BackgroundInterview Date:February 2019
Gender Identity: Male
Sexual Orientation: Straight
Graduation Year: 2019
High School Experience: Public school in Grinnell, IA with a graduating class of about 120 students. Going to college was pushed by the guidance counselors but not everyone did. Some people went to trade school and others went straight to work.
First Generation College Student: No
Majors: Earth & Environmental Sciences and Economics double major
Minor: Data Analysis
Extracurricular Activities: I play intramural volleyball, I’m in an acapella group, I’m a resident adviser, I’m on the Student Judicial Board, and I’m a student representative for the Board of Trustees.
Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience?
Being an RA is my biggest time commitment and has had a big impact on my experience because you have to be logical with your choices, like what parties you go to. Helping people go through bad situations has been impactful. It’s also nice having your job literally be talking to people so it makes it easier to spark random conversations with people outside of the job.
Can you describe your weekly coursework for your major?
For Economics it’s a lot of problem sets and exams. For most of the upper-level classes, you have at least one paper that’s usually around 15-pages to do. In my opinion, the main stressors from the Economics classes are the exams because it’s a lot of information crammed into one or two exams a semester.
For Environmental Science, almost every class has a lab component. At Wesleyan, each full class is one credit and then a lab is half a credit, so those classes count for a class and a half. The work for the classes itself usually has problem sets or general homework. There are sometimes readings but you don’t necessarily have to do them. It’s a lot of learning from lectures, doing homework, studying the lecture material for the exams and taking exams. In labs, it’s applying what you learned in lecture.
Is there anything that you feel either of your majors’ departments do especially well or poorly?
Economics specifically could work on bringing in more students of color and female students. It’s one of the majors that’s mostly dominated by White dudes. Environmental Science does a better job of that and there’s also much more of a community feeling because the major’s smaller. In the classroom, some of the professors in Economics can be pretty awful. It makes you have to pick classes based on who’s teaching it, not based on the material. The difficulty level of classes, which will be registered as the same class on your transcript, will vary significantly based on the professor teaching it. That’s also a general recommendation for anyone in college, no matter how much you like the class, if you have a bad professor you’re going to hate your time. For Environmental Science, there is more consistency with professors.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
It’s definitely more collaborative. Nobody is trying to beat you out of a grade. For Environmental Science there’s not curved grading structure so there’s no reason why you would be competing with other students. Plus, you can learn the information better that way. I don’t know if that’s a byproduct of who is in the classes, but people just tend to work together no matter what. In the Economics classes, there are a lot of athletes so they’ll work with their teammates, but I’m not an athlete so I work with other non-athletes which works great.
How accessible are your professors?
They’ve been really accessible. That’s one of my favorite things about going to this school. Some of them are less accessible than others, but it’s rare that you’ll have a professor who won’t be able to meet within a day or two if you send them an email.
What have been your favorite classes for your major?
For Environmental Science we took a Senior seminar where we literally went to Hawaii. For a more normal class, I took Introduction to GIS which I liked because I was able to use my Data Analysis background.
For Economics, again it really depended on the professor. I took Macro and Microeconomics at the same time, and I liked Microeconomics a lot, but because my Macroeconomics professor was one of the best professors I’ve ever had I think that was my favorite class.
Why did you pick your majors? Are you happy with your choice?
I knew going in that I wanted to do Environmental Science because I went to a talk about climate change that made me extremely worried and want to do something about it. I was thinking about doing environmental engineering because Wesleyan has a program with Columbia where you can do prerequisites for engineering at Wesleyan and then go to Columbia for engineering. I did a lot of the prerequisites for that but ended up deciding against it because I didn’t want to do another two years of undergraduate study, but that led me to my minor in Data Analysis.
For Economics, I had to take a few classes for Economics because of different requirements. I didn’t love the classes, but I thought they were interesting and applicable. I also thought that if I’m going to prevent climate change and increase renewable energy usage, then it would be a part of the game, so I decided to major in that.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Butterfields with one roommate
Sophomore: I was a Resident Adviser in Hewitt Hall, so I had a single.
