An Interview On
Pitzer College

Background

Interview Date:Fall 2018

Gender: Woman
Race/Ethnicity: Multiracial: Hispanic, Latino, and White
Sexual Orientation: Homosexual
Graduation Year: 2019
High School Experience: Private high school in upstate New York with a graduating class of 80 students. There was a strong culture of going to college.
First Generation College Student: Yes
Major: Organismal Biology
Minor: Media Studies
Extracurricular Activities: Member of Club Rugby, Mixed Identity Exchange, Rainbow People Coalition for the LGBTQ community, and mentor for the Queer Research Center.

Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience? In what ways?
Rugby played a big role in my college experience. It’s a great group of people that are supportive and is where I became comfortable with my identity as a gay woman. It creates this beautiful community where you have your teammates, but it’s not as much time as a varsity sport. [For me] it’s more of a social thing.

Academic Experience

Can you describe the weekly coursework for Organismal Biology?
Generally, it’s not a lot of homework. There are weekly quizzes, a lot of lab reports [for the 4-hour lab classes], and as a senior it’s a lot of thesis writing.

Is there anything you feel the Organismal Biology Department does especially well or poorly?
Organismal Biology is good regarding fieldwork. We have the Bernard Field Station which is [86 acres of] protected land home to native California species where we conduct experiments. The bad thing is we don’t have a lot of tenured faculty members, so [as a senior] this is the first year I have a professor with their own laboratory [classroom].

How would you describe the learning environment? Is it particularly competitive or collaborative?
It’s definitely very collaborative. I’m a STEM major, which is part of the Claremont Colleges Consortium [made up of Pomona College, Scripps College, Claremont McKenna College, Harvey Mudd College, and Pitzer College]. Scripps, Claremont McKenna, and Pitzer have a joint program call Keck Science Department where they pool all their funding together.

What is your favorite class and least favorite class you have taken in your major?
Organismal Biology: My favorite class has to be Field Biology, it’s very much field work based and taught a lot more of what it takes to become a Field Biologist and the practical aspects of this career. The lab was also fun because we got to go outside a lot. My least favorite class was Introduction to Chemistry, where I only enjoyed the second semester.

How accessible have the professors in your department been?
They are super accessible. For hard classes, you do have to wait a little to talk to them because a lot of students need help. For classes that aren’t as hard, you can usually drop in their offices anytime.

What made you choose Organismal Biology, and are you happy with your choice?
Yeah definitely, I love Organismal Biology. It’s slightly different than regular Biology because it doesn’t focus on the cell processes, it’s more like ecology and evolution. You look at organisms as a whole and its interactions with the environment. The only difference in the majors is that with Biology you have to take Organic Chemistry.

How was transitioning academically as a first-generation college student?
It was rough, I started my [first] semester with a C average. That came from jumping into a good college not expecting to no longer be the smartest in the room. There are resources for people who are first-generation college students, but I did not use them.

On and Around Campus

Where have you lived during college?
Freshman: Atherton Hall, a freshman dorm with 1 roommate
Sophomore: Sanborn hall, with 1 roommate and 2 suitemates
Junior: Mead Hall, more suite style
Senior: Off-campus house with 3 roommates

What was your favorite living situation?
I loved them all.

How was transitioning from upstate New York to Claremont, CA?
It was a beautiful transition. Claremont is absolutely gorgeous and has amazing weather all the time. The people are much friendlier, it’s true the West Coast is overall happier [than New York]. Pitzer almost has a culture that it’s better if you don’t fit in.

What are the pros and cons of being in Claremont, CA?
Pros:
1) The weather is amazing.
2) You are an hour from the beach and an hour from LA.
3) You are in a really beautiful neighborhood.

Cons:
1) It’s hard to get anywhere without a car.
2) You aren’t allowed to have a car until you are a junior.
3) It’s supper smoggy, but it’s not horrible all the time.

