BackgroundInterview Date:February 2019
Gender Identity: Female
Sexual Orientation: Straight
Graduation Year: 2020
High School Experience: Public charter school in Hartford, CT with a graduating class of about 35 people. There was a culture of going to college.
First Generation College Student: Yes
Major: African-American Studies with a concentration in Popular Culture and Social Justice
Extracurricular Activities: I do a lot of work with children. I’ve been a tutor for some of the children in Middletown. I also help plan homecoming, commencement, and reunion.
Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience?
Growing up in Hartford, that’s all I really knew in terms of Connecticut and community. Since I’m close to home, it’s cool to get to know another town like I know my hometown. Working a lot with the community of Middletown has been really cool for me and I’ve liked immersing myself not just in the Wesleyan bubble but in the Middletown bubble as a whole.
Can you describe your weekly coursework for your major?
We have a lot of reading and essays and we don’t have any math or problem sets. It’s very heavily discussion-based and reading and writing intensive. I haven’t had many in-class exams for my major’s courses, we typically just have final essays.
Is there anything that you feel your major’s department does especially well or poorly?
We are really strong in the history element of African-American studies. A lot of our courses focus on the Harlem Renaissance, Black women’s history, and Black literature as well. The department does a good job of teaching students the history of everything. Both the students and the professors also create a very inclusive classroom environment.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
It’s very collaborative, it’s not really competitive. I feel like a big part of the reason why I’m comfortable in the major is there isn’t any hard-hitting competitive nature. Everyone works together and everyone is cool with each other. It’s a very warm environment. People really value their academics and get their work done, so it’s competitive in that sense. It’s a nice balance of academic effort and a lot of social accountability.
How accessible are your professors?
They’re completely accessible. If you want to reach them by email or just go to their office hours to come and talk, you can. My largest class that I’ve taken here was about 45 students, so if you want to get in contact with a professor after class it’s pretty easy.
Do you feel people are open to multiple schools of thought in the classroom?
Yeah, a lot of people are very well-rounded in different subject matters so there’s always a mixture of different types of people in my classes. For example, I’m taking a class on slavery in Middletown, and we have a bunch of different majors in that class as well. It doesn’t matter what your major is or what your interests are, you can use them in the major. That’s what I really like about the major and the school.
Why did you pick your major? Are you happy with your choice?
It took me a while to come to terms with what I wanted to do and what I wanted to be because coming in I really didn’t know which way I wanted to take my academic career. As I was taking courses and shopping around, I felt really comfortable in the African-American Studies Department because I was learning my own history as an African-American woman and the department was very welcoming.
How was transitioning academically as a first-generation student? Were there any systems in place to help you adjust?
There wasn’t much of a transition because my high school was very college intensive, so we already had a lot of work in high school. It was a slight transition but not too bad. It does get tough in general as a first-generation student and the resources I would go to talk with a few members of the faculty of color. There’s also a space on campus called the Resource Center, which is a space for students of color, and there are a lot of people there who can help you and give you advice, or just lend a space for you to work at if you don’t feel comfortable in the library. A lot of those resources on campus did help me a lot as well.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Double in Butterfields.
Sophomore: Single in Hewitt Hall, which is primarily a sophomore and junior dormitory.
Junior: I was abroad in the fall and now live in a single in Hewitt.
What was your favorite living situation?
I preferred Hewitt because I liked that better than having a roommate, which I feel like most people do.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
I feel relatively safe on campus. Wesleyan is an open campus, meaning that there aren’t any gates or boundaries restricting the community from coming on to campus, but I feel relatively safe. We haven’t had any major incidents or scares that have threatened the safety of students.
Pros and cons of being located in Middletown, CT?
1) For me, it’s close to Hartford so I can commute home whenever I want to see my family.
1) It’s very quiet and stagnant. There’s not really much going on besides Wesleyan. It’s not that bad, but it’s just a very quiet, stagnant town.
What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you like to participate in?
Every weekend there’s a bunch of parties at university housing. Program houses will usually throw parties and different student groups will have events at their houses. Every weekend there’s something going on, which is pretty cool. There aren’t really any boring weekends. Sometimes there will be themed parties that certain groups, people, or clubs on campus throw. For example, this month the Program House, Malcolm X House, threw a bunch of events for Black History Month, and last weekend there was a showcase where there were dancers, singers, and musicians, and there was a party after.
What is the impact on Greek life on nightlife?
