A peek into the lives of those who learn, teach, research and work at the College.
March 7, 2014 by Katie LeCornu
When I was in high school (and up to this point in college) all my school work had been rather lonely. In high school, group projects were only in class. In college a group meets just to delegate work for the individual members to do at home, and then meets up again to fit everything together. Most work is done silently and alone. The flow of knowledge is from teacher to student, and rarely do other students get involved in that relationship.
For most people, that works. I always thought it worked for me; it’s how I’ve been learning for the past 19 years. But this semester I started participating in more activities in the business school, and I found a totally new way of learning that makes more sense to me than anything before.
In late January, I participated in a conference called 3 Day Start-up, where teams literally build a company in 3 days. We started Friday night with everyone throwing around ideas for start-ups. New businesses do not need to be unique or revolutionary – you just need to do whatever it is better than anyone else. The 3DS participants with the best ideas pitched to the group, and we voted on 3 of our favorite ideas to execute during the weekend. We then split into groups and got to work. I ended up on a team that was trying to design a new hotel management system in which customers could check in on iPads and bypass the long check-in process. The traditional system costs about $30,000; we would sell ours for $4,000. Hotel clerks and clients would both have less hassle.
The guys who proposed this idea had been working on it for a while and already had a prototype set up. The team split into a group who worked on coding the system and a group who worked on marketing and business pitches. I was on the business side. My team spent Saturday doing market research – actually going from hotel to hotel to ask clerks what they thought about the product and what kind of suggestions they had for us. Learning about our market opened our eyes to a lot of nuances we would have never known about. Great Wolf Lodge, for example, we thought would love the idea because they get so busy at certain times. However, since they value customer interaction, they weren’t as enthusiastic about it as we thought. Other hotels, like the Hilton, thought it would be great during peak seasons or for business people who would rather avoid interaction.
On Sunday we worked on pitching the idea to investors and fitting the last pieces together. Watching everything come together was amazing! The prototype that the coders were working on all weekend looked like a professional app on an iPad. The business team had all the details of the pitch worked out. It was absolutely flawless, and I was so proud of the team.
The second instance of true teamwork happened for my Social Entrepreneurship class. The big project for the class is creating our own social venture in groups of 4. This is essentially like the 3 Day Start-up, except the start-ups are non-profits that help alleviate some sort of social problem. My group of four met up on a snowy night to figure out what in the world we were going to do for this project. What big social problem were we going to attempt to solve? We sat around pitching ideas, until someone said something that clicked for all of us: a website that crowd-sources local suggestions to fix local problems. We figured the best people to solve social problems are the ones actually there witnessing them.
With a big whiteboard and a rush of inspiration, we hashed out the business plan right there, challenging each others ideas and encouraging innovation. It was here that I had what I would call my first “flow” moment.
“Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does.”
I felt invigorated and unstoppable, and this, I realized, is why I’m a business major. I learn from my peers, not myself. Sure, studying for an economics test is rewarding and challenging, but my own efforts are not nearly as spectacular as the ending product through teamwork. Both these experiences showed me that the combined knowledge of multiple people who are committed to a goal is far more powerful than the singular knowledge of one person. A team is the convergence of multiple experiences, viewpoints, and educations. A well-functioning team can increase productivity exponentially.
I just got my acceptance letter to the business school a few weeks ago, and I’m already ecstatic by the possibilities ahead. In the first semester, called “the block”, administration puts together groups of 4 or 5 students that take all classes together and work on homework and projects together. I’m so excited to integrate teamwork into my everyday education. For the first time in college, I can really visualize transferring my classroom setting to a work environment. It’s thrilling and satisfying to know the path I’m choosing is leading to a career that I’m going to love.
March 5, 2014 by Erin Spencer
There are three questions every college senior gets asked.
- You’re a senior?! How does it feel?
- Do you know what you’re doing in May?
- What do you want to be when you grow up?
#3 is my personal favorite, because it instigates a sense of inescapable panic while simultaneously making me feel like a six year old. Typically I fire a generic response (“I’d like to pursue a career in marine science blah blah blah”). But Spring Break is here, meaning graduation is closer than I’d like to admit, and I can’t rely on generic responses forever. What do I want to be when I grow up?