Social Opportunities

What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you participate in at Pitzer?
There are a lot of on-campus parties hosted by the colleges. The thing about the consortium is each campus has something almost every weekend. There’s a drinking culture, a smoking culture, and just a sober culture depending on what you’re into. As a senior, I like to hang out with my friends and maybe go to a local brewery.

Describe a typical going out night freshman year. How did it differ from when you are now more established socially on campus?
The social thing to do is go out and hang out with your friends in their dorm, and then go to a campus party and dance your ass off. That’s just the general mood, but [for me] it tapered off second semester sophomore year when people began to do their own thing and not go to the major parties as much.

How happy were you with the nightlife at Pitzer? Is there anything you would change?
Honestly no, [I wouldn’t change anything]. It’s really fun. Pitzer specifically hosts three major parties outside the academic buildings, and there are also spaces outside the dining halls called Aprons where people go to party.

Campus Culture

What have been your favorite times at Pitzer?
I love Thanksgiving at the dining hall, it’s what I get pumped up for every fall. There are lots of holiday dinners and specific parties that happen each semester that are really fun. Every Tuesday there is something called Table Manners at Pomona, where they have a student DJ and people go as a study break to let out the stress of the day.

How has identifying as LGBTQ influenced your nightlife experience?
I definitely do hang out with a more concentrated queer community, and campus generally has a queer base. I don’t think I’m limited being a woman on this campus, but I’ve heard different things from my male friends who identify as gay.

How would you describe the overall social scene?
Each college has its own climate and culture. Pitzer is that classic liberal arts hippie college. It’s really small and people know each other. [Pitzer has 1,112 undergraduate students]. You also have the other colleges cultures influencing you. I have friends at all 5 colleges, but most are at Pitzer. I’ve heard it’s harder to make friends among other campuses if you don’t have classes with those students, or are not on a club team. You are really open to a lot of different experiences here, I love it.

To what extent do people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
I don’t feel as though groups actively exclude people because of their race. It’s more about similar experiences and backgrounds. That being said, I don’t feel uncomfortable going up to groups of different races or ethnicities. The people of color community has their own space that they can go to and have access to 24/7.

How strong is the LGBTQ community on campus?
It is very strong. It’s a climate where everyone is accepted and people feel safe. Especially for gay and lesbians, but I think transgender students are fighting for spaces of their own while people are becoming more accepting.

Do people generally seem happy with their college choice of Pitzer by their senior year? Do people “love” your school?
I think it depends on what you make of your experience. Generally, I think people are very happy although there is some of that attitude that I’m so over college, but I’m pleased with my choice and believe I’m not easy to please.

Careers

Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
I haven’t used any alumni connections. I work for the advancement office where we essentially ask for money from alumni, and they are really open to talking about their experiences. I have gotten recommendations about future career paths from speaking to alumni on the phone.

What have you used the career office for? How helpful have they been?
I don’t use it as much as I should.

Have you used financial aid? If so, accommodating was the office to your needs?
Getting financial aid at Pitzer is tough. It’s a really expensive school, and I’m not on financial aid. I’ve heard they are not the most accommodating from my friends on it, but not as bad as some schools. There is always room for improvement.

Advice for Prospective Freshmen

Something you wish you knew about your school before you entered as a freshman?
I don’t wish I knew anything before. Pitzer opened up a lot of opportunities I would not have otherwise had. I was forced to go out and discover these experiences myself.

Something a prospective LGBTQ or student of color should know that has not been mentioned?
POC should be aware that it’s a very white centered campus. Also, be aware of the financial influence people may have that you don’t have. For people of LGBTQ, be prepared to have a great time.

Something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
If you are interested in looking at the Science Department, take the initiative to walk around it yourself.

Reasons to attend Pitzer:
1) The people you will meet are absolutely amazing.
2) The weather is phenomenal for mental health.
3) You will meet some of the most amazing professors.

Reasons to not attend Pitzer:
1) Really think about if you can handle being in a socioeconomically high group.
2) Think about the majors offered, because it’s hard to major in economics or computer science, but the other schools offer options.
3) If you sometimes can feel trapped on campus and don’t have access to a car, that could be really hard.

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

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