FRESHMAN FOCUS: Adam Dean, ’17, ditches newspaper for speech and debate at Brandeis University
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Adam Dean, ‘17, attends Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He will major in economics, with a possible minor in either business or computer science.
Q: Has Brandeis lived up to your expectations so far?
A: I did not know what to expect when I arrived at Brandeis. I chose it because it was a smaller school, I wanted a one-on-one education and their economics program is highly respected.
During orientation, you spend nearly all your time on campus with your orientation group, and the people in my group were not the kind of people I would hang out with, which caused me to think there weren’t going to be people like me at Brandeis.
But I was completely wrong.
There are so many new people here, and I already have a group of friends that I hang out with. The school is super diverse – three of my best friends are from foreign countries (Ghana, China, and India).
Q: Brandeis was founded for Jewish students who couldn’t get into the Ivy League schools because of their religion. Is the Jewish atmosphere evident in the school? Do you ever feel out of place because you aren’t Jewish?
A: I had Thursday and Friday off this week because of Rosh Hashanah. That was pretty sweet. There were special services on campus all day long.
Also, there are Shabbat services every Friday, and a lot of students go to them.
All the buildings on campus are named after Jewish donors who give to the school, too, and because Shapiro is a really common Jewish name, there are about six buildings named Shapiro, which can be very confusing.
Still, you really don’t have to be a part of the Jewish culture on campus if you don’t want to; it doesn’t dominate the social atmosphere.
You can find people who have strong opinions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, who participate in Shabbat, or in Rosh Hashanah – and you can find people who don’t even know what those things are.
Q: I’ve heard Brandeis has some traditions during their orientation, like gathering underneath the Light of Reason sculpture in front of Rose Art Museum for a vigil called “Light up the Night.” What was that like?
A: Basically, all the new students go to the Rose (Art) Museum, and beforehand, everybody is given one of these little candlelights that you can flick on.
At the museum, three orientation leaders talked about the lights symbolizing justice. Brandeis is really big social justice school, and one of our mottos is that there will always be a light of justice.
After the speeches, we all (raised) our candles.
The funny thing was, though, that all the candles were flickering, and I was thinking, “This might cause someone to have a seizure.”
I found out a day later that someone actually collapsed that night because they were epileptic, which was unfortunate.
Q: Are there any other campus traditions?
A: I don’t know whether this is an official tradition or not, but during one of our orientation events, our dean of students made a speech in the theater, and after he talked about school for a bit, he started rapping.
Another interesting part of orientation was that all the freshmen and a few teachers had to read “Citizen: An American Lyric” by Claudia Rankine over the summer. (It’s about Rankine’s) experiences with racism throughout her life.
It was a really powerful book.
We talked about it during an assembly, and (Rankine) actually visited us and discussed how she wrote the book and how hard it was for her to write about her experiences. It was very emotional and interesting.
Q: Have you participated in clubs or extracurriculars?
A: Last year, Brandeis was ranked sixth in the nation for their speech and debate team, and one of our teams was second in the nation, but there are no cuts, so everyone can join.
It’s one of the best programs at our school and a great opportunity to improve my speaking and improvising skills. You have to come up with responses for difficult questions in seconds.
This weekend, I went to my first competition at Brown University. It was all first-years (freshmen), and, historically, the first-years don’t fare well against other teams because all the other schools train their members more and select the best freshmen.
I forgot a few things during my first competition, so I didn’t win, but I did well in the second round, when we went against Brown.
The Brown team told me I did really well for someone with no experience whatsoever.
My speaker score was 26 out of 36, and an average varsity score is 25.
Still, I’m not sure if I want to fully commit myself to it because the team travels a lot.
I also joined the ultimate Frisbee team. It’s a club sport with no varsity team, but we have an A team which travels and a B team which doesn’t.
I had no experience with ultimate Frisbee besides playing it in PE in middle school, but it’s very similar to football. You get to play man-to-man defense, which I like.
Right now, though, I’m just learning how to properly throw the frisbee.
I play intramural soccer, too, which is fun because a lot of my freshman friends play it and because we are undefeated as of right now.
There are a lot of soccer teams at Brandeis: last week, there was a hamster-ball soccer tournament! Niche sports like that are popular; we also have a Quidditch team and a Battleship team.
I also volunteer at the local YMCA for an hour every week. I play with the little kids.
Q: You were a print editor-in-chief of the Octagon last year. Are you working on the Brandeis newspaper?
A: I did not join (either) of the two school newspapers. I looked into joining (the) first one, which is affiliated with the school and has been around since 1954.
I talked to the sports editor about writing about school sports, and he said it would only take me 30 minutes every week, and I didn’t have to go to any games that are at Brandeis.
It just seemed like a very low-effort newspaper, especially because they had a much bigger staff than the other school newspaper. It didn’t seem like genuine newswriting at all.
Also, I’m not even sure if I even enjoy newswriting at all now that I’m not on Octagon; back then, I just enjoyed the people on staff and (Octagon adviser Patricia) Fels.
