BackgroundInterview Date:April 2019
Gender Identity: Female
Graduation Year: 2019
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
High School Experience: Private school in Baltimore, Maryland with a graduating class of about 90 students. The majority of students went to college.
First Generation College Student: No
Major: Geosciences on the Nursing Pre-Health professions track
Extracurricular Activities: I’m an advanced EMT with the Skidmore College Emergency Medical Services. I’m also a member of Voices of Planned Parenthood, and I do research for credit and for pay on campus.
Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience? In what ways?
Being part of EMS on campus has been important because it’s helped me find my path to medicine, and it really does help create a community of people for you to make your family with. It helps to create your social circle in a lot of ways.
How easy was it to get involved in the research?
One of my favorite things about Skidmore as a STEM student is that most people will be able to participate in research during their education. It was very easy for me to start. I started my sophomore year because I was approached by a professor who was looking for a Geoscience student with a background in Biology. I worked in a NASA funded lab for two years, and I wouldn’t have gotten that at other schools.
Can you describe your weekly coursework for your major?
The Geoscience courses you take will have a lab component. Because it’s an art-science we have outdoor field excursions and fieldwork. Depending on the class, your lab could be outdoors or indoors. Indoor labs will be a modeling lab using coding such as MATLAB if you’re doing Oceanographic Sciences where you can’t go into the field. I took a class last semester called Geomorphology, and every week we were out doing something in the field. It’s a lot of hands-on work, lab reports, thesis papers, and research projects accompany this work. It’s less math problems and more big synthesis.
Is there anything that you feel your major’s department does especially well or especially poorly?
I think we are limited because we’re such a small school in general. We’re building a new science building right now and it’ll be huge. It’ll be updated with amazing equipment and extra lab space. It’s a positive direction for Skidmore that will open opportunities. Something I like is the access and breadth to research. I did Biogeochemical Oceanographic research, and now I’m doing Metamorphic Geology research.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
It’s not competitive at all. I don’t feel like we’re all cutthroat. We all know each other because it’s a small program, and we hang out as friends. I think it’s a very collaborative and positive community. I’ve heard other majors are a little different depending on the nature of the program. A lot of students that are Bio-Chemistry are competitive because the medical school admissions are competitive.
How accessible have the professors in your department been?
Because we’re so small, the professors are very accessible. All of my professors are in one hallway and they’re there most days. You can always email them and a lot of times they’ll give you their office numbers to get in contact with them. I’ve never experienced an issue of not being able to get in contact with a professor one way or another.
Why did you choose your major? Are you happy with your choice?
I came in intending to major in Biology, but to do that I had to take my first-semester Chemistry, Biology, English, and the freshman seminar class. All four of those classes were pretty work intensive and I’d never taken chemistry before, so I got very overwhelmed. I told my advisor the second day that I didn’t think I could manage the course load. I was also very homesick at the same time and was really trying to adapt to the college experience. He suggested that I talk to the introductory Geoscience professor, and she was amazing, welcoming, kind, and understanding. She had me talk about my interest in science and she got me to take the Geosciences introductory classes. I’m pretty happy with my decision, and I’ve had really interesting courses.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived over the past three years?
Freshman: Jonsson Tower with two roommates.
Sophomore: Jonsson Tower with one roommate.
Junior: Sussman Row Home apartments on campus with five people.
Senior: Northwoods Village Apartments with two roommates.
What was your favorite living situation?
I realized dorm life wasn’t that great. I really liked the apartments because my room was huge. The buildings are pretty new and our bathroom looks like a hotel bathroom. It wasn’t difficult sharing two showers between four or five people. We made it work and had an incredible amount of living space. We were also really close to campus.
How was transitioning from Baltimore to Saratoga Springs, NY?
I think it’s a little further than people realize. It takes me almost seven hours to drive home, so you have to fly for short holidays. It’s definitely a climate change and is comparatively cold here. It snows starting in October. It’s also a small community, you can walk Saratoga Spring’s main street in ten minutes. It’s gorgeous, we’re at the base of the Adirondack Park, and you see mountains when you’re walking around campus. We have the forest on campus and I’ve been able to handle the cold by investing in a good coat and snow boots. [Saratoga Springs has a population of about 28,000.]
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
I feel very safe on campus. We have a blue light system so within all times you’re in sight of the emergency lights. Campus safety also patrols in cars and it’s such a small campus I feel safe and secure. We have swipe cards for the buildings, and you can only get into your own. The town of Saratoga Springs is the safest I’ve felt anywhere. I’ve walked down an alley alone at 1 AM and wasn’t nervous about anything happening.
Pros and cons of being located in Saratoga Springs, NY?
1) We live in the most beautiful part of the country.
2) There’s a lot of cool stuff nearby that you can go to. This weekend I went into the Adirondack Park, and we went into this cute classic town.
3) We have a lot of other wilderness and outdoors stuff on campus. We own 100 acres of forest with hiking trails.
1) It’s very cold here. It was negative 15 degrees some days this year.
2) It feels like you live in a bubble sometimes. There’s a Target and a Walmart, but it’s a really small area if you’re not used to that you can get a little stir crazy.
What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you participate in?
