hen Tennessee Watson '03 arrived at Colby two years ago from a suburb of Rochester, N.Y., she confidently threw herself into tough academic courses and settled on a double major in Latin American studies and government. In her first semester she played soccer on weekends with international students and made up for relative inexperience on the field with tenacity. In the winter she won competitions at Sugarloaf in the boardercross--a sort of snowboard-race-meets-roller-derby event. Almost instantly, Colby was her oyster. "I saw it as a pretty homogenous environment and realized it was comfortable for me," she recalled this spring.
Allyson Hill '03 of Minot, Maine, arrived at the same time and spent much of her first two years wondering why she didn't feel she fit in. To fill her work-study requirement she took jobs in Dana washing dishes and cooking omelets and struggled to balance her work schedule and a biology and art double major. She often wondered, "Why can't I be as positive as these other Colby kids?" Coming from a solid working-class family from a small town outside of Lewiston-Auburn, she found a code and sensibility on campus that she now characterizes as "suburban" and that she simply didn't get. "Everyone dresses a lot alike even though a lot of kids can't really afford to do that," she said.
The two women have been roommates since midway through their first year. They're both bright, articulate, engaging, curious, white, progressive. And each now characterizes herself as having been "clueless."
What led to this conclusion was not what they share but rather where they differ. In the ferment of campus life, shared meals, forums about diversity and classic late-night dorm-room discussions, these two close friends discovered that what made their experiences at Colby so dissimilar was the difference in their backgrounds and, in particular, differences in socioeconomic class.
Navigating the affronts and frustrations that are part of day-to-day life, "I'd be amused, and she'd be enraged." Watson said. "It [this realization] really broke down walls for me."
Hill said, "Tenny was clueless, as in 'Everybody's happy, just like me.' I was like, 'Who are these kids and where do they come from?'"
Now they both tell the same story as an example of how diversity at Colby has affected them and their view of the world.
This is not your classic case of diversity in action--in fact, social class has only recently been included in discussions of diversity. But it's an example of how diversity in the student body enriches the educational experience at Colby, and if you consider differences in race, nationality, gender, sexual orientation and religion that are increasingly part of the mix, it's a rich stew indeed.
Colby, Bates and Bowdoin students
Diversity Call Renewed: Students, President Bro Adams, faculty and others join in effort to appreciate and accentuate differences.
Making Waves: An inside look at the news you love to hear--from Colbians.
A Simple Feast: Wylie Dufresne '92 is one of the hottest chefs in New York City.
President's Page: President Bro Adams on the court and affirmative action.
Alumni Reunion 2001
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