BackgroundInterview Date:March 2020
Gender Identity: Male
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
Graduation Year: 2020
High School Experience: Public high school in Southern California with a graduating class of about 300 students. There was not a culture of going to college.
First-Generation College Student: Yes
Minor: Hispanic Studies
Extracurricular Activities: I’m a varsity athlete, and I was in Greek life during my freshman and sophomore year but then stopped.
Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience?
[My sport] had a huge impact. By joining my [sports] team I had a network of friends available instantly when starting school. The fraternity definitely helped with school work. Everyone is super open to helping academically and it’s another network of friends. Overall, I’ve had a positive experience with those two groups.
Can you describe the weekly coursework for your major?
Sociology is more about essays and midterms, but I did take a few science classes that were test-oriented. Some classes have weekly classes that prove you read before class, but it’s mostly readings, essays, and midterms. If you have a huge paper due at the end of the semester, some professors will have checkpoints where every two weeks you have to turn in something related to that paper.
Is there anything you feel your major’s department does especially well or poorly?
For especially well, I think they help with the thesis. The Sociology department has helped me with writing my thesis and coming up with ideas for it. My advisor is available whenever I need him to be. In terms of poorly, I think the introductory classes are too easy, but it picks up when you take 200 or 300 level classes.
How has the required thesis impacted your academic experience?
It’s really stressful. The fact that we have to write a 50-60-page paper is a pretty stressful experience.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
I believe it’s collaborative and people want to help you, but because of my background and the schooling I had before Whitman, it’s a little intimidating. I feel like the other students were more prepared than me because they went to better high schools. It’s kind of intimidating to speak up and participate in class and be sure of myself.
How accessible are your professors?
Really accessible. It’s more up to the student if you want to see them and most have office hours at least twice a week for a couple of hours. They’re available for appointments if you can’t go during those office hours, and they always answer emails the same day.
How was transitioning academically as a first-generation college student? Are there systems in place that help you transition?
It was really difficult. I felt like students were more prepared than me and had more prior knowledge of the subjects I was taking. My public high school didn’t prepare me.
Why did you pick your major? Are you happy with your choice?
I was doing chemistry and biology, but they didn’t interest me as much as sociology did. I think sociology is more interesting and what I want to do after Whitman. I’m happy with my choice.
How is managing both your sport and your coursework?
I think my GPA was better while playing [my sport] because you need a required GPA to play sports. It also makes you schedule your life better and when you’re on off-season you have more free time and tend to not do your work. If you play a sport you go to practice from 4:30-6:30 PM and have to do your work after. It’s very tiring.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on and around campus?
Freshman: Jewett Hall with one roommate
Sophomore: Fraternity house with one roommate and 40 other people in the house
Junior & Senior: Off-campus house with six other people
How was transitioning from your hometown in southern California to Walla Walla, WA in terms of location?
My first year I didn’t have a car and most of my friends didn’t either, so I felt like it was small and it was a huge transition. I’m from a pretty big city in southern California, so I felt like it was lonely with nothing to do. You’re also really busy at Whitman so you don’t really get off-campus anyway.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
I believe it’s pretty safe, although a lot of burglaries happen when you’re not on campus during the summer and winter break. I got robbed during winter break, so while you’re on campus it’s pretty safe, but it’s not safe to leave stuff in your house when you go home for break. [There are about 103 crimes per square mile in Walla Walla, more than triple the national median of 31.]
Pros and cons of being in Walla Walla, WA?
1) It helps you focus on school a little bit more. If we were in a big city, I’d feel like I wanted to go out all the time, but because we’re in Walla Walla with not much to do, you either do homework or go home.
2) I don’t know if I’m ever going to live in a city this small ever again, so it’s a new experience.
1) It gets boring and feels like the same thing every day.
2) If you don’t leave campus that much there isn’t much diversity. There are lots of White people. [64% of undergraduate students are White and about 67% of residents of Walla Walla are White.]
What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you like to participate in?
While I’m in season we can’t do much because we have a rule that you can’t party. I’ll just go home and watch movies during season, but after season I like hanging out with my friends whether that’s going bowling or playing card games at the house. I am 21 so I’ll have a few beers every once in a while, and I’ll go to some fraternity parties. If a house is having a party there’s a Facebook event. Also, the campus is pretty small so you kind of just know about them. You can walk two or three blocks and that’ll be all the parties happening.
What have been some of your favorite times at Whitman?
Traveling with [my sports] team was some of the best times I’ve ever had. We’d have a pre-season trip every year. We went to Denver, Virginia, New Jersey, Los Angeles, and we even had a trip to Portugal.
How happy are you with the weekend activities or nightlife at Whitman? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I don’t think there’s anything I’d change; I think it’s fine.
How did you meet your closest friends?
Through [my sports] team. I also think living with someone is the best way of making a close friend.
If at all, how did being a first-gen student effect your social transition?
I feel like it’s more internal than external. People don’t really try to talk about it, but it’s something I think about myself and ponder on once in a while. Externally, people are really open and want to be your friend and help.
How would you describe the overall social scene at Whitman?
I think people are pretty nice and want to be your friend. It’s a pretty good place overall. At Whitman, if you’re on [my sports team, most people join the same fraternity]. I wouldn’t imagine coming in as Mexican and first-generation and making friends without those networks.
To what extent do people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
Something I’ve noticed is that international and other Hispanic students I’ve seen only hang out with other international and Hispanic students. The colored people who are on sports teams tend to mix better than people who are not. [The undergraduate population is about 7% Hispanic, 2% Black, 6% Asian, and 64% White.]
How would you describe the Hispanic community on campus? How strong is it?
I’m not that involved with it, but there is a Latinx Club. They meet every week and have social events.
How do you like the size of Whitman in terms of undergraduate enrollment? How has it impacted your experience? [There are about 1,500 undergraduate students at Whitman.]
I think the size is better than a big school.
Do you think people are generally happy with their choice of Whitman by senior year? Do you think people leave loving Whitman?
The feeling I’ve been getting lately is that people are getting sick of it and want to be done with it. I think we have a lot of fun, but the schoolwork is a lot and the thesis is stressful.
Have you learned any computer programs or computer languages that will be helpful professionally?
When I took science classes I learned how to use Excel pretty well to graph stuff. In Sociology classes, I used Qualtrics to take surveys and analyze them.
Have you used financial aid? If so, how easy is the office to work with?
I did use financial aid and it’s pretty accessible. All you have to do is go and they’ll help you with FASFA.
Have you used any mental health or counseling resources through the school?
This year I went and they were pretty helpful. I just wanted to talk to someone and they have office hours if you want to speak to them once. If you need more appointments, they’re willing to meet with you.
Have you used academic accommodations? If so, how helpful were they?
I got a concussion in my sophomore year during a game, so they accommodated me during that time by making text bigger and giving me more time during tests. That office is called the ARC and it’s really helpful.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about Whitman before entering as a freshman?
That professors are approachable and they really do want to help you. If you have hesitations or concerns don’t hesitate to talk to them.
What is something a prospective Hispanic or first-generation student should know that we haven’t touched on yet?
People want to be your friend and it’s pretty liberal here.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
I like playing basketball and working out, and our facilities are top-notch.
Reasons to attend Whitman:
1) The classes are small and professors want to help you.
2) I played sports here and it was great. It’s really worth it.
Reasons to not attend Whitman:
1) If you’re not okay with small cities.
2) The schoolwork is hard.