William and Mary

Diversity

My Unicorn Song

March 31, 2014 by

The first song I learned is called the Unicorn Song. For anyone that’s heard it, you know what I’m talking about…the one with the green alligators and long-necked geese. Until I was about 14, I thought it was just a fun children’s song about unicorns…then I listened to the words. And now I know why I’ve never seen a unicorn to this very day.

Every year growing up, the town threw a GREAT St. Patrick’s Day party in the Hospitality House – yes that’s a dorm now and I’m really sad about no more parties. But all of our families would spend the day at the party singing old Irish songs and entering raffles, and playing shuffleboard. I remember these days as times with friends that I’ve had since we were born. As families that grew into bigger families as we got older and family meant more than brothers and sisters.

I’ve been so fortunate to grow up in a place where you don’t have to be related to be family, where everything works out in the wash, and you always wave to your neighbor. Now that I’m leaving it, I’m realizing how lucky I was to have it. How grateful I am to have learned how to be a good citizen and caring neighbor from this place. How much community really means to me. How playing 6 degrees from Kevin Bacon is easy as pie.

In the Irish Rover rendition of the Unicorn Song, they add a part to the end of the song that gives the unicorns wings to catch up to Noah’s Arc. All of the animals came in pairs, so maybe it’s time I start thinking of Williamsburg as my unicorn. And now it’s time to leave and find another.

- Kelley Quinzio

Show it off

March 31, 2014 by

My second favorite holiday of the year is St. Patrick’s Day. Maybe it’s the Irish heritage, or growing up in the Boston area, but there is nothing better than decking yourself out in as much green as possible. St. Patrick’s Day takes on a very different tone at William & Mary. While everyone is Irish for that one day of the year, St. Patrick’s Day looks like an explosion of school spirit at the College. Having the colors green and gold makes it very easy to wear a little green, but it’s never just a little green here.

One of my absolute favorite things about the College is the school spirit. Whether it’s at football games or seeing the College’s name pop up on a list of awesome schools, we are fiercely proud to be members of the Tribe. When you come to William & Mary it is nearly impossible to be just a face in the crowd. Even the one or two people I know that are not as involved in extracurricular activities on campus, seem to somehow be connected to my friends from other circles of my W&M life.

I love that we are a family at William & Mary, and I love that we show our Tribe Pride loud and proud!

- Kate Fitzgerald

Start Where You Are, Use What You Have, Do What You Can

March 31, 2014 by

Arthur Ashe, one of the first African-American tennis players, spoke these words –”Start Where You Are, Use What You Have, Do What You Can” – as an activist.  At a one-day, personal development seminar held at William & Mary on the 16th, Ashe’s words nicely summarized what we students had learned that day and how simply each of us could become a catalyst—a catalyst for improving our personal lives or a catalyst for improving the world around us.

Catalyst-LogoThe Catalyst program, designed for students interested in challenging themselves to go deeper, wider, and further out in their definition of who they are and where they can have an impact, was sponsored by the Office of Student Leadership Development.  As a student assistant in the Office of Community Engagement, I spoke with the Director, Drew Stelljes, prior to the event.  He was very enthusiastic about it and encouraged me it would be worthwhile, saying:

“The new OSLD has aligned its mission with the William & Mary vision.  Theory based, the OSLD is well on its way to becoming a national model for student leadership development.  As our W&M vision statement aspires for our graduates to change the world, the OSLD is a mechanism to prepare students to do just that.  We aspire to establish a campus culture where students examine their talents and joys and use them to address the world’s greatest needs.  There is no better place than W&M to cultivate in students an intense desire to emerge as engaged citizens and effective leaders.”

