a lot more Black friends now than when I went to a predominantly White school. It also introduced me to people from different parts of the Black community because I don’t think a lot of people realize that Black people are very diverse and we come from very many different parts of life. By meeting all of these different people and learning from each other, it helped us learn what it means to be Black and learn to appreciate each other and our race.
Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
We have two career fairs each year, one in the fall and one in the spring, and the alumni are always coming back to campus to recruit students to their companies, graduate schools, or just support students in general. I think we have a very supportive alumni network in that aspect.
Have you learned any computer programs that will be helpful to you professionally?
Through coursework, we only learn C++ at Morehouse. But, I’ve learned that if you learn C++ you can pretty much learn any language. In terms of programming environments, they teach us to use the command terminal, but we can also use online environments like C++ Shell or Repl.it.
Have you used financial aid? If so, how helpful was the financial aid office?
It’s not good. If you try to email them, they might respond sometimes. Most of the time you have to go there in person and try to get your situation sorted out. Most of the times when you have to sort it out it’s at the beginning of the semester and during that time the office is usually really crowded. Then you might have to go there multiple times to get your situation sorted out. It is one of the downsides of the school because it just takes a while to get things done.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about Morehouse before entering as a freshman?
I wish I knew you could enter undeclared because I definitely would have done that and tried to figure out which major fit me, rather than coming in as a Physics major.
What is something a prospective LGBTQ+ student may want to know that we haven’t touched on?
There is definitely a community here on campus that will keep you safe. But, also be careful with people who know your sexuality or gender identity because they won’t try to harm you, but they will talk about you.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that is worth checking out?
The housing and building infrastructure because we have pretty old buildings and a lot of them are pretty outdated. They won’t show you that on the tour, so just make sure you know that the building and dorm infrastructure isn’t that pretty.
Reasons to attend Morehouse College:
1) It’s an HBCU and going to an HBCU is an experience that affects your life and your future in many positive ways.
2) A lot of top companies and top graduate schools come here to recruit students. Because of that, there is a good network of Morehouse alumni that you can’t get at other schools.
3) It’s a small school, so it’s easy to get to know people in your grade and in the other grades too. I have friends in all different grades.
Reasons to not attend Morehouse College:
1) The financial aid office is hard to work with.
2) The housing isn’t that great.
3) Morehouse as a whole isn’t that much of a safe space for LGBTQIA+ students.