BackgroundInterview Date:April 2019
Gender Identity: Female
Sexual Orientation: Bisexual
Graduation Year: 2020
High School Experience: Private high school in Baltimore, MD with a graduating class of about 75 students. There was a culture of going to college.
First-Generation College Student: No
Major: Comparative Literature
Allied Field: History and Anthropology. Reed is implementing minors so my class has a few minors approved.
Extracurricular Activities: I [have a leadership position] in Film Collective, I volunteer at a bike co-op where we help people out with their bikes and have materials they can use for free, and I play music.
Have any of your extracurricular activities had a particularly big impact on your experience?
I think that both the Film Collective and the bicycle co-op have really helped me find a community of people who share similar interests and are interested in doing the same sort of community outreach that I am. Playing music has also been really incredible and I’ve found a lot of friends through that scene.
Can you describe your weekly coursework for your major?
It is mostly readings. I have about 50-80 pages of reading per class per week. For quite a few of them, I have to write a one-page response every week.
Is there anything that you feel your major’s department does especially well or poorly?
One thing it does well is I have a lot of freedom in the classes I can take to fulfill the requirements. One thing they do poorly is that the department is a new department so it can lack in organization and a place where people in the major can come together and figure out a way to further our studies, find research, etc. I do think that is something that will improve over time as they get settled and get some funds for students to do projects they want to do because that is pretty common for other majors.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
I think that’s a particularly difficult question at Reed because we aren’t given access to our grades unless we petition for them or speaking directly to our professors about them. In some ways, I think that reduces the competition because people can’t compare themselves to others letter by letter. But, in other ways, it increases competition with yourself because you don’t know exactly where you are so maybe you doubt yourself and you always push yourself to do the best you can. Then, if you feel like you’re not doing well, you may push yourself even harder. So, it can be competitive and not competitive in different ways.
Do you like that you don’t have access to your grades?
I think I do like it. I like the idea that is de-emphasizing learning for a grade and emphasizing learning for the sake of learning. I think it can sometimes lead to people feeling a sort of imposter syndrome because they don’t know how they’re doing and then start to feel like they don’t deserve to be there because they don’t have the constant assurance that they’re doing okay. I personally like it, but I very much understand why some people aren’t the biggest fans of it.
How accessible are your professors?
For the most part, incredibly accessible. There are office hours every week. Many of them will schedule time outside of their office hours and sometimes they’ll even meet with you on the weekends at a coffee shop. It’s really easy to form relationships with your professors. They really seem to care about how you’re doing, how you feel you’re doing, and how they can help you. All you need to do is reach out.
Do you feel that people are open to multiple schools of thought in the classroom?
It depends on the class and the discipline. In most of the humanities classes I take, people come from all different backgrounds where their basis of knowledge, so, in that sense, a lot of schools of thought are used because people bring in what they know to bring something together that everybody can understand. I can’t speak for many of the non-humanities classes, but I am taking an introductory-level science course right now to complete a requirement, and that feels much more solidified in the way knowledge is transferred and understood.
Why did you pick your major? Are you happy with your choice?
I chose my major because I really had no idea what I wanted to do. There were a lot of classes in the humanities that I was really excited about and wanted to take. One of the professors I was able to have a close relationship with suggested that I try out Comparative Literature because I could pick my interest and focus on it through multiple disciplines and it gave me a lot of freedom. I really like it. It’s not classical comparative literature, but I really like what I do.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on and around campus?
Freshman: Old Dorm Block in Westport with one roommate.
Sophomore: Off-campus apartment complex nearby with one roommate.
Junior: Off-campus house about a mile away with four other roommates. For the most part, I still walk to campus. I’ll sometimes take the bus or hitch a ride with one of my roommates who has a car.
Reed is a small school that is growing and doesn’t have a lot of housing options. Reed is currently building a new dorm so they will be able to guarantee housing to freshmen and sophomores. When I was a sophomore, it wasn’t guaranteed and I didn’t get on-campus housing. I think a lot of the reason why people tend to live off-campus is that there’s something called the Reed Bubble where you just never leave campus. It’s really insulated and is a small school with a lot of people with similar ideas, so it’s easy to get stuck in it. Living off-campus has allowed me to expand my community and get away from academia.
How was transitioning from Baltimore, MD to Portland, OR?
It was decently smooth. I don’t necessarily feel like they are similar cities. But, because we are on the southeast side of Portland, it’s more residential so it does feel a bit college town-esque. It has a lot of trees and is very comfortable and beautiful. It is definitely a change of pace going from the East Coast to the West Coast because I feel like a lot of people here are a lot more laid back. When I first came here I found it to be annoying when I was waiting in line while the person at the register talks to everyone around them [laughs], but now it’s pretty normal.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
Reed has some systems in place that I think are really, really good. We have Community Safety Officers, which means we don’t have any state police come on campus, and they are pretty approachable. We have Medical Amnesty where if for some reason you find yourself in a position where you feel unsafe and are under the influence of a substance that is illegal, you will not get penalized for the substance and will just receive help. I think that helps a lot of people feel safer. Off-campus, I feel very safe. It’s a very nice, residential neighborhood.
Pros and cons of being in Portland, OR?
Pros: (1) There are lots of cool art museums and show spaces.
(2) The city is really, really beautiful. There is green space and mountains right next to the city.
