On Mar. 1, Class Dean of Sophomore Students and Programs Sean Smith, along with Paige Larose `25, hosted an event called “Finding My People” with the intent of creating a space where students from every corner of campus could come together, hang out, and play some games. Specifically, Smith wanted to create a space for student-athletes and general-education students to intermingle.
“The premise behind [‘Finding My People’] is… we want our students here at Colby to [have] the experience of finding [their] people, just connecting. Everyone wants that sense of belonging,” Smith said. “I noticed there is some sort of divide amongst the Colby community. There seem to be student-athletes and then your general-education students, and for some reason, the gen-ed students don’t seem to feel as though they’re getting the same collegiate experience as the student-athletes who, for whatever reason, have a bit more social currency.”
The event was held in the Robinson Room in Roberts Hall. Smith provided the students with games such as Jenga, Connect-Four, and dominos to function as ice-breakers in addition to snacks and pizza. As people filed in, Smith and Larose introduced themselves, and students drifted towards the Jenga and Connect-Four tables.
“[Dean Smith] expressed to me how a lot of students are feeling… it’s sometimes hard to find people here that you have similarities with, and I just could really sympathize with that,” Larose said. “Especially coming off from being on a sports team and having such a tight-knit group of people, I definitely felt a little alone until I started trying to reach out and find friends.”
Larose has had both the experiences of being assimilated into athlete culture and attempting to re-assimilate into the non-athletic social scene at the College.
“I definitely assimilated quite quickly to the team just because right off the bat we were doing team activities… I feel like it definitely made it harder for when I wasn’t on the team because I realized how much time and effort I really spent in the athletic bubble,” she said.
Similar to many other student-athletes, Larose was not able to socially connect with general-education students while on a varsity sports team because of the time commitment her team required. She spent a few hours every day working out with the same group of people, and on the weekends, would go to events held by her teammates along with other sports teams. Because of that, she had difficulty navigating the non-athletic social environment once she left her team.
“I definitely did not assimilate to the transition, I felt like I was just dropped into Colby again… I definitely admit that the beginning was kind of tough. I did struggle, just trying to manage my free time while not having a tight-knit group anymore, because that group was also busy in season and stuff, so I really did have to branch out,” Larose said.
Because of the “tight-knit” groups of people inherently formed by athletic teams and the lack of time to cultivate relationships outside the “athletic bubble,” many social events at the College end up being sports–centric.
“As a former student-athlete myself, I feel like there is a certain level of social currency that you have, or a built-in sorority or fraternity that you may organically develop when you are a member of the hockey team, or the softball team, or the football or basketball team, it just happens,” Smith said.
Despite having experienced these dynamics, Smith also spoke about how there were many opportunities at his college for students of different backgrounds involved in different circles on campus to come together over the enjoyment of a game.
“There are games set up here, like Uno, cards, Jenga, checkers, dominos… healthy things that college students should do or like, from my experience that we used to do in our dorms it wasn’t exclusive to a certain member of whatever community, it was just if you like to play this game and I like to play this game, let’s have at it. I think that’s what it should be,” Smith said.
The feeling of not fitting into the social scene at the College is a sentiment shared by many non–athletes and athletes alike. Some students who are in the “athletic bubble” with a built-in community feel pressured to participate in drinking and hook-up culture because those events function as team-bonding practices. Smith and Larose hope that events like “Finding My People” will help students build a community that transcends the athlete–non-athlete divide based on shared hobbies or passions.
“An idea I was thinking of was to try to get students and athletes [to play] pickup sports games or something during the off-season,” Larose suggested.
Smith plans to continue hosting “Finding My People” events to begin to cultivate a socially equitable community at the College. If you share Larose’s and other students’ sentiments about social isolation at the College, contact Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.
~ Mahika Gupta `23