Now that I’m 21 there’s a fairly good bar and downtown scene. Saratoga has the most restaurants per capita, and there’s so much to do in town. The bar scene is good, and a lot of places are very Skidmore friendly. On campus, there are always sponsored sober activities like trivia night. There’s also a decent party scene here, but it is less prominent in the winter because no one wants to go out, but if you want to find something to do you can. [Saratoga Springs was ranked in the top 2% of Small Cities in the country.]
Who hosts the nightlife activities?
It depends. A lot of times parties aren’t in dorms because campus safety patrols them, and you can’t register a party to your dorm room. A lot of parties are held in the apartments, and a lot of times they’re held by different clubs, especially in the beginning of the year when people are trying to get underclassmen to join. When you become an upperclassman, a lot of times it’s your friends. There are also off-campus sports houses which aren’t sanctioned by the schools.
What nights of the week do you regularly do things?
Normally Friday and Saturday. There’s a bar downtown that does Tuesday happy hour where craft beer is $3, so a lot of upperclassmen will go out to have a beer.
How happy were you with the nightlife at Skidmore? If you could change anything, what would you change?
I think I’m content. Sometimes it gets a little repetitive because mostly one bar holds a lot of Skidmore nights, and if you’re not feeling like cramming into a bar and getting your foot stepped on a million times, then it gets old. Some places do 18+ nights, but a lot of times Skidmore nights are 21+. When you’re older you can choose to go to a different bar downtown or to hang out with your friends. You can register parties with residential life in your apartment so that you can have people over.
How did you meet your closest friends?
I met some of them in my Scribner Seminar, which is your freshman year seminar class. It’s like homeroom, but it’s an academic class where you learn stuff. My class was a Geoscience course on Antarctica. We were pretty close because it’s a group of 16 people max, so it’s small and intimate. A lot of times you base your friend groups off the people you meet through your seminar. I’m met a lot of good friends through doing EMS because I joined as a freshman, and my RA introduced me to a lot of people he knew. Getting involved in clubs, your dorm, or the seminar is a good way that people meet their friends.
How would you describe the social scene?
It’s a fairly social campus. You have to interact with all kinds of people in your classes and seminars. There is a division between people who are in athletics and people who aren’t. There’s less communication between those groups, but because everyone knows everyone it’s a close community overall.
To what extent do people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
I think that is something Skidmore needs to work on. A lot of times I feel like it’s a predominantly White, upper-class cohort without much diversity. Skidmore is working on this, but I feel like they could do better. I went from having a diverse group of friends from home, to mainly having a bunch of White friends and that’s pretty much it. [62% of the undergraduate population is White, 5% is Black, 9% is Hispanic, and 5% Asian.]
How would you describe the student body?
Skidmore has a look. Everyone is very individualistic and has an artsy look about them no matter what they study. A lot of people are talented artists or amazing musicians. There are very intelligent people, and although our student body isn’t ethnically diverse, it’s very interdisciplinary and there’s a diverse set of interests.
How do you like the size of the undergraduate population at Skidmore? [Skidmore has an undergraduate enrollment of about 2,600 students.]
I think because my high school was so small it was an easier transition. I got nervous about going from under 100 people in my class to 600 or 700 people. It does feel small when you’re there for a while and you know of most people. It’s a manageable size because we can keep the class and lab sizes small, so you get more individual attention with opportunities that you wouldn’t have if graduate students were competing for the same positions. [The average class size is 16, and 94% of classes have fewer than 30 students.]
Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
Depending on your area of interest there are different advisors in the career development center you can talk to. I’ve been talking to the women who works with health professions, and there’s a huge network of people from Skidmore that offer their email address or a phone numbers to reach out to them. They’re pretty willing to take on Skidmore students, so that definitely exists. A lot of it is also who you meet while at Skidmore.
What have you used the career office for? How helpful have they been?
They’ve been pretty helpful. I’ve used them to review my resume this summer and when sending it to a graduate program. I use them to try and connect with people for shadowing opportunities. I haven’t had too much luck, I’ve only had one connection that worked out. It’s hard for a college student to come in and be involved in medicine without a degree because of privacy legislation.
Have you learned any computer programs or computer languages that will be helpful professionally?
I learned excel really well because we had to use it every week for labs. It’s been super helpful for other courses. I used Wolfram Mathematica for my Calculus II course. I used MATLAB for an Oceanography course, and then I had to use Python for research, which was hard.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about Skidmore before you entered as a freshman?
It’s a new level of rigor that you probably haven’t experienced in high school, even if you’re going to a college prep school. You might’ve been really smart in high school, then you go to college and don’t feel that smart. This shakes you a little bit because it is hard, and instead of two hours of homework when you go home, it’s more like you go to class all day and then you’ll be up for a while and might have to go to bed later and wake up early.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that is worth checking out?
I’d recommend taking a targeted tour toward what you’re interested in if you’re lucky enough to know what that is.
Reasons to attend Skidmore:
1) Even though it’s a small school, we have amazing resources and access to things big Universities have, but you’re not competing with tons of students.
Reasons to not attend Skidmore:
1) If you’re really affected by winter, or if you have seasonable depression it’s rough. It’s very cold, gets dark at 3 PM, and you don’t want to leave your house.
2) If you’re trying to really make it big in what you’re doing such as becoming a professional musician, maybe go to a program that’s more selective like a conservatory or a specific art and design school. Skidmore isn’t always focused on producing the next best personnel in the field. This is because it’s a liberal arts college, so you get that experience.
3) If you’re from an underrepresented demographic it’s not a very diverse community.