(3) When the sun comes out, it’s the best place ever. Everybody appreciates it so much more. There’s a huge sense of community when you go outside and it’s not raining. Everyone is lying on the lawn and enjoying themselves, which is really great.
Cons: (1) It’s a small city that is very much geared for people who are over 21, so it’s difficult to go out and see [live music] shows and do what you want when you’re not 21.
(2) It rains a lot. It’s very, very gray for five months out of the year, which makes it difficult to keep yourself positive when you have a lot of work and it’s been raining for the past three weeks. [On average, Portland has about 164 days of precipitation a year.]
What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you like to participate in?
I’m in a band and we often play house shows put on by people who live off-campus or at some bars around the city. I am 21 so I can go to shows, and I also like to go to the art museums, but you don’t have to be 21 to do that. I love getting out into nature and Mount Tabor is really close by. It’s beautiful to go and take a walk there. There are also opportunities to get out of Portland to areas where you can get really into nature.
What do you like to do on campus?
At this point in my career I don’t hang out on campus as much, but last year I did quite a bit. We have these things called, “Balls,” which are basically dances. It sounds kind of stupid but they’re actually really fun. Everyone goes and dances. We have a pool hall that is really awesome and I used to spend a lot of time there playing pool with my friends. There’s a canyon on campus as well, and that’s something that a lot of people who live on campus or close to campus will hang out on or run around.
How happy are you with the weekend options at Reed? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I would definitely say that Reed is not a party school. There is a decent amount of parties. Some weekends there will be one party on Friday and one party on Saturday that basically everybody who wants to go out at Reed goes to. There are some weeks at the end of the semester or deep in the Portland winter where there is just not anything going on school-wise socially. Portland is a city that closes down early, places tend to close down around midnight. There are nights where I’m feeling antsy and want to do something and it’s annoying because there’s nothing going on. But, for the most part, when there is nothing going on it’s because everybody, including me, has a ton of work so I don’t have time to go out and do anything.
How has identifying as LGBT impacted your nightlife experience?
I definitely think there is an LGBT nightlife scene, but, to be honest, I have not participated much in that side of Reed. There are a lot of resources for people and I think there is a large LGBTQ community at Reed so a lot of people think of it as a safe space to come out. There are always ways to improve, but I think it’s been a positive experience.
How did you meet your closest friends?
I met most of the people I’m living with now in my dorm freshman year. I got really lucky and met a lot of people who I really get along with that live a door or two down from me. I also made a lot of friends at places like the pool hall or at balls, and even just in class.
How would you describe the social scene?
It’s small, we have about [1,400] students, so you know or know of most people. When I was younger I found it easier to know who the upperclassmen were whereas now I don’t know a ton of the freshmen, but I think I know more freshmen than the average upperclassmen college student would know. There is a lot of group formation and people will hang out with the same people all of the time, but when there is a big event everybody goes and everybody knows everybody and we all hang out. It goes back and forth between really small groups that don’t really interact and then people totally forgetting about that and doing whatever they want.
To what extent do people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
There may be some correlation that I would not say is causation. Some people have friends who have the same sexual orientation and some people don’t. There are communities and alliances specifically for particular identity groups and I think those help form communities, but I don’t necessarily think that people’s friend groups are determined by their sexual orientation or racial identity.
How do you like the size of Reed in terms of undergraduate enrollment? [There are about 1,400 students at Reed.]
Coming from a tiny high school, it’s actually quite a bit bigger than anything I’ve ever experienced. That being said, I know a lot of people, which can be incredible because when you’re not feeling super social and you don’t want to have to interact with strangers it’s very comfortable and you can just nod at people and continue on with your day. Then sometimes you want to not see anybody you know and that’s impossible because you go on campus and every other face you see is somebody you’ve had a class with or lived in your dorm. In some ways, it’s really nice and in some ways, it can be annoying. I like the size mostly because of the opportunity it gives me to interact with my professor one-on-one and in a more intimate setting.
How would you describe the student body?
There are obviously a lot of differences within people’s personalities. Generally, a lot of people are politically motivated and really interested in creating spaces in communities where people feel welcomed and accepted.
Have you used the career office at all? If so, how helpful have they been?
I recently got a grant for this summer that I applied for through the career office and I’ve had a couple of meetings with them. They are very open to going over résumés and applications and doing interview prep. It’s definitely a resource I should take more advantage of because every time I have it’s been pretty useful.
What is something you wish you knew about Reed before entering as a freshman?
I would emphasize the realness of the Reed Bubble and how important it is to get off campus and push yourself to do that. I think something that is not really easy to see on campus is that a lot of people you see have not left it in four weeks because you don’t need to go anywhere. That works for some people, but, for me personally, I think it’s important to be a person and not a student for a couple of hours every week.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
Definitely check out the Reed College Canyon. I would go into that as much as you can. I would also check out KRRC, which is the college radio station. It’s just this little room with a mixing board, lots of graffiti on the walls and a lot of black lights.
Reasons to attend Reed College:
1) The faculty is really incredible.
2) The campus is really beautiful.
3) The people are, for the most part, really awesome.
4) The size is really great for meeting people and finding a community.
Reasons to not attend Reed College:
1) It’s a ton of work. It can feel suffocating at times but it can also feel really incredible to get things done and see the product of your work.
2) It’s super rainy and can be really size sometimes.
3) The size. It can be really hard to not be seen and known by everybody.