BackgroundInterview Date:December 2018
Gender Identity: Male
Graduation Year: 2020
Sexual Orientation: Straight
High School Experience: Private college preparatory school in Los Angeles, CA with a graduating class of about 250 students.
First Generation College Student: No
Majors: Double major in Economics and Art History
Extracurricular Activities: Vanderbilt Red Cross Club, I [have a leadership role] in the Vanderbilt Skate and Surf Club, I write for the satire magazine known as the Slant, and I have my own television show on Vanderbilt Television.
Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience? In what ways?
Yeah, I think they’ve all impacted my experience in one way or the other. The Vanderbilt Media department is super underfunded, but I do think that the student organizations try their best to create an environment that promotes what they want and they do the best they have.
Can you describe your weekly coursework for your majors?
For Art History, it’s all exams and essays and the work load’s really not that bad. You just have to go to lecture and then occasionally take a test or write something. For Economics, there are not any problem sets. We just have tests. In terms of weekly workload, the tests are what makes me focus on schoolwork. I probably have a test a week, but those are the main assignments I have.
Is there anything that you feel your majors’ departments do especially well or especially poorly?
In Economics it is a little tough to contact the professors just because the classes I’ve taken so far have been so large so they have a lot of students to deal with. But, the professors definitely know their subject matter and know how to teach it in a way that’s easy for the students to absorb. They do a good job of catering to us and making sure we understand the material. Art History gives you more of that one on one personal relationship.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
There are definitely some competitive elements, it really depends on your major. In Economics you see a lot of the [students applying for finance jobs] who are just fighting to keep their GPA high, so that keeps it competitive. I don’t think it’s a toxic environment because you can easily ignore that and focus on your own schoolwork. In the classes that are curved, you need to stay ahead of the curve so you’re pushed upwards. People are competing for internships because they can only take so many students from a certain school. Sometimes the internships will get the whole applicant pool together so you can see who you’re competing against, which I think is super stupid. Art History is much more laid back in the sense that they put up pictures, you write an essay, and you get a grade.
How accessible have the professors in your department been?
It depends on the class size and the subject matter. For the introductory Economics classes, I’ve only been to office hours a few times but it’s always been packed and you have to wait there to get your question answered, and sometimes it is not answered very thoroughly. The email responses were also sometimes slow. As you move up and get more specific with your coursework, the professors get more accessible and willing to help you out because you’re not one of two hundred students. That also happens more in Economics because it’s a super popular major.
Art History is different than that. Nobody goes to Art History office hours, so if you go your question will be answered instantly for you.
Why did you choose your combination of majors? Are you happy with your choice?
I’m definitely happy with my choice. I first took an art history class in high school and I really enjoyed it, so I took the introductory class at Vanderbilt. It was still interesting to me, so I decided to pursue it. At first, I thought I was going to minor, but then the major was not many more classes, and it’s something I enjoy doing, so I stuck with that. I picked Economics just because it’s just a useful major.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived over the past three years?
Freshman: A pretty positive aspect of Vanderbilt that I enjoy is they have all the freshmen live in the same area that feels like a separate campus but is still attached. It’s called Ingram Commons. I lived in Sutherland with one roommate. “The Commons” has their own cafeteria and is its own community. I think it is a great way to connect you to the rest of the freshman class and make new friends.
Sophomore: Branscomb Quad, which is four connected buildings. I lived in Lofton House. Branscomb Quad is where the majority of sophomores live. Sophomores have more flexibility in their housing options, but they tend to gravitate towards Branscomb. It’s really run down and was significantly worse quality than my freshman dorm, but it’s centrally located which is really convenient.
Junior: Morgan House in Highland Quad. It’s super far away from everything. Usually, juniors live in a different situation than what I’m living in, but because they cut down on the number of seniors that are allowed to live on campus, they stayed in their old rooms and I was unable to get the more ideal junior living situation.
The way Vanderbilt housing is going, which I very much disagree with, is they’re trying to force all the students to live on campus as much as possible. They’re building new dorms and cutting down off-campus housing. There is a great city of Nashville around you and you want to interact with that.
How was transitioning from Los Angeles to Nashville, TN?
I mean it wasn’t too bad. There are definitely cultural differences, but it’s nothing you don’t expect going in. People have the southern hospitality, there’s a lot more fried food, all the stuff you’d expect. There was obviously some culture shock but it didn’t take time to adjust, it was just like, “Oh, this is where I live now.” The other students are from diverse areas too, so it’s not like you’re the only one getting a new perspective, and you can relate to the other kids about it too. I don’t think that is too much of a tough transition. [33% of Vanderbilt students come from the South, 18% come from the Midwest, 17% come from the Mid-Atlantic, and 11% come from the West.]
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
I’ve never felt unsafe on campus. Sometimes you get emails saying there was a robbery on a certain street and to stay away from that, but I’ve never been in a situation where I questioned my own safety. That’s also because I’m a pretty big guy. Vanderbilt does help out with providing Vandy Vans that will take you around campus.
What is your favorite off-campus restaurant?
Thai Satay, it’s a really good Thai restaurant.
What is your favorite place to get away from campus?
There is a skatepark nearby that I like to go to. I don’t think that’s a consensus choice [laughs], but that’s what I like to do.
