An Interview On
Reed College

Background

Interview Date:June 2019

Gender Identity: Female
Race/Ethnicity: Black
Sexual Orientation: Bisexual
Graduation Year: 2019
High School Experience: Public school in southern Ohio with a graduating class of about 500 students. There was a culture of going to college.
First-Generation College Student: No
Major: Linguistics
Allied Field: Mathematics
Extracurricular Activities: I worked two jobs on campus. I did some volunteering and started some clubs that weren’t very long-lasting.

What impact did working on campus have on your experience?
I think it helped me make bonds with faculty and staff. It helped me see a lot of the inside workings of Reed and got introduced to the college from another perspective that I don’t think a lot of students would have.

Academic Experience

Can you describe your weekly coursework for your major?
In Linguistics there are two paths you can go down, I did mostly formal linguistics classes and then wrote a sociolinguistics thesis. For formal linguistics classes, you mostly have problem sets that are every two weeks and take somewhere between 8-10 hours and our major graded assignments are take-home assignments that have questions about the material that you have to work through and type up the answers. It’s creative thinking and problem-solving. You also have readings for each class, that aren’t necessarily optional but most people don’t do them. For sociolinguistics classes, you generally have two projects over the semester and then weekly small writing assignments.

Is there anything that you feel your major’s department does especially well or poorly?
They do a good job of motivating unique end goals. I was able to take an independent study on something that there wasn’t going to be a class for during my time at Reed. They worked with me and allowed me to pursue that material. Since it’s such a small faculty, we don’t offer a lot of fields of linguistics that are really popular, like computational linguistics. I also think our introductory class can feel jumbled because we switch topics every two weeks and it’s a smorgasbord of different linguistics and doesn’t feel as cohesive.

How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
I think it’s a pretty collaborative learning experience. Because we don’t have a focus on grades, it doesn’t feel like you’re competing against students to get certain grades. There is more of a sense to work on something together to figure it out, which I particularly enjoyed.

How accessible are your professors?
It varies, but the Linguistics professors are very accessible. There are a few departments that have older professors that sometimes makes it hard to meet with them, but Reed does a great job of making it feel like you can talk to your professors. It’s common to call them by their first name and go over to their houses, so there isn’t much of a barrier which is nice.

What was your favorite class you took for your major?
I really enjoyed my independent study. I also enjoyed Methods of Design and Analysis.

Why did you pick your major? Are you happy with your choice?
I was really interested in natural language processing and the interface of language and technology, and linguistics is a sort of scientific study of language. I’m really interested in economics and working with that, so looking back, it probably would be nice to be a different major. But, I’m employed right now and am on a nice track to get where I want to be and really enjoyed what I learned and wrote about, I guess I don’t have any major regrets.

On and Around Campus

Where have you lived on and around campus?
Freshman: Old Dorm Block with one roommate

Sophomore: I lived in the Students of Color Community in the Canyon and was in a single. It was more of a house set up.

Junior: Off-campus in a house with one roommate for the fall semester and then studied abroad in the spring

Senior: Off-campus house with three other people

How do you like having a large portion of students live off-campus? What is the impact of that on the experience?
I was pretty lucky and got to live really close to campus. It was nice because during my first two years I was able to establish friendships and communities. Then the years when I was off-campus I could set boundaries with my time. I’d leave campus and leave that stress and feel like a person.

How was transitioning from Southern Ohio to Portland, OR?
It was kind of strange. I never lived in such a liberal city and Reed is known as being a bubble in terms of that as well. I also thought that moving to a city was going to be diverse and then Portland is not very diverse at all. I had some trouble transitioning my first year. [The median household income in Portland is $66,187 and about 70% of residents are White.]

Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
I think it’s generally fairly high. There have been a few incidents, but I’ve never felt particularly unsafe.

Pros and cons of being in Portland, OR?
Pros:
(1) There are things to do outside of campus. A lot of similar liberal arts schools are in the middle of nowhere.
(2) There is nature very close to campus which is good for decompressing.
(3) The location of Reed is not downtown but in a fairly residential area that has a good relationship with the college.

Cons: (1) There is a lot of gentrification happening that the students of Reed contribute to.
(2) It’s not a very diverse city.

Social Opportunities

What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you like to participate in?
There is a really good beer and cider scene in Portland and it’s nice to go out. There are also some “Reedie Owned” places [that are owned by Reed alumni] that are cool. I would also go to karaoke a lot. Portland’s a really nice area to do road trips to places like Seattle or the Gorge. In my final year, I was really busy writing my senior thesis, so I would go out Friday or Saturday. My junior year and before I wasn’t 21 so I would go out more but to try different foods or go to talks in the city or at Reed.

What are some of your favorite on campus events?
On campus, the comedy shows that are pretty popular and the school dances, which are known as “Balls,” that are pretty well attended. When I was younger I would do that type of stuff.

