The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Lalitha is an Atlanta tutor and 2014 graduate of Dalton State College. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in English and tutors several subjects, including Middle School Math tutoring, Reading tutoring, and Writing tutoring. Check out what Lalitha had to say about her time at Dalton State College:
VT: Describe the campus setting and transportation options. How urban or rural is the campus? Did you feel safe on campus? Are there buses or do you need a car/bike?
Lalitha: Dalton State College, situated off the highway in Dalton, Georgia, is very much a commuter college. Many people, including teachers, come from as far as Atlanta and Tennessee. The campus itself is small – it is easy to walk from one side to the other. Sometimes, when all the parking spaces are filled, students park at the Georgia Convention Center and are taken to campus via a shuttle service. Dalton is a rural area; the campus has a stream flowing through it, as well as a hiking trail. I felt very safe on campus. Only once did I hear of an incident of someone being attacked on campus. Since many of the students are older, have children, and have full-time jobs, it is a very different environment from larger colleges where most students are more interested in partying than studying.
VT: How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants?
Lalitha: Because Dalton State College is small, I got to know most of the teachers and staff. It almost felt like a second family because the professors knew me and what I was capable of. Teachers could tell when I was having a bad day, and since they knew I wanted to go to graduate school, they challenged me to do my best academically. Even though Dalton State College is small, the teachers are some of the best in the country. For example, Christy Price, one of our Psychology teachers, received a national teaching award. She also attends international conferences. I felt like the teachers really wanted to be there, and it showed in the way they taught. The lectures were very insightful, and I finished each class feeling that I had become a better person for taking it. The coursework was also very challenging. We had to write long papers that were graded for content, format, and grammar, and we also had in-depth class discussions. We all spent many hours studying for tests. However, because the teachers challenged me, I now feel adequately prepared for graduate school.
The advisers were also extremely helpful. As an immigrant, I had so many questions about attending college, and I did not know whether it would even be possible for me. However, I had heard good things about Dalton State College. When I went there for the first time, I was greeted by Matthew Queener (who is no longer there), who showed me and my family around campus, explained the admissions process, and was even able to provide me with financial aid in order to attend. I never felt like I was being treated like a number – the Dalton State College staff always saw me as an individual and did their best to help me. Dr. Angela Harris and Victoria Summers, who both help international students, went above and beyond their duties to help me stay in school and manage my visa papers.
VT: How would you describe the dorm life – rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?
Lalitha: Dalton State College acquired apartment buildings next to their campus and turned them into dorm rooms – they look much more comfortable and beautiful than dorm rooms on traditional campuses with their sterile interior and high, hard beds. I never stayed in the dorms because I continued living with my parents and commuted to campus twice a week. On those days, I would pack my own lunch and snacks (and sometimes dinner when I had really late classes). As a vegan, there were no options for me in the cafeteria (not counting Fritos, unripe bananas, and over-priced fruit cups).
Since I commuted to school and scheduled all my classes, I did not really get a chance to explore the area. My husband and I went to downtown Dalton once, and there were some interesting sights, but many businesses have closed down and there is not much to do. Most of the students who reside in Dalton go to Chattanooga to hang out. I did most of my socialization with students on campus. I met my friends in class, randomly on campus, or through student clubs and events.
VT: Which majors/programs are best represented and supported? What did you study and why? Did the university do a good job supporting your particular area of study?
Lalitha: At the moment, I think Nursing, Biology, and Business are the best supported majors, judging by the amount of scholarships people in those majors receive, as well as the opportunities available to them to go to conferences. Dalton State College also recently started offering a four-year degree in Psychology, which is very exciting, since the students who wanted to study Psychology always had to transfer after completing their Associate degree.
I started out studying Sociology. I fell in love with it because it uses many different fields and perspectives to form an overall idea of why society is the way it is. It is empowering because it not only identifies social problems, but also offers insight into what caused them and consequently into how we can work together to fix these problems. Unfortunately, Dalton State College only offered an Associate degree in Sociology, and I could not afford to transfer, so I changed my major to English. However, my Sociology professor, Dr. Hassan El-Najjar, was very supportive of my studies and presented me with an academic award in Sociology. I still aspire to continue my Sociology studies in graduate school.
I decided to major in English for a variety of reasons. I love reading and discussing literature, and literature also offers social insights. English teaches effective communication and critical thinking (two very important skills to have), and English offers a wide variety of opportunities after college. With an English degree, I could teach overseas or enter any non-specialized field. Dalton State College’s English department is filled with wonderful and passionate professors, and even though English was not my first choice, I truly enjoyed my studies. I think the English program can be supported better by the college. English majors do not receive as many scholarships as science majors, and they do not have as many opportunities to present their papers at conferences. Sometimes the professors are expected to teach too many classes – I think they deserve more recognition for their hard work and dedication.
