Sewanee: The University of the South
BackgroundInterview Date:November 2019
Gender Identity: Male
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
Graduation Year: 2021
High School Experience: Private school in Little Rock, AR with a graduating class of about 60 students. There was a culture of going to college.
First-Generation College Student: No
Minor: International and Global Studies
Extracurricular Activities: I’m a student-athlete, I’m in the Black Student Union, and I’m part of Greek life.
Have any of your extracurricular activities had a particularly big impact on your experience?
My sport has exposed me to different groups of people here and different campus activities. It’s also exposed me to the broader Sewanee community because we go do community service as a team.
Can you describe your weekly coursework for your major?
On average, I have about 300-pages of reading a week and then we have essays due every few weeks. I work on my essays ahead of time, so it becomes about two-three pages of an essay per week on average.
Is there anything you feel your major’s department does especially well or poorly?
They do a really good job of connecting students with professionals in their field. We have professors who worked in the field and have associates on Capitol Hill who are journalists, politicians, and legislative staff and they can help you get in contact with them.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
It’s definitely collaborative. It’s almost uncommon for students in a class to not work together right before a test or help each other out on an essay.
How accessible are your professors?
They’re extremely accessible. A lot of them give out their personal numbers and are very open to meeting with students outside of their office hours.
Do you feel that people are open to multiple schools of thought in the classroom?
Yes, because a lot of people here don’t necessarily come from Tennessee. There are people from California all the way to New York, as far north as Chicago, and as far south as Louisiana. We have people from every background, so there are a lot of different views represented in the class. Background-wise it’s a lot more diverse than I expected it to be. [There are students from 44 states. The most popular states for students to come from in 2019 are Tennessee, Georgia, Texas, Virginia, and Alabama.]
How is managing both your sport and your coursework?
I’d say it’s fairly easy, especially because at Sewanee there is an emphasis on academics and most coaches know that students prioritize their academics instead of athletics. The coaches are open to changing their schedules [to accommodate students’ academic schedules]. I’ve never had an issue skipping a practice or even changing a practice’s schedule just because an athlete has a certain obligation for a class.
What has been your favorite part of Sewanee so far academically?
My favorite part is the comfort I have in class. The classes are not that big – I’ve never had a class larger than 30 students – so the in-class discussions that happen almost every day are great. The classrooms are just as intimate as advertised. The professors know everybody in the class, which makes it very comfortable.
Why did you pick your major? Are you happy with your choice?
I know that I enjoy writing and do it well, so I tried to find a major that involves a lot of writing. I also don’t get bored watching CNN and the news, so I figured I should major in Politics.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Humphreys Hall with one roommate
Sophomore: Trezevant Hall with one roommate
Junior: Courts Hall with one roommate
What has been your favorite living situation?
Courts Hall because I got to have the roommate that I originally planned to live with.
How was transitioning from Little Rock, AR to Sewanee, TN?
Well, there’s literally nothing here except for the college. There is just an overwhelming number of people in our age range because of the college. It’s interesting to see more people who are my age than adults because there are not many professionals here. [The population of Sewanee is about 2,000 with about 62% of residents being between 18-24 years old.]
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
It’s pretty common to see Sewanee police when you walk around campus. I’ve never felt threatened or endangered, so I’ve never felt like I’ve needed to feel safe. I feel pretty comfortable.
Pros and cons of being located in Sewanee, TN?
1) The fact that we’re on top of this mountain and it’s beautiful.
2) I can go to three different waterfalls nearby.
3) I can see the stars at night. There isn’t much light pollution, so you can see shooting stars almost every night which is pretty cool.
4) It’s a close-knit community because it’s a small town and the college is a large portion of the people here. Outside of the university, you’ll see familiar faces around the town and you can get to know the townspeople.
1) You’re pretty far from certain things you need, like a good hospital, a Walmart, and other common things you might think would be normal to have in a city.
2) If you’re a student, there are not many food options that you can get in the car and drive to without it being a trip.
What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you like to participate in?
There are only a few places in Sewanee that you can go to have a nightlife outside of Greek life. They aren’t bars, they’re more like restaurants that serve drinks, but I can’t go to those because I’m not 21 yet. It’s all up to Greek life to have something for people to go to, so I only go to those. Sometimes the older students will go to those places or professors will go there, though.
How did your nightlife differ before and after you joined Greek life?
It was actually the exact same. I would go to the Greek houses just as much before I joined Greek life, and then when I joined I just became a part of it. If you’re a sophomore guy and don’t join Greek life and weren’t outgoing prior to that, you might feel awkward going to the events because you wouldn’t know anybody, but the parties are still 100% open and you could go.
What’s an alternative to going to a party or a bar that you like for a night out?