The last time I knew exactly what I wanted to be, I was 8 years old. I wanted to be a country music star. I grew up listening to greats like Martina McBride, Jo Dee Messina, Sara Evans, and Reba McEntire (let me clarify: this was pre-Taylor Swift), and I was convinced I would get discovered, move to Nashville, and pursue a lifelong career in country music. My friend Katie and I would camp out in my basement, taping “demos” on her sister’s cassette recorder and speculating what we would do once we made it big. The closest I got to Nashville was my 4th grade talent show, where I sang a Dixie Chicks song while decked out in a cowboy hat and boots.
In many ways I envy 8-year-old me. I have never been so certain of my life plan as I was in that basement. But I grew up and my plans changed, especially after I learned it took more than the ability to hold a tune to make it big in the country music business (plus, my parents refused to move from Baltimore to Nashville).
In college, I made a great breakthrough when I decided I wanted to study marine science. Although I’m unsure where my studies will take me, limiting job options to a single discipline is a big feat. I’m fortunate that I’ve been able to experiment with many fields within marine science, and have subsequently narrowed down what I don’t want to do (I loved marine ecology, but marine geology was the absolute bane of my existence). But that still leaves me with a generic answer to question #3.
But I came a little closer to answering the question last week. Over winter break, I decided to apply for a fellowship that would take me abroad for nine months next year. It was up to the applicant to design a proposal—the only restrictions were that the research had to employ a method of digital storytelling and apply to a wide audience. The rest was up to the applicant. Inspired by my work with The Lionfish Project, I chose to study community-based invasive species management on islands.
I worked on the proposal for six weeks. I spent many late nights researching topics, often pushing aside piles of homework I’d have to scramble to make up later. There were even a few nights I chose my research over going out with friends, opting instead to stay huddled at my desk, reviewing research papers and writing hurriedly in my notebook. Piece by piece, my proposal came together. I spent the week before the due date meeting with professors and analyzing every line of my proposal, writing and rewriting until it was perfect. The night before it was due, I was up until almost 5am reviewing every tiny detail (no typos, all margins 1”, 12 pt Times New Roman font, all biographical data correct, etc).
I submitted the document at 11:17 on Friday morning, February 28th. As soon as I clicked the “Submit” button, I was flooded with a mix of pride, panic, and relief. But there was another feeling too.
I hadn’t been so excited about something since I wrote the proposal for The Lionfish Project in 2012. Never once did I mind the research—I looked forward to crafting, writing, and editing the proposal, and I was truly passionate about the topic. As I stared at the submission confirmation screen, I realized it didn’t even matter if I got the grant (although let’s be real, it would be awesome if I did). What mattered was that I had pursued a topic that made me truly happy.
So maybe I haven’t figured out exactly what I want to be when I grow up (although a marine biologist studying invasive species is definitely on the list). But that’s ok. This experience has shown me that no matter what I do, I want to be so passionate about it that it keeps me up at night. That might be a stretch, but maybe not. I have the rest of my life to find exactly what it is that makes me that excited.
For now, at least I know how to answer Question #3.
When I grow up, I want to be happy.
March 5, 2014 by Drew Stelljes
Last week I was asked to speak to the new members of social fraternities at W&M. It was an honor I took seriously. I wrote the following speech and hope it serves as a guide for a few other people as they contemplate their role in community.
There are dozens of lists that declare an array of benefits to being in a fraternity. I bet you’ve read a few, and definitely heard about several over the past few months and maybe years. They include:
- Leadership Opportunities
- Higher GPAs
- Community Service
- Greeks Are More Likely to Graduate
- Career Networking
- More Interaction With Faculty
- Improved Interpersonal Skills
- Built-In Sports Team
- Practice Your Interview Skills
- Some of the Most Successful People Are Greek
These all may have some correlation to Greek life, but it’s a lot harder to determine causality, especially the past 20-30 years or so. As we examine the list more closely, just about every benefit can also be found elsewhere on a college campus: leadership opportunities, service, intramurals, practice interview skills, talk with faculty, good GPA, etc. All of these attributes or accomplishments are completely feasible without membership in a fraternity. Further, the claim to fame about how successful people are Greek, begs the question of correlation or causality. Was it the fraternity that developed your determination to succeed or was it already a part of your DNA? Not sure.