Junior: I was a Resident Adviser in Clark Hall, so I had a single. Clark is traditionally a freshman dorm.
Senior: I’m a Resident Adviser in Nicolson Hall
How was transitioning from Grinnell, IA to Middletown, CT?
It wasn’t that hard because in Iowa everything is hours away. If you come from a city, the transition to Middletown will be abrupt because Middletown has a supermarket and a lot of restaurants, but you have to drive to a lot of stuff outside of it. You need a friend with a car or you have to rent a Zipcar. I was used to that feeling because that’s how it is in Iowa, but for people outside of that, it might be more difficult.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
I’m a White male who is about six feet tall, so I don’t feel that intimidated ever. I have friends who are female identifying who have felt scared in different situations. But, I would say the campus does a good job of being well lit and having campus safety available.
Pros and cons of being located in Middletown, CT?
1) Middletown has great restaurants. People from nearby towns in Connecticut come by to eat in our restaurants.
2) If you like outdoor activities, there’s a lot of hiking.
3) Because the campus isn’t close to a bunch of other stuff, a lot of events and activities happen on campus during weekends. The campus has a closer feeling because people don’t abandon campus on weekends. Your friends during the week will be your friends on the weekends too.
1) It’s harder to find stuff to do outside of school because there is not much going on in town.
2) The rain. Anywhere on the East Coast it rains frequently. Here it will drizzle for a decent chunk of time.
3) Like any college, there is a culture where during the week you’re cranking out work and being very productive for five days and then on the weekend people expect you to be partying and stuff like that. The location exasperates that because it’s hard to get off campus.
What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you like to participate in?
I will usually go to friends’ houses, I personally don’t like big party situations. I think a decent amount of people follow that logic in that there is a smaller party and then they all go to a big party after, but sometimes I won’t even go to the big parties because I don’t really like them. It’s just a lot of people trying to dance but there isn’t much space to move around. Every once in a while, I’ll go to the bigger events, but not consistently.
There are a lot of athletic events, which is cool. It’s not like you’re watching a Division I football game, but a lot of the student-athletes like to go support each other. There are a lot of hipster-ish artistic students, so there’s an alternative music scene. The people of color community is also really strong, so they have a lot of events that they will go to where they feel comfortable and safe.
What are some of your favorite events on campus?
I love going to basketball games because I like sports and, in my opinion, that is one of the most high-caliber teams. There are [the UCAB] events that are actually pretty decent, they’ll bring in a hypnotist or a performer. They are varied enough that they actually entice you to go.
What is the impact of Greek life on nightlife?
It’s only [7%] of the student population, so it’s really not that big. There are frats that are basically just members of certain sports teams, so the sports teams are more Greek life-y. There’s a pretty decent divide between the athletes and the arts/theater/social sciences students. If you go to a lot of athlete parties, it’d be pretty rare to see an art student there.
How happy are you with the weekend options at Wesleyan? Is there anything you would change about them if you could?
I’m decently happy with it. The most annoying part is there are not a lot of big venue spaces to host parties or dances, so people end up hosting them in their houses which leads to overcapacity and then campus security coming. It’s just a cycle of stupidity in terms of that. Students need either bigger venue spaces because if you have a thousand people wanting to go to a party and only four houses actually throwing parties, there will be over 200 people wanting to go to each place. One weird thing about Wesleyan is they own the houses around campus, so as a senior you don’t live off-campus you live in a university-owned house.
How did you meet your closest friends?
Probably through classes. I’ve met some of them through jobs, so like working as an RA or I had a job in the library. I maybe met a couple at parties, but I don’t think parties are a great place to meet people to date or be friends with because if somebody’s really, really drunk they won’t remember or the volume is too high and you can’t talk with people.
How would you describe the overall social scene?
There are different fractions of it because there’s different stuff available to you depending on what you’re into, whether you’re an athlete, art student, or something else. People in those different areas don’t interact a ton, there are people who know each other through classes but you wouldn’t go to each other’s parties and stuff.