After a  statement like that, what W&M student wouldn’t go?  The seminar featured a great speaker, Arthur Gregg, from the University of Texas.  There were introspective questions such as, “Am I becoming the person I want to be?” and sapient quotes like Andre Gide’s words, “It’s better to fail at your own life than succeed at someone else’s.”  Mr. Gregg spoke about the importance of active listening and appreciative inquiry when interacting with people, authenticity and integrity, and teamwork.  He had a felicitous story about teamwork involving a drum major, and ended it by saying, “You can have a band without a drum major, but you can’t have a drum major without a band.”  No matter how talented or driven you are, we all have to rely on others at some point.  This was a good quote for me personally because as a highly conscientious and dominant introvert (personality traits we formally learned about), I prefer to work by myself so that I know things are done correctly and according to my way of thinking.

catalyst-contentAnyone in the business school would have been happy with a second shot at a team-building exercise in which four groups of students worked together to build the tallest free-standing tower that had to hold a golf ball at the top, using only plastic straws and tape.  (We business students had to do a similar exercise using marshmallows and spaghetti).  Besides learning that the compression strength of a series of plastics straws measuring over six feet in length is pretty low, the importance of group communication, group decision making, prototyping, and personality dynamics were reinforced.

As the day came to an end, we began focusing on what we would take away from the seminar.  Leveraging one’s strengths, thinking rationally about what holds us back, and the commitments and contributions we want to make going forward.  Words of wisdom from Aristotle himself, “Criticism is something we can avoid easily—by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing,” touched on one of the common answers to what holds one back—fear of criticism and failure, but if we allow our lives to be guided by these constraints, we will accomplish nothing.  Life is a process.  Vulnerability and uncertainty are OK.  Do what you know to be best and true for yourself.

Before everyone parted ways, we were asked to write down what we would take away from the seminar or what we would commit to afterwards.  You might expect me to write what I wrote down, but what I wrote is unimportant.  The words of another student that I had teamed with for some of the activities and discussions were far more inspiring to me.  She said that because she had been in a group with a few older students (Tribe PRIME!) who shared their life experiences, she learned that life may not work out the way you plan.  You will make mistakes.  But, if you have confidence in yourself, in the process and confidence that you’ll figure it out, your life will turn out the way you want.

In retrospect, this was a touching moment for me.  I had shared my personal story with my group and talked about the moment when I was being evicted into homelessness:  I had no idea where I would sleep that night, but despite the feelings of desperation, anxiety, and loneliness, I told myself that I would figure it out because I had confidence in myself despite everything that happened leading up to this moment.  It didn’t happen right away (what happened right away was sleeping in a parking garage, lol), but I did figure it out eventually.  I attended this seminar hoping to take something away from it for myself, but instead I gave up something – wisdom and confidence – to other, younger students who took my advice to heart and will use it as they make their own paths in life.

In Response: One Tribe

March 20, 2014 by

I was linked to this article through Facebook, through mutual friends of mutual friends – there’s always less than seven degrees of separation between W&M and the other schools in Virginia.

After reading it – which I hope you have just done – I had two feelings: sympathy and inspiration. William & Mary does not struggle from a lack of community like George Mason might. I could argue the W&M community is so strong that it’s always there, even when you don’t need it, or don’t want it. I struggle to list examples of times when I felt entirely alone at W&M, when I was not supported by at least one friend or one professor or one random stranger. From long nights in Swem to sunny afternoons in the Sunken Garden, dismissing the feeling of community on campus is ill-advised. It’s an atmosphere – if you can’t feel it, then I suggest you walk around during finals and feel the tension in the air so thick you could slice it like chocolate cake.

Let’s start with our mission statement: “To attract outstanding students from diverse backgrounds…develop a diverse faculty…provide a challenging undergraduate program that encourages creativity, independent thought and intellectual depth, breadth, and curiosity… instill in its students an appreciation for the human condition” – amongst the better excerpts. Until I was writing this, I hadn’t stopped to read our mission statement. My thoughts? We hit the nail on the head, dead on.

But who are we, and where are we going? It’s important to recognize that much of our future is rooted in our history, but we do not limit ourselves to our traditions from the past. Sure, the vision for W&M includes the final construction of the Integrated Science Center and a new “Arts Quarter”. The College is working hard to improve student services, like dining and residence life. Students have made great strides in impacting the community of Williamsburg – Scott Foster recently announced his campaign for re-election to the Williamsburg City Council once his term is up on June 30. As early as 1699, a W&M student expressed, “That the College will help to make the Town, and the Town to make the College…”. Is this how we define our future? Is this what makes us unique? Many other universities have aspirations and plans and strategies, so no – these factors are not what set us apart.