So, as I pick apart supposed benefits, not for the sake of tearing down the system which I think so highly of, but rather to dig into what really sustains Greek life over hundreds of years and the evolution of the college experience, we’ve got to more carefully assess why fraternities continue to thrive on college campuses. Here’s my theory—one person, one brother, one perspective.
You consider rushing for one of a few reasons: (1) a friend encourages you to try it and the fact that someone else wants you to join them, feels good. (2) You want to join because, membership is one of the college must do’s. (3) You’d probably regret it if you didn’t join. So you join and it’s great – for a while. The new car shine wears off though, the chapter isn’t perfect, you notice the faults of individuals and maybe even of the chapter. But, you persist. It’s at this time the evolution from membership to brotherhood starts. You’ve put in some effort and you decide to stick it out. Aha! This is where the brotherhood can take hold. Cause now you’ve made the decision to remain part of the family even though you realize the family isn’t perfect. Every family has an uncle who can’t get it together, an aunt who fails at a lot of stuff, a parent who prioritizes the wrong thing, etc. But, you stick it out, cause you’re family. So you call yourself brother and you see your fellow brothers be good and funny and smart. And—you witness him being an idiot and a fool and drunk . But, he’s your family. So you stick with it.
And then, in your bravest moment, maybe in your entire college career, you stand up for your chapter. You re-read your ritual or your core values, For God and Women, Honor, Loyalty, and you muster up the courage to call out a brother for acting the fool. Or you prod the entire brotherhood toward being better than they are in current form. A non Greek calls out the faults of the system and instead of blowing him off, you fight back because you know, in your heart, while the system isn’t perfect, the process has been good to you. It’s then that you earn that title of lifelong member. It’s then that you really believe—this is for keeps.
For me, being courageous was so tough. I was intimidated by my older peers who were more articulate than I was. They commanded a presence in chapter meetings and they were funnier than me around the house. It took me a while to evolve from guest to brother – in my own head. Really all of my brothers accepted me early on. Took me longer to realize they accepted me!
Anyway, I was moved by our ritual, feeling a sense of spirituality I hadn’t before. I was surprised by the significance our founders placed on deep and quiet reflection. Still, I didn’t really fully come into brotherhood til I stood up for those values. I remember, one evening in 1995 like it was yesterday. I was planning on standing up at the end of meeting when there was open mic, to implore our brotherhood to remain true to values our founders wrote about. I was scared. Shaking. Sweaty palms. Dry mouth. Trembling a bit. I had rehearsed my speech. No one knew a speech was coming. I stood upon getting the ok from the chapter president and I spoke. I told my brothers how I wanted our chapter to be open to diverse opinions and how everyone should have voice, not the chosen few and the charismatic or funny others. I was still so scared, afraid of ridicule. As good as we could be to one another, one false phrase could become your nickname for life. I kept going though. We must be the ritual, live it, and model it. Not merely reciting the words that we hold sacred, but living it through our actions. We wore our letters a lot. We needed to hold them as sacred. Reminders to all not that we belonged to an exclusive club but that the letter stood for something greater than our one self. We’d made a pledge to be honorable, chivalric, and to live with integrity. We vowed to be future focused and to seek elders to help us seek our path. I was so afraid of being ridiculed, but I continued. I told the brothers how much I believed in the chapter and that the long meetings, the disagreements, the debates over who to admit, were worth it, so long as we stayed the course. I concluded with a rally cry of some sort and, as I sat down and slunk in my seat—the brothers applauded. Whew. They do like me, I thought. I was vulnerable, I was brave and they were ok with it. That’s the night I earned brotherhood. The family accepted me.
Now, in a fraternity, one decent speech, made at the right time, can earn you leadership positions! So I accepted a few over the next several years and I learned a ton about myself.
