January 2, 2013 by Justin Miller
I know that I haven’t kept my promise. I haven’t written to you in months, but trust me when I say that it hasn’t been you that kept me away. You have been on my mind frequently, and the more I thought of you the more I realized that without words, or breath, we cannot exist. I want us to exist.
As many of you know I interned with BULLETT Media (bullettmedia.com) in Manhattan New York over the past summer. First, as you can imagine, living expenses in New York are astronomical, which is why I didn’t stay in New York; I am staying with a friend and his family in Darien, CT. If you haven’t Googled Darien yet, let me just say that it’s ritzy. Ritzy as in “Yes, I am a CEO or corporate leader and yes, the house didn’t come with the big white fence and stone statues, I imported them from Europe because I am filthy rich and own three boats.” Yeah. But it’s pretty quiet in Darien–it has its similarities to Williamsburg.
As for BULLETT, I interned in the editorial department, so I’m always working with text. Whether researching for a feature, copy editing, transcribing an interview, or doing a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff via WordPress for the website, I always stayed busy. I would rather be with the cool kids in the table next to us editing film or photos, and messing with layout and design. But I guess you have to start somewhere, right? I had to carry the editor-in-chief’s dog once. Well, I didn’t have to, but my director, Juliet, was taking the dog back to her apartment and was carrying her in this suitcase thing on the metro and the dog was a bit too heavy for Juliet so I helped her.
New York itself. It reminded me of a big muddled mash of Richmond and DC. It’s busy and crowded, which is fine because once you survive public schooling for twelve years and have been in an airport as much as I have you know how to dodge a couple dozen “I’m-just-standing-in-your-way-for-no-reason” kind of people. There is a lot to see, eat (trust me), and do. I was normally in the city from 9:30am-7pm, the majority of the time in the office, but sometimes I commuted into the city during the weekend to actually see the city. I think a lot of people take it for granted that they are actually living in what some people consider the center of the very world, if not universe, and are actually accustomed to subways, and tall buildings, and New York life in general. But I get the feeling that the majority of the people in the world take their own homes, whether it is in the suburbs, the countryside, or even Europe, for granted. The phrase is trite, but you really don’t know what you have until it’s gone, and while returning to Virginia wasn’t fantastic, I did/do enjoy the homogeneous rows of houses, fresh air, and grass. Yes, grass, because that’s sparse in Manhattan.
This past semester was such a blur. Academic wise, I was only taking 13 credits, but it was a lot of reading and writing. I worked on an independent study with Professor Nancy Schoenberger, and I actually wrote about my summer in New York. The independent study was basically an exploration and cultivation of memoir, creative nonfiction, and blending the two forms into a hybrid. Weird, but I’m proud of the portfolio. You should read it sometime. I was also dealing with the whole tug of whether or not I really feel the need to apply to any graduate schools now or just wait a while. I think I am still dealing with that tug, to be honest. I think the academic institution, in all of its shapes and forms, is a safety blanket that I enjoy. But I also just like the feeling of being surrounded by people in my own age group, and knowing, no matter what time or light of day, that someone is awake somewhere on campus waiting to talk or hang out.
I still have a few opportunities, though. One of them involves talking with some Abercrombie & Fitch recruiters and getting into their MIT program, which would last this whole summer and send me off to Colombus, Ohio, where I would train to be a corporate leader/manager and then relocate somewhere. I’ve told some of the people I’ve spoken with that I highly prefer relocating abroad to either London, Paris, Milan, but now that I think about it I know I’ll be miserably lonely. That’s why I hate coming home for breaks and tenaciously seek driving to visit friends: loneliness. Another opportunity(ies) include applying to publishing institutes in New York (at NYU and Columbia) and going to those next summer. But while A&F can offer me a secure salary, these institutes only allow me to network and make connections, connections, that, if I press hard enough, could lead me to a job. Who knows.
