A Mentor in the Classroom and on the Playing Field

I came to Swarthmore because of the community. Generally, when I hear that a school is a “close-knit community,” I am inclined to ask what that attribute actually means. It’s a term you often hear during the college search process, but its meaning is vague and hard to explain. What actually makes Swarthmore’s student experience “close-knit” and focused on “community?”

Having reflected on my own college search and choice, I now can look back and better define what a close-knit environment actually looks like. Thankfully, that’s exactly what students get at Swarthmore College.

Perhaps the best way I can put the unique and community-focused environment at Swarthmore into words is by describing one of many relationships that I have been fortunate to form here – the one with my advisor and professor, Syon Bhanot from the Economics Department. My interactions with him offer a glimpse into what the close-knit nature of the Swarthmore community actually looks like.

In relating this back to you all as prospective students, I hope I can give you a sense of what you can expect as a member of our community at Swarthmore.

A former teammate of mine on the golf team first introduced me to Professor Bhanot. He spoke very highly of him as a mentor and professor. Also, his shared interest in golf sealed the deal when deciding on an advisor for all things related to Swarthmore life. From class selection, to navigating campus resources and asking general questions, Professor Bhanot was an excellent fit!

This semester, I have two classes with Professor Bhanot. Though each is distinct in style and content, they have allowed me to hone in on my interest in behavioral economics (his primary area of research). The first course, Introduction to Economics, meets three times per week and covers the typical content covered in an introductory economics course; however, Professor Bhanot also incorporates pragmatic and cross-disciplinary content. Through the course, I have been able to connect the course material to other fields like political science, sociocultural studies, and psychology, which has given me a broader perspective on social science. Not to mention, with only 18 other students in the classroom, the small class size makes it very convenient to engage with my peers and with the professor.

In addition to this class, I am also in another Economics class with Professor Bhanot called Behavioral Public Policy in the City, which takes place in Philadelphia and is part of the Tri-Co Philly program. The class is an immersive engaged scholarship course in which 11 students from Swarthmore and Haverford colleges come together for a joint class once a week in Philadelphia. This class provides us as students with a chance to study the fundamentals of behavioral economics in the context of public policy in Philadelphia. A centerpiece of the class is working with a partner in local government to apply the skills we learn in class to pragmatic civic projects, with students assisting city officials on litter issues, legal services for the poor, and financial empowerment. In that sense, the class is unique in being highly applied to the real world, and in its focus on the problems and possibilities inherent in America’s large cities.

In office hours with Professor Bhanot before our Tri-Co Philly class, Behavioral Public Policy in the City. Here we are discussing Professor Bhanot’s recent publication in the New England Journal of Medicine, focusing on using behavioral science to bolster TB medication adherence in Nairobi, Kenya!

However, what makes my interaction with Professor Bhanot truly unique is that it continues beyond the classroom. Specifically, after seeing him four days a week in class and in office hours, Professor Bhanot and I usually end up playing golf weekly in the new indoor golf simulator on campus. As our team practice sometimes overlaps with when he stops by to work on his own game, I often get to enjoy a little casual interaction with him, or a little friendly competition in the form of a putting contest or a long drive challenge!

Playing golf with Professor Bhanot keeps us on our toes during the off-season!

Taken together, my interactions with Professor Bhanot are the exact ones that I sought in a college environment when looking for schools – I wanted an experience that went beyond the classroom and involved truly getting to know my professors and mentors in personal ways. And my experience with Professor Bhanot is only one of many similar ones that students have with faculty and staff all over campus, every day. I could not be happier to have had the chance to develop this bond with my professor and mentor, and is one of the many valuable relationships I have formed here at Swarthmore.