It’s an issue for every member of the W&M community – unlike GMU, most W&M students are not commuters, but is residence really the qualifying factor? What about a “rallying point” – we did get pretty rowdy a few weeks ago with the CAA Championship. Everyone has their own favorite “historical” tradition: Commencement, Yule Log, Charter Day, and Convocation to name a few. What is the deciding factor for community? Mr. Muraca is spot on: people.

Our admission process seeks out the best people. People that, since Thomas Jefferson, have had high emotional intelligence, valued academia, and exercised moral judgment and ethical standards. We identify with each other, we celebrate each other, we impact each other. Each and every one of us is a brick in W&M’s foundation, regardless of whether or not we choose to be. This is who we are – One Tribe, One Family.

 

 

What do people do for you?

March 18, 2014 by

From this week’s volunteer listserv:

Fifteen years ago, I met some good friends through my graduate program. They visited me this weekend from their home in Raleigh, where they tutor a little boy, improve energy efficiency in old buildings, and wrangle and dote on their three lively grandchildren. Over breakfast we discussed the big questions of life, including, “how do you feel most connected to something bigger than you are alone?” For each of us, our first answer was the same – through other people.

I encourage you to take the idea of Ubuntu seriously. (That is, understanding that people are people through other people, in the words of Desmond Tutu.) How do the people around you make you more human, by their implicit requests to be heard and seen? How do the people you avoid make you more human, by calling you to humility and reflection? How do the people you haven’t met yet make you more human, by their proleptic promises to changing your life one day?

This week, I invite you to hear, see, be humble, reflect and eagerly await the ways so many people will transform you.

9 Things No One Tells You at the College

January 23, 2014 by

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The Sunken Garden

 

To my incredibly talented and inspiring Tribe Family:

1. You’re not going to get straight A’s anymore. It’s a terrible thing to realize, as many of you are used to being the top in your class. However, the courses at the College are downright challenging, so there’s no surprise there. But guess what? You don’t have to be perfect, because no one is. Just keep in mind that grades do not define you or your character. Do your best and put in the effort, because that’s all that is asked of you.

2. Pick a few extracurriculars to join, but don’t go overboard. Like many of your peers, you’re probably used to doing a million things at once — and excelling at all of them. However, it’s important to know how to balance your classes, work and student activities. When I was a student at the College, everyone I knew seemed to be taking 18+ credits, holding down one (or two) on-campus jobs, and serving on the executive board for almost every organization they were involved in. And while many were able to juggle it all, a majority of them sacrificed sleep, healthy habits, and just plain time to themselves. Be passionate about what you do, but don’t forsake your personal well-being.

3. The trek between Morton and Wren will always take you the full 10 minutes between classes. That’s just how it is. Even if you’re on a bike, it’s still going to take you a while to weave through and dodge pedestrians.

4. Don’t go to Swem during midterms/finals. Trust me. Swem is crowded with other students who are constantly on edge, or haven’t showered, or worse, actually packed all their meals with them for that day and refuse to give up their computer on the second floor (yes, I will admit to doing the latter once or twice…). No shame. Still, there’s no sense in stressing yourself out searching for a study spot, unless you don’t mind camping out on the carpet. There are other places to study, so feel free to change it up every now and then. Empty classrooms, computer labs (my favorite was the one in the ISC), dorm lounges, the Barnes & Noble Bookstore, and more, await you! Plus, it’s nice to get a change of scenery.

5. Do go to Swem during other times of the semester. It’s actually a really nice environment to do work in, and for some, to socialize. I wouldn’t want you to miss out on a crucial part of the W&M experience. Plus, you’ll always find a study table that meets your standards and is adjacent to an electrical outlet.

6. If you find someone’s lost ID, go to the Directory. You can type in their last name and email them directly to notify them of your discovery. It just makes their search so much easier – they won’t have to search all of the front desks on campus, nor retrace their steps from the past couple of days. Plus, you’ll have to meet up with them to return their card to them, and there is nothing wrong with making new friends!

