Laura Rivera '16

Laura Rivera ’16 reflects on Hamilton’s need-blind policy that enabled her to explore the open curriculum and pursue her academic passions.

Hamilton’s need-blind promise is one of the many factors that encouraged me to attend the College. And, Hamilton invests in its students holistically.  The financial aid team at Hamilton works hard to ensure that all students’ needs are covered. That is because our needs extend beyond tuition, room, and board. 

The financial aid team, with SEAS (Student Emergency Aid Society) and other resources, help create financial equity, which encourages a sense of belonging among students.

As a low-income student from the South Bronx, I applied to college with the idea of being a STEM major in hopes of earning discipline-specific scholarships (e.g. biomedical engineering). Although this method works for some students, this would not have been ideal in my specific circumstance. Like many, I needed the opportunity to explore and grow and to be challenged.                                                                                               

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I changed my major plenty of times, reflecting almost every subject offered in the Taylor Science Center. With the help of my academic advisors, I ended up graduating with a major in neuroscience with a fairly extensive minor in studio art. Hamilton’s commitment to financial aid empowered me to pursue my academic passion via the open curriculum.

While working on my senior thesis, I shared my desire to pursue a career in research to my academic advisor, (Associate Professor of Psychology) Alexandra List, who helped me draft a plan to enter graduate school. Professor List supported me and made huge contributions to my academic development when I became a neuroscience major.

After a two-year stint managing a research lab at Colgate University, I am now the lab manager for the Prejudice and Intergroup Relations Lab (PIRL) at University of Wisconsin (UW) – Madison. I would not have been able to land these coveted positions without her guidance and Hamilton’s financial aid. The opportunity to try out different areas of study without the fear of losing a scholarship allowed me to push myself out of my comfort zone and to really figure out my true interests.

Students do more than just study at Hamilton; here, we experience a variety of other opportunities that allow us to truly know thyself. Whether this discovery happens academically, socially, or via one’s identity, it happens.

My current research allows me to consider the social, structural, and institutional hierarchies related to prejudice. I recognize how the generosity of Hamilton alumni allows for more socioeconomic diversity within the student body. By supporting students holistically, not only do we enhance social mobility for students like myself, we also provide students with an opportunity to interact and engage with folks from different backgrounds, thus expanding everyone’s perspectives.

After UW, I plan to attend graduate school, earn my Ph.D. in social psychology, and hopefully return to Hamilton (or a similar institution) as a professor myself. 

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