I think I’ve mentioned this in one or two of my previous posts, but the biggest reason that I chose Dartmouth was the large Native American community and esteemed Native American Studies program.
I’m Native myself, a member of the Chickahominy Tribe, but was raised in a conservative, predominantly white community in Southern California. My mom made sure that my sister and I grew up with a lot of knowledge of and ties to our culture. I was used to being the only Native kid at my school; it was all I knew. But once I got to high school, I felt extremely isolated from the rest of the student body. This was largely due to my school’s mascot: the Warrior. It was hard to see my culture be trivialized and essentially mocked for the enjoyment of a cohort of people that had no idea what any of the appropriated symbols stood for or how damaging it is to rely on stereotypes of an entire race of people. I knew that I needed a different experience in college. I needed a supportive community that would understand and share my same life experiences and perspectives.
I heard that Dartmouth had a large Native student population, now almost 5%, which is one of the largest statistics of any competitive school in the country. I started to research more and discovered the Native American Studies program. While I had already come from a strong cultural background, I knew that there was more I needed to learn. I want to work as a doctor in a tribal community and I thought that the best way to serve my people was to be sure that I learn more, especially since no two Native American communities in the United States are identical. As an interdisciplinary program, Native American Studies has allowed me to explore Native experiences through historical, political, cultural, literary, and anthropological lenses.
I was pretty set on Dartmouth after learning about all of the resources that would be available to me here as a Native student. And as I researched other aspects of the College, I started to idealize this place and fell in love. I saw satirical videos and articles published by the Jack-O-Lantern, the humor magazine on campus that Dr. Seuss once wrote for. I learned about the various famous alumni of the College: Dr. Seuss, Robert Frost, Mindy Kaling, Rachel Dratch, Shonda Rhimes, Aisha Tyler, and the list goes on. I read about all of the really quirky campus traditions: freshman bonfire, polar bear swim, human dog-sled race, etc. I wanted to go to a school that would provide me with opportunities to just have fun and enjoy my youth while I still have it.
Plus the fact that Dartmouth was ranked #1 in undergraduate teaching at the time was a huge bonus. I didn’t realize how important it would be for me to be able to have intimate classroom experiences with my professors and classmates, and to receive more personal attention to bolster my understanding and learning of the material. As my largest class this term has 13 students, I can say that I absolutely cannot imagine learning in a different (larger) environment.
I have learned and grown so much here. I can’t imagine having gone to another college.