I learned that I most enjoy creating new things. I like to think about the future and how, a new project might make the system better for the next generation. I learned that I liked to hear brothers tell me about themselves one on one and not in large groups. I became better at asking questions and answering questions with some depth as pledges were required to interview every brother. I learned that none of us are perfect, far from it, and it’s ok to see someone in a bad place and then praise him next week for doing something good. I learned forgiveness—slowly and with a few chances to practice. And mostly, I learned to say goodbye to a good friend. In my chapter I grieved for the first time. During my senior my friend and brother Keith was murdered in his apartment. As soon as we all heard we ran – literally to the fraternity house and we hugged, we cried. We hit the walls. And then, some of us prayed. We prayed so loudly on the front porch I bet you could hear us across the street. Well, that’s how it sounded to me in that circle of brotherhood. Brad, our prayer leader that night became an awesome minister. He was doing some vocational discernment on the porch that night. After we prayed, we sat in silence and just like in ritual we went back to deep reflection. We’d never been in this place, but we were not entirely uncomfortable. We’d done this before. Ritual gave us the framework when we would need it most. In time, we healed mostly from Keith’s death. Last month a handful of us completed our fundraising effort for a scholarship in Keith’s honor. So, he’s still with us. His memory remains. He is our brother. And we are family.
So, the top 5’s and 10’s lists about benefits of Greek life, on the surface, sure they are not incorrect, but they don’t distinguish Greek life from college life.
Interaction With Faculty
Improved Interpersonal Skills
Practice Your Interview Skills
You’ll find these on any residential campus these days. So, here’s my top’s list. Brotherhood affords you the chance to:
- Live ritual
- Reflect on what you want in life
- Over time, coming to admire individuals for their unique strengths
- Over time, learning how to support brothers who fall down
- Have a family- a crazy family, but a real family and
- To, in short time, evolve from the kid to the dad to the granddad of the family
- And becoming a brother in a fraternity happens when you become brave, standing up for what the group could become and being accepted for your bravery
I hope you will feel welcomed into the brotherhood. Earn your keep by being brave when your family needs you most.
March 4, 2014 by Admit It!
Admit It! Now that you’ve gotten a taste of what goes on inside of Committee, you want more. We know that those going through the admission process often feel like the whole thing is a toss-up, that the selection process is one shrouded in secrecy. Our goal with the “Overheard in Committee” blog series is to provide some insight, to unshroud the process, to reveal some of its secrets. So for those of you eager for more, here you go.
Overheard in Committee today: “The best thing about this application is the testing.”
We were reviewing an applicant whose SAT and ACT scores (they had taken both exams) were outstanding. The student had a 1520 SAT (Critical Reading + Math) and a 33 ACT composite. However, every other aspect of the application fell a bit flat. The rigor of their coursework felt light, especially given the potential exhibited in their test scores. The student took AP classes but fewer than we’d expect given the school’s offerings, and they had avoided some of the really challenging classes: they had opted to stop Spanish after the third level, they had never taken calculus despite taking pre-calculus in the 10th grade and scoring a 720 on the math portion of the SAT and they weren’t taking any science in their senior year. With a mix of As and Bs they were barely in the top 10% of their class. Their extracurricular activities were okay but lacked distinction. Their recommendations and essays were satisfactory, but nothing above and beyond what we see in most applications we review. In the end, the most and truly only compelling part of their application was their standardized test scores.
Clearly this student has some innate intelligence and academic aptitude as shown in their SAT and ACT results. But that potential wasn’t replicated in other aspects of their application. If it had been, they’d likely have been admitted, easily. As it was, the Committee felt the student should be waitlisted.
We are in the process of building a class. We want students who will contribute to all aspects of life at W&M (both in and out of class). We want students who will challenge their peers, who will impact their classmates and hall mates, who will add perspective and energy to our campus. With so many great students vying for a limited number of spaces, we just didn’t feel this applicant measured up.
There are some students who we admit because their academic merits are truly outstanding. There are other students whose personal qualities compel us to admit them even though their academic merits aren’t quite as strong as others. Then there are those students who are strong in both arenas and we admit some of them too. It’s about bringing together the best of all aspects of our applicants. Yes, great testing is a start. But great testing doesn’t put you on the fast track to admit (likewise subpar testing doesn’t put you on the fast track to deny). Testing, like every other application component, is one part of many. It alone does not make or break an application. We read every application twice and convene Committee so we can craft a class that reflects the best of the best across all academic and personal qualities. In this applicant’s case strong testing but few other compelling qualities got them only so far.
