BackgroundInterview Date:August 2017
Gender Identity: Female
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
Graduation Year: 2017
High School Experience: Public school in Greenwich, CT with a graduating class of about 750 students.
Major: American Studies
Extracurricular Activities: I was part of multiple dance organizations and I worked with a program where I tutored middle school students in Poughkeepsie.
Can you describe the weekly coursework for your major?
I took 1 or 2 classes a semester for my major. It’s not super easy work, but it was a lot more essay writing than test taking. The American Studies major is cool because you have half your classes in the American Studies department and then the other half in other departments that you choose. There’s lots of flexibility. The work is mostly readings, class discussions, and writing essays. Because I got certified to teach, almost all the classes I took were requirements either for my major or certification, so I didn’t have a lot of academic freedom.
Did you especially like or dislike anything about your major’s department? Did they do anything especially well or poorly?
I loved being an American studies major. I thought the flexibility was really good because it let you get really deep into what you were interested in. The American Studies professors were really good because they pulled from many different departments.
How would you describe the learning environment?
It was very discussion based. There was, especially in the core classes, a lot of freedom to focus in on something you were interested in. It was cool because you could focus your papers on what you wanted to focus it on, so people weren’t writing the same papers, they were writing on things they wanted to.
What was your favorite class in your major?
The American Studies Research Methods course. It was all the juniors in the American studies major. We spent the whole semester reading and looking at different ways of writing and researching in American Studies and practiced them. The assignments were really creative and allowed you to focus on what you’re interested in and allowed you to try out all these methods before you have to write your mandatory thesis senior year.
What was your least favorite class in your major?
Repatriation of Native American Remains. It was an Anthropology class and it was taught by an Anthropology professor, but I wasn’t interested in the anthropology side of things.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Lathrop House with 1 roommate. At Vassar, you stay in your dorm for 2-3 years unless you choose to apply and move out.
Sophomore: Lathrop in a single.
Junior: I was abroad the first semester. When you come back they put you wherever so I lived in Strong House, which is an all women dorm, with a roommate.
Senior: In a Townhouse, which is senior housing, with 4 other people.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
I always felt safe at Vassar on campus and off campus. At night time there is crime off campus. Nothing has ever happened to me, I always felt safe. You’re fine as long as you were smart. [The violent crime rate in Poughkeepsie is 84% higher than the national average and the property crime rate is 15% lower than the national average.]
What is your favorite place to get away from campus?
I just like walking in Poughkeepsie. Vassar feels like a little bubble and the campus is very different than Poughkeepsie. So, I like taking walks to get out, see the town and get an understanding of the community I’m living in.
Pros and cons of being in Poughkeepsie, NY?
Pros: (1) Hudson Valley is really beautiful and there’s lots to do around the area, like hiking and river activities.
(2) You’re 2 hours from Manhattan by train.
(3) Poughkeepsie is a really great city that I’ve gotten to know better while living here.
Cons: (1) Within the city of Poughkeepsie there’s not that much to do that’s close to Vassar, especially on the weekends. There’s nothing you can walk to like bars or anything like that.
(2) I wouldn’t feel super safe as a woman walking around at night.
What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you like to participate in?
I would go out Friday and Saturday night, and occasionally Thursday night. We’d usually just go to whatever was happening that night. Most of the party scene is in dorms, senior housing, or at an off-campus house. Parties are either smaller parties where the door is locked and it is obvious if you were invited or weren’t, or it’s an open party and is a free for all. Most of the big parties are at senior housing. [About 98% of students live on campus.]
What are your favorite days and nights at Vassar?
When Vassar got a big musical event that was always fun, especially when it was something you were into and there were a lot of people there. The best time was when I was a senior and my friends hosted parties and I knew everyone. there
What is an alternative to going to a party or a bar that you like for a night out?
If you’re in a group of friends that doesn’t like to go out as much you can have still a good time. Vassar has lots of music events on campus.
How happy were you with the nightlife at Vassar? If you could change anything, what would you change?
I think by the time I was a senior it got a little bit old because it’s really the same thing every weekend. After 4 years it can get pretty boring and there’s not much variety of things you do and the people you see.
How did you meet your closest friends?
We all lived in the same dorm freshman year. That’s one of the biggest ways to make friends because you live in the dorms together for multiple years.
How would you describe the overall social scene?
There’s a huge majority of people that are very liberal and people that don’t fit into that have a hard time at Vassar. Vassar is pretty intolerant of conservative views. Generally, people at Vassar are very nice and accepting, but there tends to be, like any place, the hipper people and the less hip people. Everyone is still kind to each other. A social divide is the athletes and non-athletes. Athletes at Vassar are friends with people on their team and that’s their core group of friends.
Do people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
Yes, I do. But I also think that students of color at Vassar feel the need to have their own spaces and they seek those out. But, in general, Vassar is pretty good about that type of thing.
Do people seem happy with Vassar by senior year?
I think a lot of people by their senior year are very frustrated with Vassar in the way it doesn’t live up to their expectations. People constantly criticize the Vassar administration in its failings of students. Vassar students are very idealistic and get frustrated when it’s not what they want it to look like. But, at the same time, people are happy they went to Vassar because they gained the knowledge and idealism that allows them to critique the institution. By the time they’re a senior, they see all these problems and want to fix them, but they are grateful for their education. I also think a lot of people are socially tired of Vassar.
Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
No, but I haven’t really tried to utilize it.
Has the career office helped you at all?
Not really, I went to a career weekend workshop sophomore year. It was helpful in that it lets you know what the career office had to offer. I want to be a teacher so not much of that applies to me. There’s a lot of networking stuff but that’s more on the business side of things.
Do you feel that you learned anything that will specifically help you with your profession?
The fact they have a teacher certification program is really, really nice. It made getting certified way easier. I think it’s a very good foundation to begin as a teacher.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about Vassar before you entered as a freshman?
You don’t have to make your best friends in the first 2 weeks of college. You have to be patient and find the people you fit well with.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
On campus, there’s a very beautiful lake called Sunset Lake.
Reasons to attend Vassar College:
1) You get a really high-quality education with really small classes and there’s a lot of opportunities to engage with your professors. [The average class size is 17 students and the student-faculty ratio is 8:1.]
2) I think it can deepen your understanding of social justice issues in a really important way.
3) I think you can meet a lot of interesting people that interests that are similar to your own and also broaden your own. There are a lot of different types of people here, people that you couldn’t meet in high school.
4) I think it broadens your way of thinking about the world. It makes you be a better critical thinker and develop your own opinions on things.
Reasons to not attend Vassar College:
1) It’s really small and gets smaller the longer you go here.
2) You’ll get a good liberal arts education, but you won’t get specific preparation for any job.
3) Because it’s a small school the variety of classes offered in different departments aren’t that broad. You can’t specialize in exactly what you want to do. You also can’t take really specific classes.
4) The weekend/nightlife scene is not that diverse. If you get bored of going to house parties every weekend and not leaving campus that much, you won’t like it.
5) If you have views that counter a lot of Vassar students’ it can be a very hard place to be. People can be pretty intolerant of that. If you want to have very open discussions where every opinion is respected Vassar is not the best place.