How happy are you with the weekend options at Reed? Is there anything you would change if you could?
It’s not great. There are some Gray Fund trips that are really fun. But, there is such a climate where people feel like they need to work all the time that there isn’t a lot of fun happening on the weekends that you would see at larger schools that don’t have that atmosphere. There also aren’t a lot of centralized activities and Reed can be pretty cliquey even though it’s a small school.

Campus Culture

How did you meet your closest friends?
We met in the dorms my freshman year and we stayed friends. I also made friends with people in my major. The classes are pretty small so you can get to know people that way.

How would you describe the social scene?
It can be a little pretentious and intense, but it is really fulfilling when you find your people. It’s intense because it’s so small and everybody knows each other’s business. It’s a pretty quirky school so if you can find people who you clique with who enjoy the weird little hobbies you also have then it’s really fulfilling. [Reed has about 1,400 students.]

To what extent do people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
I think people of different races mix more than people of different sexual orientations because there aren’t that many people of certain races so they have to mix with others. There are also some friend groups that are completely one race. In terms of sexual orientation, I’m not sure. My friend group has friends who are all similar to me and my personality tends to attract other Queer people. [In the Class of 2022, there were 19 Black students, 22 Hispanic students, and 71 Asian students.]

How would you describe the LGBTQ+ community on campus? How strong is it?
I think it’s kind of divided. At least for my year, there were Queer people who come from cities that are fairly liberal and places they can be open and also Queer people from places where they couldn’t be as open and come in where they are just learning. The people who knew all the lingo and the correct way to talk about things were pretty hard on the ones who didn’t know all the correct terms for things, and that created some drama. There was a divide between the people with blue hair and piercings and the ones who may have a similar sexual orientation but were newer coming to it. There were also some divides among color lines, but not always. When a real world issue happens though, there is a decent amount of solidarity.

How would you describe the Black community on campus? How strong is it?
Very divided. There is a split between the straight people, especially the males, and the Queer females because of the protests that happened while I was at Reed. There were people who thought it was stupid and the protests hurt Reed’s name while others thought it was a good thing, so that led to some real tension in the community. The protests both with the classroom sit in and the sit ins in the financial aid office and business office.

How do you like the size of Reed in terms of undergraduate enrollment? [There are about 1,400 students at Reed.]
It allowed me to have a much more active role on campus than I think I would have had on a bigger campus. I can be kind of shy, but I feel like I was pretty involved and known on campus which was pretty nice for me.

Do you ever feel like you are more so a resident of Portland than a student at Reed?
Not really. There is a thing called the “Reed Bubble” where it’s pretty hard to get off campus. The times when I spent a lot of time off-campus felt nice. Generally, Reed doesn’t do a lot to foster a feeling of being a Portland resident than a Reedie.

Do you think people are generally happy with their choice of Reed by senior year? Do you think people leave loving Reed?
I don’t know. Reed really is what you make it. There are a lot of issues with Reed, as there are with other places, and some people get caught up in the issues where they focus on something negative and don’t see the things you can do to make your time really fulfilling and capitalize on it.

Careers

Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
No. I worked in the alumni office though and know they do a lot of that.

Have you used the career office at all? If so, how helpful have they been?
I used them for resume help, interview preparation, and to go in for small freak outs [laughs]. They were pretty helpful. I did graduate with a job that started right after graduation so I don’t think I have any right to complain.

Have you learned any computer programs or languages that will be helpful to you professionally?
I used R in a Statistics class and two Linguistics classes. For my thesis project, I used some data visualization coding.

Financial Aid

Have you used financial aid? If so, how easy are they to work with?
The financial aid office is okay. I mostly do my stuff online and don’t have to visit them unless I have a problem. I know some people have had trouble with them and have also resolved problems with them.

Advice for Prospective Freshmen

What is something you wish you knew about Reed before entering as a freshman?
I wish I knew about the diversity here. I think they advertise it’s a really diverse place, but it’s not. I wish I had known that it’s okay to not do all your readings and, in fact, professors don’t expect you to most of the time. Also, I wish I knew that a lot of college is what you make of it and you can always find something to do so you don’t feel bored or unfulfilled. [57% of the Class of 2022 is White.]

What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
I don’t think the visits explore the Canyon. If you’re into nature, definitely look at that. I would also check out the music studio. I took drum lessons at Reed that were really awesome and I really loved learning how to play the drums. It’s also just a gorgeous building.

Reasons to attend Reed College:
1) If you really value having a meaningful connection with professors and the opportunity to distinguish yourself in a community.
2) If you have a particular passion, whether you know it’s going to be your forever career or not, Reed is a good place to begin to pursue something fully.
3) If you want a broad, liberal arts education, I think Reed is really great for that.

Reasons to not attend Reed College:
1) If you want the benefits of a big school with a big alumni network, fraternities, and sports.
2) If you want more institutionalized community bonding, like fraternities, Reed isn’t going to be the place for you.
3) I think a lot of sober and straight-edged people have trouble here because a lot of the culture can be around drugs and alcohol.

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

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