More to come as we continue our deliberations.
Wendy Livingston ’03, M.Ed. ‘09
Associate Dean of Admission
March 4, 2014 by Drew Stelljes
In this blog entry, Kendall Lorenzen, a junior at W&M serves as guest blogger. Below is the script from the speech she gave at the annual Junior Ring Ceremony.
I love everything that the Charter of the College of William & Mary represents. It is our origin story. It is our connection. It is the document that spurred the 321 year long chain of events that have brought us here together today.
It is in a word—astounding. However I will say looking at the 321 year old script of the Charter initially I couldn’t help but be amazed for a slightly different reason. The Charter began so incredibly simple.
Our Charter lays out the foundation for a university with one President, six professors, and one hundred students more or less. I can’t help but wonder what King William and Queen Mary would think after seeing our campus today. What we have today, THIS was not even a dream in 1693. The College had humble beginnings.
This makes me think of our first experiences here at William & Mary. Our first walk through Wren together as a class, our first forced mixer with another hall, our hurrication. I think about the expectations I had as I stood with strangers waiting to get the key to my room in Jefferson—the strangers that I now consider great friends.
I thought all I would be getting from my fours at William & Mary would be an education. But looking back today-I already know I have gotten so much more than that. I came into William & Mary with humble expectations. But being here with you all has taught me so much more than what I could ever have learned in a classroom. Coming into college I knew I could study, but I didn’t think I could really do anything more than that. But here, from you I learned I had the ability to make a difference and to inspire those around me.
Being here has taught me how powerful we all have the potential to be just by being in each others lives. At William & Mary, we have the most incredible people around us. Sitting next to us in lecture, living right down the hall, or even in the very same room. What defines William & Mary is not just the acceptance of the individual, but the celebration of the individual. We have the ability to be phenomenal leaders and WE have inspiration all around us and within us. How many of you have been inspired by someone in this room or here at the College? And how many of you have told them that?
We all have incredible power. If you do not know how inspiring you are or that you have an amazing ability to make positive change, just think about all of the people who didn’t raise their hands. William & Mary has amazing professors, research opportunities, but perhaps the best thing about William & Mary is that it has brought us together so that we can be inspired by one another and go out into the world and community to do unbelievable things.
I have a lot of goals for the remainder of my time here at the College, but at the top of my list is to be engaged everyday; in my classes, with my peers, and with everything I do—because when I came into college I knew how to study. We all knew how to study, but by being engaged we have the ability to truly learn from all the fantastic people around us. It is a simple idea. But by engaging in these William & Mary networks, like the Class of 2015, we have become a part of something great. Just as the alumni before us have learned, we have the ability to innovate and inspire.
Looking back at the Charter today and looking back at those initial moments when we first came to the College, I see that nothing was ever really simple. It was innovative. It was the start of something that neither we nor King William and Queen Mary could have ever imagined. We are connected now and forever to something great that will always be bigger than ourselves. Look at the rings now that you have just received. Let the rings serve as a reminder of each other and the tradition of service that we will always be bound to. All you can really do going into our last three semesters is to embrace your strengths and live authentically. Never underestimate the power of a thank you or the power of telling a classmate just how incredible they are. And I want to tell you all here today—you are amazing and I can’t wait to see the things you do in your final semesters at the College and in the world.
March 4, 2014 by Skyler Paltell
I’m sitting behind the information desk at the Wren Building, one of the last students on campus as I prepare to head home tomorrow for Spring Break. Three prospective students were here a few minutes ago, and they asked me a question I hadn’t heard in a while—what made me choose William & Mary?