It doesn’t have much of an impact if you’re not part of Greek life. You’re still welcomed into the parties if you’re not in Greek life. They do have their own private events, but they also have a lot of public parties. As a person that’s not in Greek life, I don’t ever feel alienated or like I can’t go to an event or anything. There is a presence on campus but I don’t feel like it’s overbearing in that there’s a social pressure to join or not go to a certain event.
What’s an alternative to going to a party that you like for a night out?
We do have a little town and Main Street that is about a 10-15-minute walk from campus. Main Street is a long strip of restaurants and little shops and there’s also a movie theater off of Main Street, so if you don’t want to party you can go do something there.
How happy are you with the weekend options at Wesleyan?
I’m pretty happy with the weekend options. There isn’t anything really terrible about it. Of course, if you party every single weekend it will get old so I’m happy there are other options. Also, just chilling in your room or watching a movie with friends is always a good time. I love the options.
How did you meet your closest friends?
I met some of my closest friends through a program called First Things First, which is a program for first-generation and low-income students. We show up a week before freshman orientation and go through the week getting information and resources for ourselves before everyone else comes. It was a very informative program. My other friends I met through the friends I met in First Things First. A lot of my friends and favorite memories have come from that program and I’m really thankful for that.
How would you describe the overall social scene?
It’s very artsy, liberal and politically active. People aren’t afraid to speak on certain topics, and I think that’s a lot of what being at Wesleyan represents.
To what extent do you think people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
A lot of what Wesleyan is about is being inclusive of everyone and all identities, so on any given day you’ll see all different types of people on campus. There are also a lot of groups and events on campus that are very inclusive to Queer identities and people of color, so I don’t think anyone feels out of place on this campus because Wesleyan does a lot to include everyone.
How would you describe the student body?
It’s a very chill vibe. People take their academics very seriously, but it’s a very chill vibe. Especially when it gets warmer out you’ll see people just sitting outside and having a good time. I think a lot of that has to do with Middletown being a very relaxed town, it’s not like New York where people are on the go.
How would you describe the Black community at Wesleyan? How strong is it?
That’s one of the reasons I decided to come here. While I was still in high school I did an orientation where I stayed overnight here and I really liked the Black community. It very much feels like a family at times because we have different resources, like the Malcolm X House and Ujamaa, which is our Black Student Union. I don’t feel alienated. We are a small percentage of students here, but that can change. I don’t have any problems here as a Black student and I feel like the Black community is very cool here. [About 7% of students are Black.]
How do you like the size of Wesleyan in terms of undergraduate enrollment? How was transitioning to a school with about [3,000] students?
I prefer a small size. I feel the size here is very manageable. I like small environments where my classes will have 20 students and you can recognize the people you see on campus. That’s what my high school was like so I’m comfortable in that scenario in general.
Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
Yeah, the career center can help connect you with alumni. In my experience, the alumni have been receptive to students networking and looking for career opportunities so I feel like there is a strong alumni and student connection.
What have you used the career office for? How helpful were they?
I’ve gone there trying to get help with looking for alumni and to ask some questions, but most people use it for looking for internships.
Have you learned any computer languages or software that will be helpful to you professionally?
Sophomore year I took a class called Applied Data Analysis and I learned SAS through that. It was cool to learn. In that class, we had to ask a research question and then answer it using that program.
Have you used financial aid? If so, how accommodating has the office been to your needs?
For me, this is one of the cons of Wesleyan. I feel that the financial aid office isn’t very understanding of lower-income students. They haven’t been very understanding of my problems when I’ve had to deal with them.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about Wesleyan before entering as a freshman?
The financial aid. I wish I would have known more about the system and how it runs. I also wish I knew more about networking and going for internships because that isn’t a normal thing to do where I am from. My first two years I wasn’t really aware of certain opportunities and going for certain internships and how to get them.
What is something a prospective Black student should know that we haven’t touched on?
In the classroom, there will always be a majority of White students and a lot of my freshman year I felt insecure about my presence in the class being the only Black person in the class. It’s important to be prepared to be in those situations and not take it personally or have doubts about your intelligence.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
A lot of the dining options aren’t hit on the tour that isn’t the general dining hall. We have a lot of great food on campus that prospective students may not know about.
Reasons to attend Wesleyan:
1) It’s very prestigious.
2) It provides you with a lot of opportunities and has opened me up to a lot of different career options. Wesleyan has shown me that I’m not the limited box that I thought I was.
Reasons to not attend Wesleyan:
I can’t think of any.