Outside of academia, I’ve been trying to spend as much time and memory with friends. This semester has been, by far, the most eye-opening and heart wrenching. I’ve started to make amends with two guys who I use to be really good friends with freshman/sophomore year, but with whom I burned bridges. It was difficult at first to actually sit across from each of them at a table and articulate why I acted the way I did or attempt to translate the beats of my heart. It was as if I was shoving a mirror into my face and really facing everything that I was avoiding, and hiding from, and too afraid or proud to confront. I’m starting to learn that the universe actually does work in mysterious ways; what you put in is what you get out. I haven’t put in a lot of good things, and, well, I haven’t gotten a lot of good things out. But I can—we can—better ourselves by treating and each other more delicately.
I hope that you are well and that you are not letting the world, or its ego, or your ego, or any pain, bitterness, or pressure, sneak itself into your heart. I hope that you are not seeking the answers to questions that will, with time, unravel before you.
January 1, 2013 by Kylee Ponder
At this point last year, I was relaxing in my hometown of Franklin, Virginia, sitting around a firepit with close friends, and reminiscing about the 3 1/2 years of college that were behind me – the undergraduate career that had just finished. I was not nervous about the future. I was not apprehensive of finding a job. Because I had another year and a half. A year and a half left of graduate school – a year and a half where I would be taught and learn to teach, a year and a half where I would learn so much about how to help children learn. And here it is. I’m sitting here again, in my hometown, and although I’ve relaxed a little bit and been able to sit by the firepit in the backyard, I am apprehensive this time. I am nervous about my future. And that’s because this time I don’t have that cushion of a year and a half. I only have five months.
Classes start back for us at the School of Education on January 16th, along with the rest of the William & Mary community (minus the Law School, who starts back a week prior). And then, Commencement is the 12th of May. That leaves those five months for me to accomplish so much – to complete the intensive first five-week course load that my program goes through, to complete 10 weeks of student teaching, to receive my Master’s of Arts in Education, to receive my certification from the Virginia Department of Education to be a teacher, and so much more. That date of May 12th feels so far away, so infinite, but the reality is that I know it’s coming. I just registered today for my last standardized test left – the Reading for Virginia Educators test. That means, come February 2nd, 2013 – I’ll be done with test taking (for now). Thankfully, that will fall before I am thrown into the craziness of student teaching. Thrown into those 10 weeks of 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. working life where I am with my students every minute of the day (minus resource time and lunch!). It seems hard to believe that this is all so very real.
Earlier in the semester, when I was conducting my very first guided reading lesson, I was overwhelmed with nerves and thoughts of how horrible it would be. In all actuality, it went incredibly well. I surprised myself, with thinking on my feet, with engaging my students, and with my classroom management skills and differentiation strategies. As I taught my final lesson on Friday the 14th in a third grade classroom at the elementary school at which I work, it was a different story. I was comfortable, didn’t need to reference my lesson plan every two seconds, and so much more at ease. However, before the lesson started, the teacher I was working with pulled up the document camera for me (to which the news was connected). We glanced in horror at the news of the Sandy Hook shooting as the document camera booted up. I couldn’t let the news phase me – I had a lesson to teach to 19 beautiful and energetic 8 and 9-year-olds. They were counting on me, much like many students across the nation count on their teachers every single day.
Although I didn’t have time to let the news phase me then, I got in my car to return home to grab a coffee, and watched President Obama’s speech. I listened to a report on NPR on my way back to a review session for my math exam the following Monday. Tears streamed down my face, thoughts ran through my head, and all I wanted to do was head back to school and hug my second graders a little tighter. Often times, when a horrific event happens in the world, it draws others back from entering the field associated with the event. This event has made my passion for teaching so much stronger, my love for my students so much more precious, and the respect that I have for other educators so much greater.
I have one semester left – one more semester, one more standardized test, and one more round of finals (thank GOODNESS). But I also only have one more semester left with my students, and that leaves me with such bittersweet feelings. Bittersweet feelings knowing that I have so much ahead of me – 10 weeks of student teaching, applying for my Virginia Teaching license, lots of last-time hangouts with my favorite friends who are graduating this year, more late-night lesson planning, and soaking up the joys that William & Mary has to offer.
In the next few weeks, I know that I’ll be continuing to hug my students a little tighter, embracing my role as a student teacher a little more, and living each day and moment to the fullest, trying to remember and honor the memories of those teachers who gave their lives for their students in the Sandy Hook shooting.