It’s something that has been on my mind often as I approach the end of my third year of college. For me, it was a gut feeling, mostly—one that is difficult to quantify. On tours, I make up an answer—I say it was the campus, the people, the small size, and all of these things are not wrong. But how to I quantify to a group of strangers that it was a combination of all these factors and something more, a sense that I belonged here, that I had been here before? In terms of higher education, William & Mary was The One, there was no other—I had other options, sure, but I felt like I was supposed to be here, it was serendipitous, and I was not wrong. Here, I have been challenged in ways I could not have anticipated, I have met inspiring and brilliant people I feel lucky to call my friends, I have walked in the same footprints as the greats who have come before me—Thomas Jefferson, Glen Close, Robert Gates. I am a small part of a vast legacy.
It was a feeling for me, subjective, ephemeral, but real all the same. It is the same look I see in the eyes of brides as they prepare to walk down the aisle of the Wren Chapel, the same happiness that radiates from friends who have just accepted offers from their dream jobs. It’s a certainty, a readiness for the next chapter.
I’m looking for the same feeling now as I prepare my resume for summer job searches, and later, my career search. I only wish that making these decisions was as easy as choosing William & Mary—how will I know what I’m supposed to do with my life? How will I know with whom, and where, I’m supposed to spend it? It’s a sobering realization—that I will leave, and others will take my place here, as I will find my own in the world beyond Williamsburg.
I think that I’ll know what I’m supposed to do, some day, but I remind myself that I still have some time. I have another year here, with the friends and the people I love best, and then perhaps I’ll spend a gap year working on a llama farm (or something.) I have time, and when I know where I’m heading after this, I’ll just know, the same way I knew I was meant to be here.
February 28, 2014 by Admission Ambassador
Let’s break it down.
3 – People in my family that attended William & Mary before I did. Their tradition and legacy precede me. Walking across the patio at the Alumni House, you can see their names in a singular brick. How metaphoric. A collection of bricks with names that make a whole patio. Kind of like a collection of people who make up the traditions that make W&M home.
2 – People who have worn my class ring. My mama graduated in 1984. I will graduate in 2014. 30 years, 2 children, a dog, 3 cats and a lot of time transporting to and from sports camps have elapsed in the time that my mama wore this ring. And now it’s mine. In another 30 years, what will we say about this ring?
1 – home. I have had exactly one address my whole life. And that means home to me. Home truly is where the heart is. And mine is here. At William & Mary.
321 – Happy 321st birthday to you, William & Mary. Your charter and legacy have lasted 321 years. You’ve been witness to this country’s history. Front row seats even. You’ve been home to 4 presidents. You’ve converted to hospitals for the Confederate Army. You’ve produced leaders like Robert Gates, Glenn Close, Jon Stewart, Mike Tomlin and David Brown. You’ve produced people I know and look up to. So here’s to you William & Mary. Here’s to another 321 years. You are loved of old.
- Kelley Quinzio
February 28, 2014 by Admission Ambassador
Robert Gates ’65 signing his bestselling book Duty, a Wiz Khalifa concert, a speech by Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, and an alumni medallion awarded to current FBI director James Comey ’82. What is the occasion for all of these events you may ask?
The answer is: Charter Day.
Charter Day is when we celebrate King William and Queen Mary signing the royal charter to establish the College of William & Mary in Virginia. February 8, 2014 marked the College’s 321st year of existence and allows the W&M community to come together and celebrate over three centuries of academic excellence and prestige. Charter Day makes us all think about what it really means to be a member of the tribe and the legacy of innovation and achievement that each of us, as students of the College, are obliged to uphold. The coming together of students, faculty and alumni over Charter Day weekend epitomizes why I love this institution that continues to cultivate the greatest minds in the world.
Historically significant, yet paving the way for the future, William & Mary truly is the alma mater of a nation. Happy Birthday William & Mary, you’ve never looked better.
Check out this video for a taste of what Charter Day is all about:
- Mark Bland
February 27, 2014 by Chuck Bailey
Last summer I reported on our field research in the High Plateaus of Utah. Erika Wenrich’s senior thesis project involves a gravity survey aimed at estimating the amount of sediment beneath Fish Lake, a large alpine lake developed in a high-elevation graben. In June we measured gravity at a network of stations around Fish Lake, but to complete the gravity survey, and model the sediment’s thickness in the basin, we needed gravity data on the lake itself. It’s now February and Fish Lake is covered by ice—time to return and complete the survey on the lake’s frozen surface.