7. Take advantage of the Rec Center (and running trails if you’re the outdoorsy type). Students need only present their student ID to gain access to the facilities at the Rec! Looking back, I wish I had gone much more frequently (3x a week would have been a good goal), because I would have established much healthier habits for myself sooner. After you leave college, you actually have to pay for a gym membership, unless you live in an apartment complex with its very own gym.

8. Purchase a CW cider mug at the beginning of the year (since it’s January, do it now!). You’ll get free refills for the remainder of the year! And if you’re 21 and up, invest in a Green Leafe mug. You’ll thank me later.

9. Are you, or is someone you know, going through a tough time? Go to the Counseling Center. I can’t emphasize enough just how underutilized this resource is. Can you believe it took me until my sophomore year to realize that such a place existed? It wasn’t until I was in crisis mode that a kind language professor suggested I make an appointment there; I’m happy to share that I ended up attending sessions there until my senior year. I participated in individual counseling and later transitioned into group therapy (the latter being my most memorable experience at the College). There are other services there, as well, including couples and family counseling, outreach programs, and resources for helping a friend in need. There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking for help. You won’t be penalized, you won’t be judged, and you won’t regret it. After all, when you break a bone or catch a nasty virus, do people tell you to not go to the hospital or clinic? Of course they don’t. They tell you to seek medical attention immediately, if not take you there themselves. The same is true for your mind. If you have mental health concerns, address them! Take care of that beautiful mind of yours. 

Hope these were helpful. I know I wish I learned them sooner. If you have any additions or rejections of any of the above, feel free to share your thoughts by commenting below or emailing me at rmtanap@gmail.com.

Cheers,
Ryann

What I wanted to be when I was grown up

December 2, 2013 by

A fireman, a lawyer, an astronaut, a scientist, a professional lottery winner, a philanthropist, even a male model were all on my list of future careers as I was growing up.

Birthday party as a kid.

Fire Engine Birthday Cake!!

Being homeless for three years certainly wasn’t on the list. Nor was the hereditary health problem that caused me to become homeless, be discharged from the U.S. Army reserve, and withdraw from Indiana University – where I used to study on academic scholarship.  No, that sure wasn’t how I envisioned my future as I stared blissfully at that fire engine birthday cake. Those events stunted my academic career to the point where I am now an undergraduate student 10 years older than my peers.

The basis for my idea of what I wanted to do when I grew up matured as I matured. When I was in a foster home (the picture above is from one that was initially good), I wanted to be a fireman because that fire truck was just so cool. It had a ladder and could spray a ton of water everywhere.  I could ride that truck on my way to rescue kittens in trees and save people. Then, when I was adopted into a family, Miles, the lawyer who arranged it, became my hero. I wanted to be like him – making things right, saving kids from bad people.

In elementary school, I started learning about science. What’s cooler than firetrucks? Being an astronaut in outer space, of course. It would be the grandest adventure ever. Exploring the stars, visiting all the planets, exploring the unknown, leaving the familiar behind. My mind seemed suited for science as I learned about Newton’s & Einstein’s work. There was so much depth and knowledge to uncover in our own world too.

Self-Taken High School Senior Photo

Self-Taken High School Senior Photo

As I got older, I became more aware of the need for money. My adoptive father worked a low-paying job at a bakery an hour away trying to provide for five children. Times could be tough back then. It showed in the disparity between us and the middle class kids in school. I knew the perfect solution:  to become a professional lottery winner! In my late high school years, I became selfish in my career ambitions and thought of becoming a male model. They made a lot of money, looked good, and were smooth with the ladies.

Then, while I was in my second year of university, I began to experience the health problems that ultimately led to my homelessness. That journey is long enough to fill a whole book, but if you’re interested, you can check out an old blog I started in the twilight of my life on the streets. Being homeless opened my eyes to a part of the American population that most people disregard as self-made poverty cases. I didn’t find that to be true. Eventually I was connected with a homeless support organization where a social worker helped me get back into college and find a job. At my new job a co-worker discovered I was homeless. She let me live with her, and I found a new, “adoptive” family.