Harking upon the gale and hoping that your holiday was as wonderful as mine,
November 19, 2012 by Katie Fottrell
Now this is a time when I have 8092852 other things I should be doing instead of blogging (working on my research, studying for my exam in two days, getting more things together for my trip to Haiti in January, researching new content for my fitness class, sleeping?), but lately I have been learning a very important lesson that I’d like to share.
A lot of my life has been spent with my focus on my future – on where I wanted to go to college, the steps I needed to take to get there, and now on what I want to do with my life and the steps I need to take to get there – and a lot of those decisions have been guided by what I think I should be doing, what I think is expected of me, and what I think everyone else is doing and how I fit into that. And because of all this, of all the worry about being able to make enough money to live comfortably, of being able to make enough money to stop worrying about money(!), and of making my degree (and by association, all the choices I’ve made about my future thus far) worth the time/money/work, it has become very easy to get discouraged from following what I really want to do. Because it’s not what I should do, it’s not what is expected of me, and it’s not what everyone else is doing.
What I want to do is take a chance and try my hand at adventure. I want to move to Colorado after graduation and make my way there – as a snowboard instructor? As a rafting guide? As a worker of a non-profit? As a writer? Right now, I’m kind of thriving on the not-knowing part– and it’s one of the scariest things to think about, but I know I will never forgive myself if I don’t do it. I am ready to take my chances and do something I have always wanted to do and always stopped myself from thinking of because it wasn’t what I thought my parents or my friends or my professors wanted of me. In the end, I realized the only thing holding me back, as cheesy as it sounds, was me and my fear of failure.
It’s kind of weird, actually, because four years ago I wrote my college application essay on failure and how I loved it because you can always learn from failure – success is far less educational. And now, here I am on the brink of making some big choices and fearing failing. Funny how life works that way.
Basically what I’m saying is that now is the time for failure – you have the rest of your life to make up for it! That sounds bad, I know, like it’s already decided you’ll fail. You probably will. I probably will too. But trust me. Don’t be afraid to make a change. Adventures don’t come to your front porch and knock on your door. You make the adventure, and fearing failure will only ensure unhappiness and regret.
Take that chance. Move to Colorado. Pick the career you want, not the one you need. Go to Europe for a few weeks…or months. Step out your front door and make the decision to find your own adventure and do what you never thought you could (or should). You’ll be happier for it.
November 2, 2012 by Ashleigh Brock
Planning for your career and future is an important part of the college experience. You will likely struggle over a number of significant decisions: what academic path to choose, whether to study abroad, how to make an unpaid internship feasible, or why go to graduate school. You will draft numerous versions of the perfect resume, curriculum vitae, statements of intent, and cover letters. You will prepare rigorously for interviews and other elements of job and grad school application processes.
During your time at William & Mary, you will decide how much time to devote to this planning process and how hard to work at it. Those decisions will help to shape the “real world” you’ll inhabit after you leave Williamsburg.
In addition to the efforts you’ll make in your own interests, you also have an enormous amount of power to shape the world beyond college, and it lies with your ability to vote.
The issues at stake this election season will undoubtedly shape the world you will step into after walking across the graduation stage. The economy you will encounter as you enter the job market will look different based on the policies enacted by our next President. The quality and availability of healthcare in the “real world” will be affected by this election. College student loan repayment, pell grants, and other federal initiatives concerning how Americans pursue higher education will be affected by this election. These are only a few of the many issues that you must consider this year as you prepare to vote. All of them will impact what the “real world” will look like for you after you graduate.
Last year, a record number of young adults ages 18 – 24 voted in the presidential election. That record, however, meant only 49% of young adults eligible to vote did so. More than half stayed home, didn’t register, forgot to turn in their absentee ballot, or otherwise missed the opportunity to have their voices heard, despite the fact that their futures would be affected by the result.
Whatever your political persuasion, please don’t miss the opportunity to let your voice be heard on Tuesday, November 6. Current college students will inherit a country being shaped by those in positions of power today. By voting, you can show the rest of the country that you understand the implications of this election and care deeply about the “real world” that awaits you after William & Mary.
Hark upon the ballot box, Tribe.
