An Interview On
Occidental College

Background

Interview Date:February 2019

Gender Identity: Female
Race/Ethnicity: White
Sexual Orientation: Straight
Graduation Year: 2021
High School Experience: Public school in Ann Arbor, Michigan with a graduating class of about 375 students. There was a culture of going to college.
First Generation College Student: No
Major: Urban and Environmental Policy
Minor: Education
Extracurricular Activities: I do volunteer tutoring, right now I’m working on a campaign for someone who’s running for the L.A. school board, I babysit, and I used to play Club Rugby.

Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience?
The volunteer tutoring I’ve been doing has taught me a lot about L.A. outside of Occidental.

Academic Experience

Can you describe your weekly coursework for your Urban and Environmental Policy major?
Most of my work so far has been reading and lab assignments. The lab is for a Statistics and Data Analysis class required for my major. Right now, we’re working with Excel, so we’ll get different assignments where we have to graph datasets. Most of the midterms and finals we have will be essays and short answer questions.

Is there anything that you feel the Urban and Environmental Policy department does especially well or poorly?
In terms of especially well, most of the full-time professors in the major are women of color, pretty young, and super badass. They also do a great job of getting students in their major involved in the community in all different kinds of ways, including a required internship. In terms of bad things, I’ve heard some complaints about one specific professor who only assigns White authors, and some people have accused him of being prejudiced. He’s very powerful and influential.

How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
I think it’s more collaborative. It’s definitely not competitive because a lot of people are interested in different things. We’re all kind of trying to learn from each other, and everyone supports each other instead of competing for something.

Do you feel that people are open to multiple schools of thought in the classroom?
Not really. I think since it’s such a liberal school, and especially such a liberal major, I have heard people say they feel uncomfortable voicing their opinions that don’t conform to the very liberal ideas in class or in social settings.

How accessible have the professors in your department been?
The ones that have office hours are very accessible and are always there during these times. Sometimes it’s an issue because so many students will come, but I’ve had a lot of professors who open up their office hours more than usual around midterms and finals. They’ll make sign-up sheets to make sure everyone gets a fair chance to talk with them. They are also pretty good at replying to emails.

Why did you pick your major? Are you happy with your choice?
I’m happy with my choice. It’s one of the more community involved and action-oriented majors at Occidental, so it has a good balance between putting theory into practice, and talking about how we can make the theory work in the real world. Also, since it is about policy and policymaking, it’s a perfect fit because that’s what I want to go into.

On and Around Campus

Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Bell Young with three roommates.

Sophomore: Off-campus house owned by the school, with six roommates.

How was transitioning from Michigan to the Eagle Rock neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA?
It was great, I love L.A. I really like being somewhere warm and sunny. It’s definitely a little bit of a culture shock because L.A. can be focused on appearance and social media. The people at Occidental mostly come from a very different background than me, so that was different.

Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
I pretty much always feel safe. We sometimes get emails from campus safety about things that have happened, either on or around campus. Something I worry about a little more is sexual assault because Occidental kind of has a history of that happening and then not doing anything about it or handling it poorly. [See here for more information of how Occidental addresses sexual assault.]

Pros and cons of being located in the Eagle Rock Neighborhood of Los Angeles?
Pros:
1) There are always things going on in L.A. and even in the surrounding neighborhoods, whether you’re into art, music, film, fashion, social justice, community organizing, or sports, there are always different opportunities to get involved in cool and important things that you’re interested in.
2) The Eagle Rock Neighborhood is pretty safe and is easy to walk around.
3) The campus is in a very short walking distance to three major streets with a lot of choices for food and activities.
Cons:
1) Occidental is in a neighborhood that has traditionally been lower income and is now becoming gentrified. I know a lot of people would see that as being a good thing, but to me, it’s hard to balance my position as a privileged student in college wanting to have fun and go out, to also wanting to be a responsible and ethical part of the community.
2) Because L.A is so spread out and the traffic is so bad, parking is hard to find. It can be isolating and hard to get off campus and make yourself do things because it’s so spread out. It can be hard to hear about the things that happen.

Social Opportunities

What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you like to participate in?
Sometimes I go to house parties, and since I just turned 21, I go out to bars or clubs more. Often, I just stay home and have a couple of friends over to chill, play games, or watch a movie. Usually, the [student] club parties are pretty exclusive to people in that club because they don’t want their house to get trashed. When I played rugby, we had parties a lot, but it was only for the players. The parties that are more open to everyone at this school are just groups of friends that have a good house to party in. Some houses are well-known for being party houses and will host every weekend.

What nights of the week do you regularly do things?
Usually Friday or Saturday, it just depends on how the week has gone or how much work I have.

What’s an alternative to going to a party or a bar that you like for a night out?
There are a lot of food trucks close to campus, so my friends and I will go there or eat out. We might also watch a movie or go to art exhibits and gallery openings.

