An Interview On
Pitzer College

Background

Interview Date:Fall 2018

Gender: Male
Ethnicity: African
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
Graduation Year: 2019
High School Experience: Public school in Benin with a graduating class of about 200 students. Most students stayed in Africa after high school.
First-Generation College Student: Yes
Major: Environmental Analysis
Minor: None
Extracurricular Activities: I’m a member of the Event Board, we put on events at the school. I work for the Grove House [where there are a lot of events], for example, I helped a club put on a Shabbat dinner there two weeks ago and sometimes there are student concerts. There will be battles of the bands and things like that. I am also a student fellow for the Robert Redford Conservancy.

What is the Grove House?
It is basically like a student center. People can come to study, hang out, listen to music, and we have a student-run restaurant inside. We make brunch every day.

Academic Experience

Can you describe the weekly coursework for your major?
I’m taking a lot of policy classes, the one I’m taking now is called California Environmental Policy, so we read a lot of policy memos, books, historical policies that have changed, and about the environmental policy landscape in the United States. I’m also taking a class called Power and Social Movement which is about different ideologies [coincide with] environmental ideologies and how to organize and things like that. Going to school full time and doing all of my extracurricular activities can be overwhelming at times, but it’s cool.

What are your major graded assignments?
Basically, every semester we almost always have one group project, one presentation, at least two papers, one midterm exam, one final exam, and we also have online assignments. For one of my classes, we have an assignment due every Thursday which is a response to the reading.

Is there anything you feel the Environmental Analysis department does especially well or poorly?
We have the Robert Redford Conservancy, which is a center where student fellows can get together and get involved in the greater community. They can get involved in environmental policy and environmental advocacy. I work with a lot of community members, work with nonprofits, organize tours, and have speakers come here every semester. Having this crossroad between the state and the class and having the community actually do something instead of just read about it is amazing. That is why I came to Pitzer. I didn’t want to sit in class every day without seeing how these things are applied in real life.

How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
In my opinion, I don’t think it’s competitive. I think it’s really collaborative. I’ve never been in a class where I felt pressure because everybody is super nice and the professors really want to help you out. For example, there was a week when I wasn’t really talking in class, and my professor called me over and asked what was going on and if everything was okay because she knows I’m really involved on campus. I think it’s very, very collaborative because the students are really cool and want to work with you and make things happen. We have a group of 15 student fellows for the Robert Redford Conservancy, and we work together on everything.

How was transitioning from Benin to Pitzer academically? Were there any systems in place to help you adapt?
I went to community college to learn English and wrote a letter to Pitzer saying I wanted to go through [a certain program] and I got accepted. When I got accepted, we have a mentorship program here where somebody who went through the same program shows you different resources on campus. I got introduced to lots of staff members and resources on campus. Like, if you’re an athlete, they take you to the coach and those resources. I got introduced to all the things I needed to.

Why did you pick your major? Are you happy with your choice?
I always wanted to study environmental analysis. Pitzer has really good professors, and I know all of them. I’m really happy with my major because I’m not even finished and I already have a job for after school with a nonprofit and I got to learn so much and meet so many people. Working for the Robert Redford Conservancy, I got introduced to a lot of lawyers in the field and things like that. I don’t think I could ask for any more.

On and Around Campus

Pros and cons of being in Claremont, CA?
Pros: (1) The weather is amazing.
(2) It’s close to a lot of national parks and state parks. The mountains are really close.
(3) People are relaxed and nice down here. There’s this nice little bubble of the Claremont Colleges, and when you get out you actually see the city.
(4) Every day you wake up and have a view of the mountains. That’s priceless.

Cons: (1) The train to go to L.A. takes a long time to get there, [like an hour]. L.A. is also not a very transportation-oriented city, so that can be annoying sometimes.
(2) It’s annoying that we try so hard to be a sustainable campus and city, and then people take a car to go most places.

Social Opportunities

What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you like to participate in?
On Fridays there are usually events, like battles of the bands, at the Grove House. On Saturdays there is a club called Pitzer Outdoor Adventures that usually has trips. There is a list of different trips that you can sign up for, sometimes they are weekend trips, single night trips, or day trips. That’s one of the main things that people do because people are really outdoorsy here. There are also 5C events, which is basically a big event that one of the five Claremont McKenna Colleges is throwing. Because I’m a party of Events Board, I know exactly what is going on every weekend.

How transitioning to the weekend activities at Pitzer as an international student?
Well, when you come you make friends and you start to go out a little bit and meet people. If you are not afraid, it doesn’t take very long to really enjoy being here. You just can’t miss the chemistry here.

Campus Culture

How much interaction do you have with the other Claremont McKenna students?
We mix with the other students. Pitzer is really close with Harvey Mudd and Claremont McKenna College. I see a lot of their students at the Grove House. I’ve also worked at Harvey Mudd over the past two summers. The resources at the other schools are there, so you can take them. I’ve also worked at Claremont McKenna College. It’s very easy to go over and there and make friends and also meet people at 5C events.

What have been some of your favorite times at school so far?
We have One Night Only Festival which is really fun. We also have Hallow-week here, it’s not just the weekend, every day there is something, and on the last day there is a big concert. Grove House Birthday is amazing.

To what extent do you think international students and domestic students mix socially?
I think everything happens during orientation. During orientation we have Orientation Adventure (OA), where new students take trips and get to know each other. That’s when interactions happen and when people make friends. I’m still friends with my OA leaders and my orientation people because this is where we made friends. I don’t feel like there is a thing as an international student here because we all hang out together. I came here not knowing how to write papers in English, and everybody was so nice and helpful. I don’t feel like I’m different because I’m an international student.

To what extent do you feel people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
We have the Intercultural Understanding here at Pitzer. People always ask people for their pronouns, which is not something I was used to before coming to Pitzer. It’s a really inclusive community.

Were there any parts of Pitzer or American college overall that surprised you when you arrived on campus?
I had the impression that America was kind of an individualistic country, but Pitzer is not like that. People really are trying to help you. The professors are always trying to help you and make sure you’re okay. Some people may not appreciate it because they’ve had help their whole lives, but I’ve never had that opportunity before where everybody is really friendly and willing to help you try to become somebody. This is a really good place to be at if you want help 100% of the time.

Advice for Prospective Freshmen

What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
Grove House

What is something a prospective international student may want to know that we haven’t touched on?
There’s something called the I-Place, which stands for the International Place. That is where international students go for all kinds of resources, like how to get a job in the US, how to get a visa, and how to connect you to other international students on campus. It’s an amazing place to check out.

Reasons to attend Pitzer College:
1) If you are interested in sustainability and environmental space, this is definitely your place.
2) There are wonderful people here. The people accept you for who you are and do not try to change you.
3) If you want to be part of and learn about social change and social justice issues this is a great place to be.

Reasons to not attend Pitzer College:
I can’t think of any.

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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