July 6, 2012 by Elizabeth Miller
I’m a grown up at W&M now, with grown up clothes, a grown up office, a grown up email signature, and most tellingly, a fac/staff parking pass. I’m proud of my grown-up accomplishments and the “real-world” life I’m building on this campus, but I am often reminded that at my core I am an alumna, proud to be raised by the Tribe. As proof I offer…
5 Ways You Know I am an Alumna:
1. I walk across the the grass.
There are many beautiful brick pathways at William and Mary–one of my favorite features of our campus–and I use them frequently, but I also walk across fields, down hills instead of stairs, through gaps in shrubs, and other more direct routes. I beat my feet across the same non-paths that students do every day on their way to dining halls, classes, and dorms because those are the same worn out stretches of grass I helped to create years ago in my hurry to soak up as much of W&M as I could.
2. I send my friends texts each time I see Sam Sadler.
My class (2011) is the last of an era–the last class to be at William and Mary while Sam Sadler was Vice President of Student Affairs. After 40 years at William and Mary, Sam became more than a professional staff member at the College; for many of us Tribe members Sam is as iconic to W&M as the Sunken Garden. When I tried to think of reasons to give you why it’s a big deal to see Sam Sadler, all I kept thinking was: “He’s Sam Sadler!” His energy, love of this College, and willingness to stop and chat with any student on daily walks around campus meant that everyone here knew him. Now current students know him best for being the namesake of our university center. They lack the expertise to pick him out from the crowd at a Saturday morning farmer’s market, or as I did, send a text full of exclamations points to my friends when I saw him leaving Baskin Robbins with a chocolate ice-cream cone one Sunday afternoon–I mean he’s Sam Sadler!
3. I get excited when I find a pencil from the Student’s Exchange.
“Wait, they got rid of the Quiznos?” A common remark from recent returning alumni who find an Einstein Bagel on campus where our Quiznos used to be. It reminds me of one of the oddities of going straight from student to staff–I miss out on missing things. I’m sure next Homecoming those alumni who didn’t catch it on Facebook will be exclaiming over the new chairs in Swem. I miss out on the excitement and nostalgia of finding things different at W&M, but I’m glad one thing that hasn’t changed is the Student’s Exchange. Our main convenience store located in the basement of the Sadler Center (see item #2), the Student’s Exchange just becomes part of one’s student routine–grab meal in food court, check mail for care package from home, pick up evening study treat of candy or chocolate milk from Student’s Exchange, head back to the dorm. It’s not flashy or glamorous, but that little store was there for me throughout my undergraduate experience. So when Chelsea, my friend, colleague, and Class of 2011, recently found a green and gold pencil emblazoned with “Student’s Exchange,” I got jealous. And I may sometimes “borrow” it from her. That little pencil reminds me of the everyday comfort of this college.
4. I stride boldly into pedestrian crossings.
As my trips to Baltimore (and even home visits in Charlottesville) remind me, traffic stopping for pedestrians is not a global given. But on my way back from Wawa or crossing the road to visit Sandra in Admission, I know to just touch my toe to the pavement and watch the cars around me slow to a stop (except for that one time Senior year when I got into my history class and my professor said, “Oh yah, I almost ran you over in the cross walk earlier today.”). I absolutely love how pedestrian my life here is (and that in turn I became the kind of driver who stops for pedestrians).
5. I talk to squirrels.
While I love the Griffin as our mascot, if there’s one creature I most associate with my College, it is definitely the squirrel (who has it’s own Twitter account as well). While it might seem odd to admit, there are certain places on campus that I distinctly associate with a squirrel memory. Now I’m not going to go as far as to make some deep analogy between the spirit of W&M and squirrels–I think there are just a lot squirrels here who are at least smart enough to recognize our campus is a pretty sweet place to to find food and low car traffic (As one professor exclaimed, “If I were to be reincarnated, I would want to come back as a W&M squirrel–their’s is the good life!”). I will say, however, that I love having squirrels as part of the W&M ambiance. There’s a great balance to be struck between crafting an argument in class about educational v. economic interventions and later that day arguing with a squirrel about who has the right of way on a particular stretch of path. Perhaps professors and staff also converse with our squirrel residents (I’m guessing someone in the Biology or Environmental Sciences Department has crafted some study related to them), but talking to squirrels remains for me one of the clearest signs that I grew up at W&M.