VT: How easy or difficult was it for you to meet people and make friends as a freshman? Does Greek life play a significant role in the campus social life?
Lalitha: Since Dalton State College is a commuter college, it is a bit more challenging to make friends because you cannot easily meet with them outside of college. It took me a bit longer to find lasting friendships, and I found most of my friends later in my college career after having had a few classes with the same people. However, the people who attend Dalton State College are very friendly and tolerant of people who come from different cultures and who hold different beliefs.
Greek life only recently developed, so I did not get an opportunity to partake in it. I was accepted into the Phi Theta Kappa honor society, but after paying my fee, I never heard from them again.
VT: How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services? Do many reputable companies recruit on campus?
Lalitha: I never made use of the Career Center since I attended Dalton State College on a student visa and was not allowed to work off-campus. I recently registered on their website as an alumna looking for full-time work, so I have yet to see whether those services are helpful or not. They do have career fairs, and I assume those are helpful.
In general, the other student support services are excellent. In particular, Academic Resources helps students with disabilities and academic performance struggles. I worked for them as a tutor, and I saw firsthand how many students received support that made a difference.
VT: How are the various study areas such as libraries, the student union, and dorm lounges? Are they over-crowded, easily available, spacious?
Lalitha: The study areas are generally quiet and comfortable. There were many days when I took a nap on one of the long, blue couches in the student center or on a particularly cushioned couch in the library. However, the student center can sometimes get crowded, especially during lunch time. Sometimes the study rooms in the library are all occupied (and mostly by single persons, even though the rule requires there to be more than one person in a room). Regardless of these complaints, there is always somewhere to study. If the library and student center do not work, going to the writing lab is always a good idea. Not many people think to go there, but it is quiet, has computers available, and there are friendly staff (and sometimes faculty) members willing to help you with your papers.
VT: Describe the surrounding town. What kinds of outside establishments / things to do are there that make it fun, boring, or somewhere in between? To what extent do students go to the downtown area of the city versus staying near campus?
Lalitha: I mostly stayed on campus since my days were packed with classes. Dalton is a small town, and there is not much to do there. I drove around there a few times and my husband and I went to a restaurant there once, but it was nothing exciting. The fun place to go is Chattanooga, Tennessee – about a 45-minute drive from Dalton. Since many of the other students commute as well, they mostly stay on campus and go home to their respective towns.
VT: How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes?
Lalitha: The student body is relatively small. For example, on graduation day, even those who earned certificates get to walk on stage individually. I was very pleased with the class size. My largest class may have had 35 students, and my smallest class had four students – including myself! Because the classes were so small, the teachers could really connect with students on an individual level, and we had some great class discussions where every person’s input was valued.
VT: Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most.
Lalitha: One semester, I decided to take a class called “Violence and the Media.” I was an English major at the time, and this was a Criminal Justice elective class – I thought it might be helpful as an English major to study the portrayal of a certain topic (in this case, violence) in the media. I also knew the professor who was going to be teaching the class, since I had had an introductory Criminal Justice class with him.
On the first day, all the students arrive in class with their textbooks out, ready to start the lesson. But instead of Dr. Wright, in walks a female professor with high heels, blonde hair, and a Texan accent. She informed us that the schedule had been changed, that the class is now called “Violence and Homicide,” and that it would be taught by her.
We were all shocked and dismayed, since we had already purchased our textbooks. And instead of studying the media, we would be studying the criminal mind. We would be looking at why people kill and famous cases involving killers. Moreover, this was a brand new teacher who nobody was familiar with.
However, this class ended up being one of the most interesting, insightful classes I took at Dalton State College. It was something I would never have chosen, but something I am glad I ended up taking. Dr. Johnson became a role-model to me: she is a strong, intelligent woman who challenges her students. Nothing prepared me for senior seminar quite like the 17-page research paper she assigned for that class. And I realized that Criminal Justice is an immensely interesting field of study. Dr. Johnson even invited a real homicide detective to show us one of his cases. She also taught us about domestic violence and gave us a wonderful article that deconstructs the question, “Why doesn’t she just leave?” She introduced us to many different theories as to why people commit violence, most notably general strain theory, which she studied extensively. It inspired many of my English papers, and the knowledge I gained in this class has broadened my understanding of Sociology.
It just goes to show that sometimes life takes an unexpected turn, but it turns out to be a good thing.
Check out Lalitha’s tutoring profile.
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.