Pros and cons of being located in Nashville, TN?
1) I like the different culture and the honky-tonk feel is interesting. You go downtown and get to see the live country acts. It’s just an experience that I think is worthwhile.
2) It’s a big growing city, so if there is a certain type of food or activity you want they have it. There are plenty of activities to do if you are trying to get off-campus and are looking to change it up. [Nashville is one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S.]
3) There are pro sports teams and you can go to those games.
Cons: I can’t think of any cons about the city itself.
What kind of weekend activities do you like to participate in?
They have a variety of activities. I’m not in a fraternity, but I still participate in some of their activities sometimes. They have frat parties that I attend occasionally. There are the bars downtown, and there are clubs and student organizations throw parties. You can always find something, I don’t like to stick to one routine of nightlife.
What nights of the week do you regularly go out? Are there certain things you like to do on certain nights?
Thursdays are big, and then Friday and Saturday are also big. Thursday is usually a frat party and then bars, and then Friday and Saturday are sometimes the same thing. It’s really about whatever’s happening that weekend.
How is going to the frat parties as somebody who is not part of Greek life?
I have a lot of friends that are in Greek life so I don’t really have an issue because they bring me to their events.
How happy were you with the nightlife at Vanderbilt? If you could change anything, what would you change?
It does get repetitive if you stick with the same routine, but I’m pretty happy with it. It’s really whatever you make of it. There’s honestly something going on every night of the week, it’s not just the nights I listed. In terms of something I would change, I don’t really like going to bars. They’re just loud and gross, so maybe less of that, but those seem to be a staple of the Vanderbilt scene so I don’t see that going anywhere.
How did you meet your closest friends?
Freshman year I knew some kids going in so I made some friends through them. I made friends with the kids on my floor and through the activities I’ve joined. I haven’t made any friends through classes honestly. I wouldn’t think that anybody has, except for maybe through group projects, but I don’t see that as the main avenue.
How would you describe the social scene?
It’s definitely segmented. You have individual groups that kind of stay in their own thing, which isn’t super ideal because you’re not interacting with the whole grade. You can move between groups. The clubs will stick together, you will see certain types of people doing their own thing, and then you have the frat guys. It’s to each your own. Everybody’s happy with their groups, so I don’t think it’s too bad of a thing.
How would you describe the student body?
There’s definitely the typical Vanderbilt student that everyone likes to make fun of, but I don’t think that’s representative of the actual student body. The typical Vanderbilt student is the spoiled frat guy, but there is way more to the school than that. People come from all over the place, I think that’s one of the more positive aspects. We also have a lot of international students. People embrace that culture and I think they bring in a lot of diversity, so that helps. That typical white, preppy student does exist, but to a much lesser extent than people think. [Vanderbilt students come from all 50 states and 9% are international students.]
How do you like the size of the undergraduate population at Vanderbilt? [Vanderbilt has an undergraduate enrollment of about 6,800 students.]
I think it’s pretty ideal. It’s big enough so you don’t see the same people over and over again but you’ll still run into your friends just walking through the hallways. You know the people who you’re close with and you’ll still see them around, but you could still meet someone and not see them again.
Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
Not yet, just because I haven’t tried to access it. This year I’m hoping to change that. They do seem to have the resources to connect you with those people.
To what extent have you used the career office? How helpful have they been?
So far, I’ve only used them to read over my resume and make changes to that and my cover letter. They’re definitely good for more than that, but I haven’t accessed that resource yet and that’s something I hope to change.
Have you learned any computer programs that will be helpful to you professionally?
I’ve only really focused on Excel in my statistics classes. I use other software for the TV show.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about Vanderbilt before you entered as a freshman?
I wish I knew to take an easier course load my freshman year. I got a little too ambitious with it out the gate and I was not ready for the social scene to take over and not have any time to do my work. It’s important to give yourself some time to ease into it because you’re not going to be able to adapt immediately.
What’s something a prospective student from California may want to know that we haven’t touched on?
It’s not going to be that different because there are still going to be people who have the same perspectives as you. They do try and unite all types of people freshman year, so you’re not going to be alone. You will find your own set of people and your own groups, you just have to look for them.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that is worth checking out?
They don’t address the whole culture of Nashville, but I think if you go on a visit you’ll see that anyway. The culture of the city plays a larger role than people give it credit for and how much you interact with it on a day to day basis.
Reasons to attend Vanderbilt:
1) It’s a well-funded research institution, so you’ll have access to pretty much whatever you want in whatever field. They’re always building new buildings and have very smart professors. That’s one thing you should definitely take advantage of. [50% of undergraduates conduct research, and 1/3 of undergraduates conduct research with a professor.]
2) I think Vanderbilt does do a good job of keeping their students happy and listening to their requests, even though there are some problems with them cutting down off campus housing. In terms of getting food, they have an app where you can order food with your Meal Money. They do a lot of little things to make your life easier that I think people overlook.
Reasons to not attend Vanderbilt:
1) It is competitive. Students like to complain that their grades are deflated. It is tough to stay afloat if you have a tough workload or are not used to grinding as much as the college expects from you. It can be pretty demanding.
2) The cafeteria food is very middle of the pack.