October 19, 2012 by Ashleigh Brock
Welcome back from Fall Break! The pace of life in the Career Center slows a bit during breaks, so I used some of the quiet time on campus to read a very interesting book by Tom Rath and Jim Harter called Well Being: The Five Essential Elements. The book explores a central question: what differentiates a thriving life from one spent suffering? To answer this simple, yet compelling question, Gallup research scientists undertook a comprehensive global study of well being, surveying people from 150 different countries about what “the best possible future” would look like for them.
This research identified five key elements of well being that affected whether those surveyed were thriving, struggling or suffering: financial well being, social well being, community well being, career well being, and physical well being. Career well being rose above the others as the best predictor for people’s overall wellness and their ability to not only survive, but thrive.
Putting career at the top of a hierarchy of things that affect our wellness may seem unusual, especially given that physical and financial well being were also on the list. But more than any other choice you make, your decision about how to spend what amounts to the majority of your waking hours every day vastly outpaces the other factors in terms of overall happiness and satisfaction with life.
I can’t agree more with these assertions. The career path you choose can be either a tremendous blessing or a curse, affecting every other area of your life. This is not to say that your first job needs to be perfect, or fit your passions in every way; only that you have to like it enough to be positive about going to work every day. That positivity trickles down and into every other facet of your experience. If you hate your job, you’re more likely to bring that negativity to your personal life, straining your relationships, mental health, and physical well being. Liking or feeling satisfied with what you do allows you to bring positivity to those other areas instead, which can totally change how you perceive the rest of your world.
The career search is about finding a career path that fits, and that satisfies you. Although asking and answering deep, difficult questions about what’s right for you is daunting in college and much more challenging than just polishing your resume or scanning through job descriptions, it’s totally worth doing. Take time to explore your options and identify those that are best suited to you. You’ll be healthier, happier, and more satisfied in the long run because you did.
October 17, 2012 by Bailey Thomson
Even though I may not contribute consistently to the W&M blogosphere, I do actively follow news from the College and greater Williamsburg. And this past week has been a massive one for Tribespeople and Williamsburgers alike! From the Dalai Lama’s visit to President Obama’s debate camp, campus and the city have been full of exciting events and celebrity sightings. As if that were not enough to make me jealous, friends in Williamsburg have started posting obligatory fall foliage pictures. Is there any town more beautiful in the world during this time of year?
As I write this, I am more than 8,000 miles from the College and springtime is just beginning! In August, I moved to Johannesburg, South Africa, where I am the Director of Development and Leadership for eAdvance, a South African education organization aimed at providing equitable education to all South Africans. eAdvance oversees and provides support to Spark Schools, a network of low-fee private schools expanding quickly to ensure high quality, affordable education for primary grades students. The first Spark school, Spark Ferndale Primary School, will open in January in the Ferndale suburb of Randburg, a district of Johannesburg. Then, Spark Schools will grow to 64 schools in the next decade! My role includes curricular development, professional development, and leadership training so that our Spark Schools faculty are equipped with the knowledge, skills, and resources they need to serve students and their families.
I frequently think about what it means to contribute so intimately (education, for me, is close to the heart) to a community so far from my home. The distance is geographic, cultural, philosophical, racial, and linguistic. The question of “diversity” is an interesting one: am I lending a diversifying hand or promoting more of the imperialism that damaged this country for so long? What is the impact of being a white American, rather than a white South African of English descent or a white South African of Afrikaans (Dutch) descent? How can I serve others here without imposing what I assume they need, rather than what they truly need?
Apartheid ended in South Africa less than two decades ago. Race still divides people in terms of where they live, the traditions they practice, their access to services, their jobs and income, and more. And yet, in many ways, it feels like the people of Johannesburg have progressed further generally than the people of Richmond, Virginia, my home. Our student population in 2013, according to current enrollment, will be split almost equally ethnically between white, black, and Indian students. Our teaching staff of twelve will have white, black, and Indian faculty. The investors in eAdvance come from multiple ethnic groups, as do our start-up supporters.