To what extent do you think people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
That’s one of the things I was expecting more of. Realistically, the people of color communities tend to stick together a lot, and that’s the same with White athletes and White arts people. I know a lot of people of different ethnic backgrounds and sexual orientations because of being a resident adviser, which I think is great. It depends on who you are, but generally, unless you are very social and outgoing, it’s hard to get in certain groups if you are not part of the group. Like, if you’re not an athlete it’s hard to into that, or if you’re not a person of color, you may know a lot of individuals who are in that community but you wouldn’t be a definite member of that community.
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 think it’s pretty decent. I know a lot of people, but definitely don’t know close to everybody. If I was at a bigger school, I might feel more lost. I can’t complain.
Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
The alumni network is one of Wesleyan’s best things. The company I have a job at was created by Wesleyan alumni and the come interview at Wesleyan, so the school is a direct feeder to the company. If you are interested in film, Wesleyan has a strong alumni base in that. There are also grants available, so Wesleyan will fund your summer internship if it is unpaid.
What have you used the career office for? How helpful were they?
I’ve used the career office for figuring out the best ways to contact people to get jobs, how to apply for jobs, resume help, and how to prep for case interviews for consulting.
Have you learned any computer languages or software that will be helpful to you professionally?
Yeah, I know Excel pretty well and R because of being a Data Analysis minor. I know some Python. For Economics, I’ve used SPSS and Stata but I don’t know them that well. I asked people which programs are the most helpful in real life and I was told Excel and R, so that’s what I focused my time on.
Have you used financial aid? If so, how accommodating has the office been to your needs?
There are mixed experiences with that for a lot of students. I’ve had a good experience with it, but that’s also because my family’s super poor. You either need to be very rich or very poor to come here because if you’re very poor you’ll get close to a full ride. I would have a decent chunk of student loans but working as a resident adviser helped me offset those some. If you’re in the middle, Wesleyan’s financial aid is pretty strict and I’ve had friends where their family changed incomes and they’ve had to transfer or take a year off because the amount they were paying changed so much.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about Wesleyan before entering as a freshman?
Academics are important but you also need to prioritize your social life in the beginning. It’s important not to stick with one group of people even though it makes you feel safe. Branch out as much as you can and get to know as many people as possible.
What is something a prospective student from a lower-income background may want to know that we haven’t touched on?
In my opinion, being low income has been great because it’s helped me meet more people from different backgrounds. I’ve met a lot of people in the community because I’ve been able to bond over the fact that we have no money and are trying to figure out what they need to pay for tuition this semester and stuff like that. On the flip side, there’s also a lot of people who are very rich and don’t understand what it’s like for low-income students. You’ll have a student in designer clothes right next to a student who is barely able to afford tuition and loans, so you sometimes feel like you have to teach people that there are people who don’t automatically have money for everything. But, you also have that low-income community who you can always fall back on. [Socioeconomically, 45% of students come from the top 5%.]
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
I don’t think the visit is that helpful because you don’t understand how life is like. I’ll just say that once you’re here you won’t notice how pretty the buildings are and stuff like that. Look further into what the academics are like, if there are students who you’ll feel comfortable with, and if there are groups that you want to be a part of at that school.
Reasons to attend Wesleyan:
1) Financial aid. [In 2017-2018, 42% of students received a need-based scholarship averaging about $45,000.]
2) You’ll get to meet a lot of different people from a lot of different places. [In the Class of 2022, 82% of students live outside of New England and 12% are international students from 63 different countries.]
3) The academics are great and you can learn a lot if you want to. You can grow a lot here.
4) It can feed you directly into jobs, which is great. You don’t have to be incredibly worried about getting a job depending on what you major in. [As of December 31, 2018, 10% of the Class of 2018 was seeking employment.]
Reasons to not attend Wesleyan:
1) If you need a city, Middletown is not that.
2) If you aren’t okay with meeting people from different backgrounds and aren’t comfortable bridging that, then it might be too much for you.
3) The academics are a lot, so you have to be prepared for that.