I also went to the second newspaper, which was independent from the school and founded in 2003, and my issue with that paper (and also with the first one) was that the layouts were plain ugly.
I’m not a design person, and I could have done better. If I joined the newspaper, I would be one of the best page editors on staff, and then there would be no way I could half-ass joining it. I’d have to put in a lot of work.
Plus, the stories they were running weren’t very interesting, and their sports stories were not professional. Most of their staff was composed of seniors, and I didn’t want to be in the position where next year I’d have to do a ton of work because everyone would be gone.
Q: What is your housing like?
A: I am part of one of two Leader-Scholar communities (one focuses on media and politics, the other on sustainability).
Part of this community is a required two-credit course. (The students that are part of the community) meet once a week for an hour and 20 minutes, and we discuss political events or listen to lectures and complete a project during the second semester to demonstrate what we learned through the program.
For example, last week a computer science professor talked to us about the effect of social media on polarization.
Everyone on my floor is part of the community.
I am in an elongated double, which means my room is a few feet bigger than a regular double. Plus, because I’m part of the Leader-Scholar community, my dorm is relatively new.
I’m happy with my dorm, especially because due to the high amount of freshmen at Brandeis, many people have been forced to share double rooms with two other people.
My roommate is from San Francisco. We get along pretty well, because we’re both big soccer fans and he’s pretty neat.
Q: What are your favorite and least favorite classes?
A: I am taking Intro to Macroeconomics, Intro to Japanese (and) Intro to Philosophy. I’m also taking University Writing Seminar (UWS) Post-World War II Advertising, because UWS courses are a requirement.
I like my Intro to Macroeconomics class a lot. There are 80 people in the class. I think it’s very interesting, even though my professor makes these jokes that aren’t very good, and everyone just has to pity-laugh at him.
However, he is pretty good at explaining the material and easy to talk to.
I took (AP) Microeconomics last year with Mr. (Chris) Millsback, and I like Macroeconomics a lot more because it deals with how entire countries in the world run, whereas Microeconomics is just about individual decisions.
Right now, we are learning about GDP and unemployment.
My Intro to Japanese class is also super fun. I have it four days a week for 50 minutes, and there are about 20 people in the class.
My professor is this small lady from Japan, and she has a very high energy and laughs all the time. She interacts with everyone and makes the class a blast.
I took my Intro to Philosophy class because I thought philosophy would be very interesting to learn about and because there are only three essays in the whole semester, no tests, and no finals or midterms. There are 150 students in the class.
I never took the Philosophy (elective at Country Day) because it seemed like it was a lot of work that I didn’t need, so it’s my first time learning about the subject.
The first five or six lectures were very boring, though. My professor was covering the material so slowly.
It’s an hour-and-20-minute long class from 2-3:20 p.m., which is nap time. Every time I look around, I see people falling asleep.
I think this might have been because people are dropping the class or entering it all the time and he’s just trying to get everyone caught up in the material, but it’s super boring and I wasn’t learning anything at all.
This past week, though, we talked about the existence of God and stuff that actually makes you think. I finally got my first assignment for the class as well. It looks like the class is about to pick up, though, so hopefully it continues like that.
Q: Is it easy to travel from campus to Boston or other cities nearby?
A: There is a train station on campus that runs 24/7. It takes about 20 minutes to arrive at the north side of Boston. Thursday through Sunday, there is also a free shuttle that goes to Cambridge and then Boston.
It actually takes you directly to Fenway Park, where the Red Sox play. I saw a Red Sox game with Micaela Bennett-Smith, ‘15, two weeks ago, which was pretty cool because I’m a huge Red Sox fan.
Q: I’ve heard that Alexa Mathisen, ’17, came with the Wellesley volleyball team when Wellesley played Brandeis. Did you see Alexa play?
A: I did go to see Alexa!
They didn’t play her, though, because she was a freshman, so she just sat on the bench. I waved at her.
I left the game pretty early because it was a Friday night and there were Shabbat services going on, so I didn’t stay after to talk to her.
Brandeis doesn’t care about sports very much in general, and that, combined with Shabbat, meant there was no one in the arena from our school, and Alexa wasn’t playing, so it was pretty boring to watch.
Q: Have you attended any other games?
A: No. Soccer games are pretty popular, especially our girls’ teams because they rank very highly in the DIII finals, but there’s not a lot of school pride for athletics, and very few people attend games overall. It’s kind of sad.
Q: What is your advice for the class of 2018?
A: When people are looking at schools, if they’re aiming very high, they should lower their expectations a little and consider schools that would still be a good fit for them but less selective than their dream schools.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t go to a prestigious school, but you should really consider less selective schools and money a lot more. College is expensive. Apply to some colleges that will give you scholarship money.
In most cases, unless you’re majoring in business, the ranking of your school doesn’t really matter. For people who are interested in attending a specialized graduate school program, like pre-med or pre-law, your graduate school will matter more than your undergraduate school. Spend your money on that.
You’ll most likely be happy wherever you end up. The place you go is what you make of it.
Five-star or subpar?
—By Héloïse Schep