I recall W&M as a diverse school where students nonetheless often self-segregated based on race. (Race is certainly not the only form of diversity, but it’s worth exploring since it cuts so deeply into history in nearly every country and certainly into history on our campus.) There were very few of us white students who were active in the Multicultural Ambassador Council, NAACP, and other “diversity” organizations when I began in 2006. But from my freshman year to my senior year, organizations gradually diversified—not just in terms of racial make-up, but also in terms of broadening purpose. And we started having very honest conversations about what it meant to value every W&M student. Now, Professor Anne Charity Hudley and others are turning those conversations academic by conducting a survey that will “increase the understanding of what curricular factors, pedagogies, and other structures within higher education foster comprehensive academic participation among underrepresented groups.” This type of progress – from the cafeteria and Terrace to the classrooms and offices – is worth celebrating. It makes this alumna proud to witness the seriousness with which the Tribe takes the task of acting with dignity and respect toward all its members.
Our kindergarten, first, and second grade students next year will live by five core values: Service, Persistence, Achievement, Responsibility, and Kindness. When I think carefully about it, I know that it was the College who taught me how to genuinely and authentically demonstrate those values in a new and diverse community. The eAdvance and Spark Schools staff will strive to do the same for our students, W&M international students in the classes of 2027, 2028, and 2029.
October 8, 2012 by Ashleigh Brock
I am a certified LinkedIn addict. I use it every day, multiple times a day in my job to help students and alumni. I do not do so because it’s trendy, or because I think it’s cool to be connected on social media. I use LinkedIn because it’s an easy, practical way to research career and graduate school options, connect with William and Mary alumni and help students harness the power of their networks to find opportunities.
While connections to friends, family and colleagues are one central way to use LinkedIn, I’d like to share a few of my favorite methods of using the site that have nothing to do with accepting that connection request from your roommate. I use LinkedIn every day to:
- show students where a William and Mary degree can take them. Just recently, Linkedin introduced an alumni page that creates an awesome visual using data from LinkedIn users tied to particular institutions. If you went to or currently attend the College, you can go to the alumni tool and see, for example, that 612 W&M alums are on LinkedIn in Chicago, eight of whom work at IBM. Or, of the 3,373 Tribe folks in Richmond, 250 work in finance. Pretty cool, right? The tool also allows users to click on multiple cities, or companies, or fields to do cross-dimensional searches. I use this in a lot of ways, like showing sophomores looking for summer internships in D.C. what companies house the greatest number of alumni.
- help seniors find entry-level jobs. LinkedIn also introduced a tool that pulls out entry-level job postings from the vast pool of opportunities companies post on the site to help college grads find good matches for their skill levels from across a wide array of industries.
- encourage students to do their research. Perhaps the most underused LinkedIn tool available is the Companies tab. There, you can find information about small businesses, universities, non-profit organizations, major corporations, and government agencies, some of which post jobs directly to their company pages.
Finally, I use LinkedIn to empower students to build their network. Sophomore Connor Norton learned about LinkedIn during his Major and Career Exploration seminar at the Career Center his freshman year. He writes:
During the past summer, I interned at AT&T in Northern Virginia, working with a William and Mary alumnus with whom I connected on Linkedin. During the spring semester, I explored and joined as many William and Mary alumni networks as I could. Soon after, I began posting in each of them, soliciting both suggestions for companies to apply to, as well as positions that alumni were actively looking to fill.
I heard back from many alumni, but one in particular showed interest in me. He forwarded my résumé and cover letter to HR, and I applied for the internship on the company website. I interviewed with a member of their team during spring break, and by the end of the semester, I had a valuable internship experience waiting for me in the summer.
The internship proved to be extremely beneficial. I learned many skills and got a better handle for professional environments. On top of that, I gained valuable professional contacts, which should serve me well in the future.
Strong alumni networks are great, but they are worthless if you don’t know how to leverage them. Using Linkedin, attending career fairs and receptions and participating in different workshops and programs offered by the Cohen Career Center are the best ways to get the most out of the fantastic William and Mary Alumni Network.
September 21, 2012 by Ashleigh Brock
Preparing for the world of jobs and internships is quite a job in itself. In particular, being a strong interview candidate takes lots of preparation and practice. We don’t want you to spend that prep time rushing around the mall or breaking your bank account. Choosing an outfit for an interview can be challenging, especially when you are new to professional interviewing. This is only compounded by time constraints and college student budgets. But, dressing for success is of the utmost importance when heading to that internship or job interview. First impressions matter. In fact, research has shown that employers’ immediate reactions to candidates affect hiring decisions.