This exposure to a sometimes overlooked socioeconomic problem and the kindheartedness that strangers showed to help someone in need truly inspired me. It inspired me to my newest aspiration of what I want to be when I grow up. I want to use my new passion and experience with the homeless community and current alleviation solutions to help the homeless people throughout our country. I plan to repudiate negative stereotypes by telling people about my experiences and to utilize the kindness of others in intelligent ways.

Sullivan Foundation Retreat Weekend

Sullivan Foundation Retreat Weekend

The College of William & Mary recently helped me explore my passion by paying for me to attend a social entrepreneurship convention in North Carolina run by the Sullivan Foundation. During this “retreat” weekend, students discussed and contemplated big questions such as what are you truly passionate about and what would you do if money wasn’t a concern. Those who had an idea that they wanted to manifest into a positive change in the world got to sit down in a small group and exchange ideas with each other and a facilitator who works for a non-profit. We also had a crash course in design thinking and formed some mock business plans for socially-conscious firms. Through this exploration I came to the realization that while helping people was my passion, I was not willing to make sacrifices to my personal financial security.

I don’t want to have to worry about paying my bills just because I choose to make a career out of helping others. Starting my own venture would be too risky, and I don’t want to grind years of experience to get a decision-maker/change-maker job helping people. Thus, I plan on attending graduate school and then either working full-time in a professional law or business career while manifesting my philanthropic aspirations on my own time OR earning an MBA then working full-time in management for a large, well-funded organization that helps Americans in need.

It’s tough knowing what you want to do with your life at such a young age. Some people are fortunate enough to find their passion as a kid with college just serving as credential development to get their dream job. Other times, you have to learn about different subjects or explore different jobs to find your passion, and that’s perfectly fine. A retiree turned business professor told me recently that sometimes you even find that what you’re passionate about changes every decade. Unexpectedly, I figured out what I wanted to do through a painful experience.

Whatever you want to be when you’re grown up and out of William & Mary, make sure it’s something you’re passionate about and don’t forget to take some time to help the community in which you live and work. And if you haven’t figured out your passion, it’s okay. Try a class that sounds interesting; talk to our wonderful faculty advisors or the Career Center; and don’t forget about your professors. They are fountains of knowledge and experience, eager to pass that on to you.

The Best of Both Worlds

October 31, 2013 by

As stated in my bio, I’m a Texas resident. When I got ready to apply to college, I wasn’t interested in the schools in my state. I figured I would end up at a private school – if I wanted to go to a huge public school I could find plenty in Texas for half the price. But in the end, the small, prestigious, yet public W&M married all the things I was looking for most in a college. It was undeniably the right place for me and being directed to it has been an awesome blessing.

Of course, it’s hard to call W&M a public school with all the opportunities to thrive on campus. It’s been our tagline for decades – “the public Ivy.” I’ve always taken pride that our public school has such a private school feel. However, lately I’ve also been grateful that there are a few significant ways where we are NOT like a private school.

First of all, our diversity policy is not like that of a private school. I have a large group of friends who ended up at a small private college in the Midwest that expels students who are openly gay. The students have started fighting back against this policy – establishing a Gay-Straight Alliance on campus and petitioning the administrators. The fight has gotten pretty nasty because the students have no leverage against the crusty old Board of Trustees with outdated ideologies. The students truly have no voice in the matter. The student government is only a “government” in name, not in practice. At William & Mary, administrators take our concerns to heart, as exemplified in the annual opportunity to submit revisions to the Student Code of Conduct. Also, there are student representatives on the Board of Visitors to voice campus opinion. Administrators, alumni, students and board members alike are dedicated to making this campus a happier place. Activism is a responsibility encouraged for all parties.

This brings me to another aspect of W&M that makes us awesome as a public school, rather than private: free speech codes. I recently attended a forum with a speaker from FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education). The speaker talked about some college campuses with horrific rules against free speech. Many campuses have a designated area, a free speech zone, and only there are students allowed to pass out pamphlets and flyers for their causes. This area is usually small and in a secluded part of campus. Students who pass out flyers in other parts of campus have disciplinary action taken against them. A ridiculous example occurred a few weeks ago when a student at a college in California was prohibited by school officials from passing out copies of the Constitution on Constitution Day.

