The essays in the series “Why Davidson, Sociologically Speaking” represent submissions from students in Dr. Joseph Ewoodzie’s Sociology 101 course this fall, all in response to the above question.

By: Alinés Lebrón-Torres ’24 (she/her)

Photo courtesy of Alinés Lebrón-Torres

My mother always told me that life has a funny way of taking you to the places where you’ll always end up going. It is interesting to come back to that because, out of the 21 colleges I applied to, I ended up attending the option I was least interested in. Even though I couldn’t physically visit the campus or interact with the student body, exhausting research increased my school interest. I accepted Davidson College’s offer of admission because of their economic incentives and inclusive spaces, although these reasons were rooted in the fear our historical context placed on me. For the past few years, many highly selective institutions have opened their doors to students from all kinds of backgrounds, which in turn leads to the rising number of applications. Universities find value in investing in underrepresented students because their varying perspectives may shed light on solutions to the world’s most pressing problems, raising its reputation. This change of values from exclusivity to the white male population to inclusivity to the entire minority spectrum intrigued me enough to consider applying to schools outside of my mainland, Puerto Rico. Nevertheless, the exorbitant price of getting a degree in the United States seemed like a great bedtime story compared to $4,178 of tuition at the University of Puerto Rico- Rio Piedras. Highly selective universities created different programs that gave 100 percent of students’ demonstrated need, such as The Davidson Trust. Hence, the reason why I applied to 21 highly selective schools. Their economic incentives became my primary factor in selecting the college of my choice to avoid being another number in the Student Debt Crisis.

We take the bigger picture of the historical scene to better understand its meaning in our individual lives and how it influences our decisions¹. As a result, the student loan crisis’s historical context became a driving factor in my decision to attend Davidson College as I wanted to enjoy a higher education without the constant anxiety of having to pay a loan. As of 2020, the total amount of U.S borrowers with student loan debt is 44.7 million, and they all owe 41.6 trillion dollars³. The student loan crisis ingrained a vision of me struggling with ten different jobs trying to pay off $40K debt. It scared me to be more economically responsible for my education. Coming from the lower-middle class, I learned how to appreciate the value of money and obtain goods for the limited amount that my family has. My economic status dictated the kinds of resources I had available such as education, food, health, extracurricular activities, etc. Considerably so, they were not as good as my wealthy peers from the high school I graduated from. Even the way they viewed their finances was drastically different. While $20 for me was worth gold, for them, $20 is the same as $1. Hence, $75K for an average cost of attendance in an American university seemed far-fetched to me. However, I still wanted to get a degree from a recognized university to lead me towards a career that will help me become financially comfortable and help my family get out of their economic troubles. I wanted to break out of the generational determinism of eventually conforming to my socioeconomic status, and seeking a higher education seemed like a solution for it. But, before I discovered about highly selective colleges and their financial aid programs, it seemed to me like my economic status set out the education I was going to receive, which was at the University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras. Still, my economic status laid down the path towards Davidson College since it was my most affordable choice. Despite it being cost-effective, the diversity it supported was another great reason that sealed the deal for me.

Davidson College was founded by Presbyterians in 1837 and was an all-white male college until it admitted its first African American student 127 years later. It’s only been 48 years since women have been admitted to Davidson College. This massive gap in minority and gender inclusion demonstrates the overall white superiority that moves around the racism that rids the United States. In Puerto Rico, racism is a lot more subtle because it doesn’t show up in acts of violence, but in humor and slight commentary. In the United States, minorities are visibly dehumanized and brutally murdered. The mortality rate for African American males due to homicide at ages 20 to 24 is 9.3 times greater than that of European descent Americans⁴. As a person of color, I was hesitant to leave my country to attend college in the United States, as I knew that I would be subjected to discrimination somehow. However, I had seen the long way that Davidson College had come in progressing towards the inclusion of underrepresented students. The school had implemented diversity in its curriculum, student organizations that promoted minorities, and programmatic resources that help create a safe space for everyone. However, after talking to a Latinx Davidson student group, they told me they only experienced a few microaggressions. I then decided that I could deal with low-scale discrimination if that was the price to pay for my career development. Having diversity and the incredible financial aid in mind, I decided to spend the next four years at Davidson College.

My long-life dream was to be the first member of my family to pursue higher education in the United States. However, with the horror stories coming from the student debt crisis and my socioeconomic status limiting me, attending a university outside of Puerto Rico stayed a mere dream. Davidson College’s shift towards accepting and retaining students from all kinds of backgrounds made it possible for me to attend because of its affordability and minorities’ inclusion. Even so, prejudice will always attempt to scare away minorities from reaching their full potential. As of 2015, only 2 percent of Hispanic women hold STEM jobs². This figure is incredibly intimidating, but that is because women have been taught to cower away from male-dominated spaces. However, I intend to challenge, or as Mills says, threatening, the outdated values that favor the white male American. Even so, I am currently challenging the status quo by working towards social mobility and representation of all underrepresented students. As of 2015, Latinx women are the least likely of all women to earn a college degree⁵. The moment I chose to come to Davidson College, I had already broken the sexist and racist shackles that constrain the Afro-Latinx woman of today’s time.

Alinés Lebrón-Torres ’24 (she/her) is an intended Genomics major. Contact her at allebron@davidson.edu.

¹Mills, C. Wright. The Sociological Imagination. Oxford University Press, 1959.

²National Science Foundation. Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering. 2017.

³Friedman, Zack. Student Loan Debt Statistics In 2020: A Record $1.6 Trillion. Forbes, https://www.forbes.com/sites/zackfriedman/2020/02/03/student-loan-debt-statistics/#6beecb0e281f.

⁴Graves, Joseph. L. “Why the Nonexistence of Biological Races Does Not Mean the Nonexistence of Racism” Sage Journals, 2015, https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0002764215588810.

⁵Gandara, Patricia, et al. Fulfilling America’s Future: Latinas in the U.S., 2015, https://sites.ed.gov/hispanic-initiative/files/2015/09/Fulfilling-Americas-Future-Latinas-n-the-U.S.-2015-Final-Report.pdf.