At the Career Center, we answer lots of questions about what to wear to interviews, but we also see how excitement upon receiving an interview quickly turns to anxiety when students realize their wardrobe may lack professional attire. This is especially evident when the turnaround time between finding out you have an interview and the actual interview may only be a few days.
For the past year, we’ve been working on a solution for those situations. In January, the Career Center will officially begin its Suits for Scholars program, in which students will be able to rent professional wardrobe pieces – full suits, blazers, skirts, slacks, and other accessories – from an inventory of new and gently used items we have collected from generous alumni, faculty, staff, and student donors this year. So far, we have collected 50 professional pieces, including 17 full suits, in a range of sizes for men and women.
We are, however, still hoping to fill some holes in our closet before the program formally commences in the spring. In particular, we need:
- Women’s suits (all sizes welcome, but currently lack size 4 in the inventory) and dress shirts
- Men’s slacks, especially between sizes 30-34
- Accessories, especially belts and dress shoes
If you are interested in donating to Suits for Scholars, or would like more information about the program, please contact Ashleigh Brock. We are eager to get started next spring and thank you sincerely for your donations!
September 13, 2012 by Brian Focarino
It has been truly, unforgivably long since my last post. And, while I’ll hazard excuses, I said it here first.
It’s been full throttle since last spring. I moved back to the country from Edinburgh, Scotland in May, and spent the summer finishing up my Master’s thesis, which ended up focusing exclusively on the rhetoric of W&M’s Chancellor and alumnus Robert Gates. During the summer I also enjoyed life in D.C., working as a summer legal clerk for Verizon, working principally with Verizon’s outstanding corporate intellectual property practice group. I’m not sure there’s ever been a summer where I’ve learned so much or gotten more excited about an actual career path I may end up pursuing.
Since finishing up both of those commitments earlier last month, I’ve been back in Williamsburg enjoying the initial stages of being a law student. In four words: I am loving it. My peers and professors inspire and intimidate in turn with how sharp and accomplished they are, and I honestly feel as if I’ve learned more substantive, pragmatically necessary things in the past 3 weeks than I’ve learned from any other classes before this point in my life. I won’t lie – the academic work is the toughest I’ve ever done, and all the things I’ve read in my life up until this point, combined, seem like child’s play compared to the amount that I’ve been reading for school during the past month, but I’m seeing the point of it all. The Socratic method of learning employed by the law school (and feared by most law students) is truly teaching me how important it is to know your stuff and be able to defend your opinions, your thoughts and your contentions on your feet in front of other peers prepared to do the same.
If I had to distill my experience into a single moment so far, it would be this: last night, I had the privilege of attending a phenomenal dinner at the Alumni House with Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia as he was awarded the law school’s prestigious Marshall-Wythe Medallion, which is given by our faculty. Few other law students in the country can probably say that with only two weeks under their law school belt they were already having dinner with a Supreme Court Justice, as well as a host of some of Virginia and the nation’s most respected legal minds and practitioners.
As I was walking the short distance between the Alumni House and my own house last night after the dinner, it got me thinking about a letter that I’d seen earlier this summer in a book about the College that matched my sentiments exactly. The letter was written by Benjamin Crowninshield of Massachusetts, a student at the College, to Dr. B. Lynde Oliver, a friend, on May 30, 1804. In it, Ben said,
“The pleasing manner of this place would be sufficient to keep me here, but the advantages of the College, I should think would keep me here forever.”
While it’s true nothing lasts forever, the College – and Williamsburg more generally – are probably one of the closest things this country has to a place that honors its roots while living very squarely in the present. Writing over two hundred years later from the same place, in much the same position as fellow alum Ben, I could claim mostly the same sentiment.
That kindred instinct – amongst students even hundreds of years apart – defines what it means to be William & Mary.
In honor of that, I’ve taken at least one initial step to make sure that wherever I go, a bit of that feeling – and this old College – comes with me. My new plates arrived yesterday.
Brian ’11, ’15L