Our whirlwind outbound journey included an unexpected drive to Dulles airport to catch a long flight into Las Vegas followed by an even longer drive from Nevada to Fish Lake. We arrived at the lake weary from travel, but excited to get started. The lake was crusted over with ~30 cm of ice (12”) and a layer of snow from a recent storm. The temperatures were well below freezing and accompanied by a stiff breeze from the southwest—it was brisk.
As expected measuring gravity on the lake’s icy surface during the day proved to be nearly impossible. The gravimeter is a delicate instrument that needs to be carefully leveled and works via the stretching of a spring balance with a constant mass. During sunny daylight hours the lake receives copious solar insolation that heats the ice, and as the ice expands fractures develop (not big through-going cracks, but rather small cracks here and there). When cracks propagate, seismic energy courses through the ice causing the delicate spring in the gravimeter to oscillate such that obtaining a reliable and reproducible measurement is not possible.
At night the ice is far more stable and consequentially we became nocturnal creatures wandering about on the dark icy surface making our gravity measurements. The lake was profoundly quiet during the wee hours and the veil of stars put on quite a show overhead. Working the night shift took its toll; after two consecutive evenings into the early mornings spent out on the ice we were wiped out. However, we completed three new gravity traverses across the ice and Erika is in a good position going forward with her research.
Our trip was timed to coincide with a visit by a team of collaborating geoscientists who were obtaining the first sediment core from Fish Lake. Once again the ice was critical, as the team’s coring rig was set upon the firm surface—for four days they lowered and raised the coring apparatus through 30 meters (100’) of water and into the muddy sediment at the lake’s bottom. They were rewarded with about 11 meters (35’) of core, which was safely transported to Oregon State University’s core repository to await detailed study by the team.
William & Mary alum and all-around good guy, Dr. Scott Harris from the College of Charleston used a transient electromagnetic (TEM) geophysical system to learn about the subsurface. He had quite a setup with a long (400 m) wire transmitter placed around multiple receiver loops out on the ice. The system induces an electric field and then measures the decay of that field through time, providing what is essentially a column of the conductivity in the subsurface. The lake’s fresh-water has a very low conductivity, while the infilling mud in the lake basin and underlying bedrock have much higher conductivities. His initial tests yielded subsurface information to depths of over 300 m, hopefully imaging the contact between the lake sediments and bedrock.
Our gravity data indicate that the lake is underlain by upwards of 100 meters of sediment (>300’), so the coring operation sampled just the uppermost layers of the graben fill. In the future we hope to core though the entire sediment package to fully understand the geologic history of graben development, lake formation, and glaciation.
Erika is one of 33 William & Mary geology majors in the class of 2014 and they are all working on senior research (thesis) projects. These studies range from gaging rock erodibility along the banks of the Potomac River, to understanding the complexities of agricultural runoff in the Coastal Plain, and even searching for water ice on Mercury. As college seniors, W&M geology students are contributing new knowledge about how the Earth operates (and other worlds as well). It’s cool stuff and part of what makes majoring in geology at William & Mary distinctive.
February 27, 2014 by Admission Ambassador
Dear William & Mary,
If you could talk, I imagine that you might say that Charter Day 2014 was the best birthday weekend yet. But William & Mary, you’ve seen a lot in your 321 years. When you were born – or, rather, chartered – England was still fighting the French in the Nine Years’ War, a religious schism had just led to the creation of the Amish church in Switzerland, and the Salem Witch Trials were just wrapping up in Massachusetts. You share your birth year with a lot of other distinguished people – including a Russian empress, a British Prime Minister, and a French composer – but it’s safe to say that after over 300 years, you’ve outlived them all.
And I’ve got to say … you look good for 321. As Colonial Williamsburg’s next-door neighbor, you might be physically stuck in the past, but I’m proud to say that you’ve transitioned nicely from the 17th century to the 21st. Not many schools can boast both a royal charter AND campus wide wireless. And it takes a special mix of prestige and popularity to get wished a happy birthday by Robert Gates, Terry McAuliffe, AND Wiz Khalifa.
Happy birthday, William & Mary. Here’s to 321 more!
- Elisabeth Bloxam