Camping. There are a lot of places around campus where you can go camping and there are cabins in the middle of the woods that you can rent out, which is pretty fun to do with a group of friends. There are also lakes that you can go to. Or, you can just spend time with your friends in the dorms and have a movie night or something.
How happy are you with the weekend options at Sewanee? Is there anything you would change about them if you could?
I would add a few bar options. Other than that, I really enjoy it because I really like hanging out with my group of friends in my frat house.
How did you meet your closest friends?
I met them by consistently seeing the same people doing the same things as me and looking for the same activities. Freshman year, I was constantly going to the dining hall at the same time and seeing the same people, so I got to know people. Also, by going out and going to the same parties, I met people.
How would you describe the overall social scene at Sewanee?
Pretty heavy. There’s something to do about five days a week. Sometimes we joke that the weekend starts on Tuesdays. But, when there aren’t any frat parties going on, there’s not much going on. In that sense, it’s heavily reliant on Greek life.
To what extent do you think people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
People of color definitely mix a lot. There’s a culture of people of color having a cohesive community and coming together as a collective. For the three years I’ve been here, there is a certain section of the dining hall that is the people of color section and anytime you look there, there will be Blacks, Asians, Latinas, etc. That’s the same with the LGBTQ community. But, it’s not uncommon to see either group at a frat house. Like, you’ll often see a group of Black people walking through a White fraternity, not because they’re a part of it but just because they know people there, and I’d say that’s the same for the LGBTQ community. There is a collectivism between people of color, but that doesn’t stop them from mingling outside of their race. The collectivism is a positive thing. [The undergraduate population is about 80% White, 6% Hispanic, and 5% Black.]
How would you describe a Black community on campus? How strong is it?
It’s a small community. Even though I mentioned the collectivism of people of color, there are communities of African-Americans that stay within their group and barely have friends outside of that. But, since there is a collectivism, it’s a strong community. I don’t know the names of all the Black people here, but every time I see them I dap them up because we have that common bond.
To what extent do people in Greek life and not in Greek life mix socially?
Most of the time, if somebody has close friends outside of their fraternity it is because they’re in another organization with them, like they are on a sports team with them. There are a lot of people [from a certain sports team] in my fraternity, but a lot of guys on that team aren’t in it too, but they’re always over and I hang out with them. So, it’s pretty welcoming.
How do you like the size of Sewanee in terms of undergraduate enrollment? How was transitioning to a school with [about 1,700] students?
It’s pretty rare to see someone you don’t know here, but it still happens. I like walking around and not knowing people, but, at the same time, I enjoy knowing several people that I see on the way to class. I thought I wanted to go to a big school, but when I was searching I fell in love with the small community and the atmosphere here because it is so friendly.
How would you describe the student body?
Welcoming, in general. You could walk in somewhere where you don’t know anybody and there might be some people who are weirded out by that, but that doesn’t mean they’ll write you off. Outside of that, people are pretty fun – even though that’s a weak adjective – but people are fun, outgoing, and like to have a good time.
Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
I didn’t take it, but I had a job offer last year through an alum. I feel like our alumni base is strong because I’ve made several connections from it and all of my friends have had great jobs going out of college from Sewanee alumni. It seems like the alumni prioritize Sewanee students and trust our skills, so it’s an amazing alumni network.
What have you used the career office for? How helpful have they been?
I’ve used it to make my cover letters and resume better. I’ve also gone in and said I’m looking for a certain type of job, and they immediately showed me a bunch of great businesses and organizations that I could apply for jobs at.
Have you learned any computer languages or software that will be helpful to you professionally?
No, just because I’m not good at picking up on those things. But, a lot of classes use those things when I didn’t expect it. Like, I took Forestry and learned how to use Excel much better than I could before.
Have you used financial aid? If so, how easy is the office to work with?
When it’s busy, they’re hard to get a hold of in terms of setting up a meeting or calling them. It’s much better to go in person than call.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about Sewanee before entering as a freshman?
That we don’t get Labor Day off from classes.
What is something a prospective student of color may want to know that we haven’t touched on?
Everyone here loves you. Literally.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
Any of the waterfalls around the area or any of the outdoorsy type things around campus.
Reasons to attend Sewanee:
1) It’s a small community that’s very tight-knit, which can be wonderful at times. You can use it to your advantage.
2) The relationships with your professors can make the academics easier.
3) If you want to be an athlete, the Division III athletics here are pretty relaxed.
Reasons to not attend Sewanee:
1) It’s a really small community.
2) It’s a lot easier to get into Sewanee than to stay in Sewanee. I feel like at Sewanee, more so than state schools, you get caught for things a lot easier because of the small community and because our college police department serves both the community and the school, so because of that the rules are different here. [Note: Students conduct violations at Sewanee are subject to both university and Federal/Tennessee law, so students may face sanctions from both the legal system and the University. In 2018-19, the six-year graduation rate was 83.9%, the highest in the five years Sewanee reports.]