University of Vermont
BackgroundInterview Date:August 2018
Gender Identity: Female
Sexual Orientation: Queer
Graduation Year: 2019
High School Experience: Public school outside of the New York suburban area with a graduating class of about 350 students. It was a mix of the poor urban populations, rural agricultural kids, and then you had the prep influence. There was a culture of going to college.
First Generation College Student: No
Major: Environmental Studies
Minors: Sociology and Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies
Extracurricular Activities: I’ve done a lot of work with student journalism, I’ve worked with the school newspaper and some environmental publications. I’ve done a couple of different activist organizing interest clubs. I’ve been involved in the arts community and I’ve done some service projects.
Have any of your extracurricular activities had a particularly big impact on your experience?
I would say that the political culture of UVM and student activism has really shaped my career direction. Also, the arts communities that I’ve been involved in have really tied me to a sense of ownership over this in my work and connected me to some really interesting people.
What is your weekly coursework like for your major?
What I study requires a lot of reading and writing. Environmental Studies is interesting because it’s a lot of people who want to change the world. As a whole, I would say the academic course load has been really, really easy. You have to do a lot to excel, but it’s very easy to coast through. It varies semester to semester, but I rarely put in more than an hour of homework every night last semester.
Is there anything you feel your major’s department does especially well or poorly?
It’s such a broad field you can go in any direction, but they really encourage you to hone that interest. One Environmental Studies student is going to be different than the next Environmental Studies student, so I really appreciate that they let you stake your place within it.
My concern is more about the field in general. Environmental Studies programs throughout the country are so different from each other that it’s not like a [specific] skill that employers are going to necessarily understand what you learned if they’re not familiar with UVM in particular.
The first couple of classes you take in the major are really good at bringing out that Environmental Studies character in people. You see a lot of change-makers that are facing the facts and are really concerned about different ways they can save the world. Once you get to the upper-level classes, unless you’re very focused, it might feel that you’re armed with a smattering of weird knowledge that doesn’t really coalesce in a meaningful way.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
I can’t speak to any other major, but in Environmental Studies it’s very, very supportive. Everyone’s interested in what you’re doing. I feel very emotionally looked after and I think there are a lot of community-oriented and self-care tactics that are integrated into most professor’s missions.
What has been your favorite class in your major?
Political Ecology. It was taught by this radical badass feminist professor and her thinking has really influenced the way I look at problems. She’s grounded in power analysis and integrating all perspectives in a situation in terms of focus and power. I also really liked an Environmental Journalism class.
What has been your least favorite class last year?
I took a Global Environmental History class which felt like useless knowledge. It just felt like the professor talking about things that he was interested in and I didn’t see any way that I would use this knowledge in my life.
Why did you pick your major? Are you happy with your choice?
I wish I studied something different. I wish I studied a hard skill like geography or something that is a discipline. Environmental Studies is interdisciplinary, and I wish I had a discipline that had a structured set of approaches and assumptions and big influential thinkers within that field. That’s why I picked up the sociology minor.
I picked Environmental Studies because I knew UVM was doing so much with it and I wanted to be a part of something innovative. I’ve also wanted to look at things through a justice and anti-capitalist framework. I wanted to study something altruistic that was helping people and Environmental Studies is all about doing corrective healing and justice works.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
UVM is doing this thing where they’re trying to shift away from the free for all dorm party culture that was there when I was there. They have this initiative to have residential learning communities where you’re supposed to pick an interest and only live with students that also picked that interest. I can’t really speak to what dorm life is now because my experience was different.
When I moved off campus I lived on a very busy main street. That was convenient but almost overwhelming to go on my porch and see students all the time. Since then, I’ve lived in the quieter neighborhoods that are like a 20-minute walk from campus. It feels more residential and I’m still really close to the downtown area.
There is a neighborhood right next to campus that’s the highest crime hotspot because people from the poorer neighborhood will go and commit property crimes against the students. I prefer not living in that neighborhood.
What is your favorite off-campus restaurant?
Our restaurant scene and our nightlife scene are what our town does best. The restaurant scene is really great down here. There’s a place that’s a coffee shop in the daytime that becomes a bar and music venue at night called Radio Bean. The Burlington scene is very local, seasonal and catered closely towards vegetarians and people who are health-conscious and want to be eating responsibly.
What is your favorite place to get away from campus?
I’m not that outdoorsy, but I like exploring rural Vermont. I like going up to the Grand Isles, and it’s all these little farming villages and you can do a drive or bike through them and they all have populations of like 400 people or whatever.
Pros and cons of being in Burlington, VT?
Pros: (1) The people are really great and welcoming. You can be yourself and find your niche here, whether you’re a hippy or if you want to avoid the partying culture you can still do that here.