What is the impact of Greek life on nightlife?
If you’re in Greek life, there are probably more low-key kickbacks where members can go and hang out. They’ll have formals twice a year, and only a few of the houses have parties. It depends on whether you’re a member of a sorority or fraternity or not, but I don’t tend to go to those. It doesn’t really affect me as someone who’s not a part of it.

How happy are you with the weekend options at Occidental? Is there anything you would change about them if you could?
I’m pretty happy with the options especially now being 21. There are so many places to go around L.A or even the bars in our neighborhood. One thing I would change is if there was more diversity in the house parties. Only a couple of houses have parties, so it tends to be the same group of people. It would be cool if more houses had parties with different groups of people.

Campus Culture

How did you meet your closest friends?
Either through class or living together and being randomly placed. Both years have led to a lot of friendships, and then once you make a connection with one person, you’ll have mutual friends. I also made friends when I worked on campus.

How would you describe the overall social scene?
I think it depends on what kind of friends you have. I’d say friend groups are pretty homogeneous and tend to stick to their group and not branch out. Not a lot of friend groups overlap or interact with each other. Nobody is really mean and there isn’t drama that I know of. It’s a pretty good social scene.

To what extent do you think people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
I’d say not very much except for a few exceptions. There’s something called Queer House on campus designated for people who identify as LGBTQ+. It’s similar to a house I live in that’s owned by the school. I think sexuality definitely plays a big part in certain friend groups. Same with race, there’s a multicultural dorm. Most friend groups are pretty much all one race. [The student body is 14% Hispanic, 5% Black, 51% White, and 13% Asian.]

How would you describe the student body?
I think it’s statistically more diverse than a lot of other small liberal arts colleges. A lot of people are very involved with clubs, sports, Greek life, or community organizing. I feel like most people do a lot of extracurricular activities, and students who participate are very driven. There’s a lot of creativity that goes on around campus in terms of making art and music. The sports teams seem to have a lot of camaraderie and seem to be good friends with each other. The only thing I’d say is that friend groups are racially divided. It’s a pretty accepting environment unless you have conservative views, but even then, there are friend groups that will accept that.

Do people generally seem happy with Occidental by senior year? Do people leave loving your school?
I’ve known a couple people who’ve transferred because they weren’t happy with it, but for the most part, I know a lot of people who love Occidental. There are a lot of issues with the administration that some people are unhappy about, so it just depends on who you are and what your identity is. [See student demands from Oxy United for Black Liberation.]

How do you like the size of Occidental in terms of undergraduate enrollment? How was transitioning to a school with [about 2,055] students?
It’s pretty small, but it feels bigger than it is because there are so many friend groups that stick to themselves. It helps that the campus is really nice.

Careers

What have you used the career office for? How helpful have they been?
They use the website called Handshake, which I’ve used to apply for internships. They also have resume workshops and will teach you how to use Excel, but I haven’t used any of that yet.

Have you learned any computer languages or software that will be helpful to you professionally?
I’m learning Excel right now in my Data Analysis class, and we’ll also be using SPSS later in the semester. I took a Fundamentals of Computer Science class where we learned a little bit of JavaScript.

Advice for Prospective Freshmen

What is something you wish you knew about Occidental before entering as a freshman?
I wish I knew more about the problems with the administration and the history of Occidental. Similarly, I wish I knew the history regarding issues of sexual assault and how they’ve been sued by the Federal Government for Title IX violations twice. I also wish I knew about the racial tensions on campus and its separated nature. [See Occidental’s Sexual Respect & Title IX page here.]

What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
The Office of Student Leadership, Involvement, & Community Engagement. It’s a really cool office on campus with a lot of opportunities to volunteer, work, community organizing, or to get involved in leadership on campus.

Reasons to attend Occidental:
1) It’s a great community in terms of fostering learning, curiosity, research, and community involvement.
2) There are amazing professors who really care about the students. I’ve only had one professor who I feel didn’t teach me very well.
3) The small class size is really great. This allows professors to have the capacity to really care about you and get to know you. [The average class size is 18 students.]
4) Being in L.A. is awesome, and there are so many opportunities for internships, jobs, volunteer events, and fun things to do.
5) There’s a wide range of majors and minors, so it’s cool going to a school with students who have so many different interests.

Reasons to not attend Occidental:
1) A lot of my friends who are people of color feel marginalized or discriminated against by the admiration and the students.
2) It’s expensive, so if you don’t get a great financial aid package or have outside scholarships, it is expensive. [The total cost of attending Occidental is $72,610. They meet 100% of the demonstrated need of admitted students.]
3) A lot of the dorms don’t have air conditioning, which can be a bummer in the hotter months.
4) It’s really inaccessible for anyone with a physical disability.

Notice: Occidental College is a trademark. Induck uses it for descriptive purposes, not to imply affiliation with, endorsement from, or sponsorship by Occidental College.

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