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The First Tradition is the Tradition of Belonging

August 24, 2009 by

The 1949 version of The Student Handbook of the College of William & Mary states that among the many traditions at our historic university there is one that rises in importance above the rest, and that is the first tradition, or the tradition of belonging.  I cannot take credit in finding this gem of a statement as I have heard our current and past Vice Presidents of Student Affairs mention this line in several speeches and ceremonies during the past few years. However, I can attest to the fact that the notion “those who come here, belong here” is felt from the very beginning of one’s experience at W&M. I remember fondly my first few days of Freshman Orientation and feeling like a member of this community from the minute my feet hit the pavement of Yates Hall’s parking lot. Anticipating the arrival of the Class of 2013, our office has been in a buzz in the past few weeks over ways that we could play a part in welcoming the freshmen students to our community.  The light bulb went off for one of our Senior Assistant Deans with the great idea of welcoming the students to campus by visiting the young ladies assigned to live in our former freshman rooms. With that, we were on our way.

Rolling in as “The Undergraduate Admission Official Welcome Wagon,” Senior Assistant Dean Quinzio and myself headed across campus and made our first stop at a room on Dupont First East. Senior Assistant Dean Quinzio introduced herself to the two young women who will be calling her freshmen room home for the next nine months and wished them good luck in their next four years.  Even though the ladies were clearly a bit overwhelmed with trying to fit their car loads of belongings into a somewhat compact room, they seemed happy to have met us and eager to begin their college experience.  Mission accomplished here.

Moving on towards Yates Hall, my freshman home, we carefully dodged the piles of boxes and groups of weary parents to our final destination of Yates First North. There I found two young ladies who had already turned the room I once called home into a very different yet cozy abode.  I introduced myself and handed over the welcome gift Senior Assistant Dean Quinzio had suggested we pick up for our impromptu greeting.  What better gift than a local delicacy: bread ends and house from the Cheese Shop. As I handed over the crinkled brown bag filled with a carton of a special house dressing (rumored to be ranch dressing with spicy mustard) and a plastic container of bread ends (the end pieces of a bread loaf chopped off and sold in bulk) the new inhabitants of my old room looked a bit confused. Obvious reaction. Why would someone hand her a carton of a mayonnaise looking dip and a bag filled with the parts of bread loafs most people discard? I assured her that within a few days time she would understand that bread ends and house are a staple at any W&M event, a popular budget friendly dinner for broke college students, and simply very tasty. She nodded, not looking very convinced, and graciously took my bizarre interpretation of a traditional hostess gift. After wishing the young ladies good luck we quickly exited the room and left them to the mixed emotions and unpacking that is Freshman Move-In.

As we walked back across campus to the Undergraduate Admission building, we were reminiscent about our orientation experiences, the feeling of not knowing how life changing and amazing the next four years would be, and how almost envious we were that these young ladies have their W&M careers in front of them.  The beginning of any college career is important in an individual’s life. I hope that these four women felt even more connected to their new Alma Mater and slightly less hungry after we left their rooms. They now officially belong to the Tribe and we could not be happier to have them!

- Amanda Norris

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