(2) I appreciate how politically oriented this area is. It sort of conditions you to start caring about environmental and social justice issues just by proximity.
(3) It’s such a small community. You’ll walk half a mile to the co-op to get eggs and you’ll have like ten conversations with people you know. And that can be a pro or a con depending on what type of person you are.
Cons: (1) It gets really small after a while. If you fall out with a couple of cliques you are going to see them everywhere. It might feel harder to escape a reputation that you built when you were younger.
(2) Everybody feels conscious about certain issues, but there is also a sense of complacency. Because of the collective responsibility people sometimes vacate individual responsibility to make change and try to fight institutional racisms or economic inequality stuff. I feel like people think that because they are part of the progressive liberal community they are in the clear.
What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you participate in at UVM?
When I first entered the dorms there was a very strong partying culture. I would say that was the main way that you socialized and connected with people in your dorm. I wouldn’t even necessarily go out sometimes, it was usually just hanging out in the dorms.
Then the house party culture was every Friday and Saturday night. People would get ready and go out between 11PM-2AM.
Since I’ve turned 21 I don’t really go to house parties anymore. The bar scene downtown is pretty small. Everybody sort of finds their bar or their niche and sees the same crowd every weekend. I’m really into the arts community in Burlington, there are a lot of cool DJs, rappers, and musicians. When I was a freshman I would go to concerts like every single week, whether they were large ones you paid to go to or small ones at the local music bar. I’m more into the hip-hop/house music scene, so I’m always downtown dancing. It’s such a small community where you can go out by yourself and run into a bunch of people you know.
What is your favorite place to go dancing?
These days I party a lot at Half Lounge because they will play more experimental electronic and house music. Sidebar is also a good place for hip-hop music and dancing.
What is your favorite place to see live music?
My freshman year I really liked going to Radio Bean because it’s always free and you could get in before you’re 21. Nectar’s is cool, but they have a capacity for under 21 people and you have to get there before 11.
Have you felt being a person that identifies as queer has influenced your social life or nightlife at all?
Not at all. I think across the U.S. the youth is queering. Vermont is a really friendly environment to explore that part of yourself, however, I think there’s a real lack of space for queer folks. It’s not for UVM’s lack of trying because they have an LGBTQ center and events and stuff, but I don’t see much space for lesbians in Burlington necessarily. Like, there are no gay bars, so I don’t feel like there’s any sort of forum to connect with girls that identify like me.
How happy are you with the nightlife at UVM? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I love it personally. It just depends on what type of person you are. I sometimes wish it was larger. After a time, it gets old seeing the same people every single night. I really like raves and techno and stuff, so I’ll go up to Montreal, which is only like 90 minutes away, to see a good concert. We don’t really have a place for that, but I do really value having a small community and knowing the bartenders and bouncers and seeing the same heads every night and having a really large circle of peripheral party friends.
How did you meet your closest friends?
The friends I made my freshman year were in the dorms with me. I made friends through my major and I made friends through the music and art scene.
How would you describe the overall social scene?
It’s very inclusive, everybody is willing to give you a chance. But, because it’s small, it does get cliquey after a while. Everybody knows who you’re friends with.
To what extent do you feel people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
Not at all. We have a diversity problem at the university. The vast majority of students of color are international students from China. There are very few Black and Brown students on campus, and they tend to stick together. [11% of undergraduates are students of color and 5% are international students.]
Do you think people are generally happy with their choice of UVM by the time they graduate?
Yeah, we don’t have the school spirit in the way I see it in a lot of schools, but I would say the vast majority of students are very happy with their experience here and are very connected to the city of Burlington. People find their niche and are comfortable. This school is a great place for good-hearted people who care about outdoor sports or saving the world or are hippies. I think people who have that earthy, casual, communal texture to them would thrive here better than they would in any other environment.
What has been your experience with the career office?
The career office has not been that supportive of me. I think the support they have for finding internships is adequate. I think the career office is adequate for simple starting out things, like building a resume or learning how to talk in an interview. But, I think the portals for finding jobs after school is really poor.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about UVM before you entered as a freshman?
It likes to advertise itself as a public Ivy, but it’s a really easy degree. I’m about to graduate and I wish I learned more. I feel like I wasn’t challenged and my skills weren’t honed enough. My love for the way I’ve spent the past three years has more to do with the Burlington community than the university.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
Get downtown. Don’t just walk Church Street, get to Pine Street, go to the old North End, and spend a lot of time in the downtown area. The campus feels really big but it gets small really fast, so I would say get to know the city of Burlington.
Reasons to attend Vermont:
1) If you want to save the world.
2) If you want to go snowboarding.
3) If you’re really into music.
4) Easy going, flexible people do really well at UVM. If you see yourself as that you’d do well here.