I listened to this presentation in disbelief – I couldn’t imagine going to a school that violated such fundamental individual liberties. Nor could I imagine the student body of William & Mary accepting such limitations on free speech. We take for granted being able to walk across Sadler Terrace and listen to various student groups advertise their causes. Free speech on campus, however, should not be considered a privilege, but a right guaranteed by the very men who walked the streets of Williamsburg centuries ago.

After the presentation, I went to the FIRE website. William & Mary has consistently been rated as a school with some the of best free speech codes in the country. This honor of a “green light” has only been given to a dozen other schools. Perhaps it’s because we are public, perhaps it’s because we’ve had 320 years to figure this out, or perhaps it’s because those men who structured our school also structured our country. Whatever it is, we are lucky to go to a school that values diversity, human rights and the pursuit of happiness.

In sum, W&M adopts the characteristics of a private school, but remains public for the sake of the issues that matter. Our school is the ultimate hybrid, and I’m so proud to be a part of it.

Creating a Community

October 28, 2013 by

Branch Out held a Homecoming reception this weekend to welcome back alumni who participated in alternative breaks while they were here.  It was quite a crowd, with people buzzing in from all over the world.  Some of those I talked to had come from places as far away as Ireland, San Diego and Tanzania recently.

One student director alumna is working with migrant workers in North Carolina, developing education sessions on health and safety practices to share with them to mitigate the high risks they face in their labors.  Another alumnus is studying for his master’s in higher education, and continues to be involved in alternative breaks – no longer as a site leader, but as an adviser. One former site leader talked about her work, which isn’t quite in the field she wants to be in, but she is busy finding ways to connect her experience in environmental sustainability to what she does. Another alumnus, who is now a community partner for one of our national trips, told me about his meeting earlier that day with the site leaders he’ll be working with this March. And one alumna wasn’t part of our program but stopped by to tell us about her recent time in East Africa, and to see about ways that she could support our two international alternative breaks that go to countries where Swahili is spoken.

The vision of Branch Out alternative breaks is to create a community of active and educational individuals dedicated to the pursuit of social justice.  Throughout the year, I see this happening in different ways.  I see it when our site leaders gather and work together to develop trips that will support community-driven work for social change.  I see it when participants on a trip laugh together over simple meals eaten in community center basements, and later struggle together in reflection about how to tutor better tomorrow.  And last night, I saw how this community continues even when it is dispersed across the world, as breakers who continue to live out their unique commitments to social justice met up with current program leaders and participants who welcomed them back with gracious hospitality, eager to hear their stories and glimpse into their futures as active citizens.

Time moves faster than you think, so cherish it!

May 28, 2013 by

It’s been a year since I graduated from W&M, took a leap of faith and moved to Thailand – completely on my own. Since I’ve been abroad, I’ve had the pleasure of working with some of the most inspiring people. I teach English at a school in the mountains. It’s a remote village, and the nearest city is a six-hour bus ride away. The hotspots to go to during the day are the 7-11 and a couple of coffee shops in town. It’s quiet here. There are no tall buildings, lanes of traffic or smog hanging in the air. Instead, I see mountains and rice fields in the valley below the school. But I’m not alone. In fact, I feel more immersed in a community than I ever have before. I didn’t think that was possible, especially after going to W&M for four years – the College will always be my second home.

It wasn’t easy to get here, to this point of contentment, to this place of peace in my life. I have never lived on my own before (with the exception of a summer internship, but I had random roommates for that experience), let alone move across the world to a completely foreign environment, only to immerse myself in a culture far from my own. Here, the languages I hear the most are Thai and northern Thai. My students come from hill tribes and their native languages are Karen, Lawa and Hmong. English and Chinese are taught at the school where I work, though no one is fluent in either languages other than the native speakers (I’m the native English speaker at the school, and we just started our Chinese program so we have university students from Guanzhou, China on rotation here to complete teaching internships).

Moving abroad for an extended period of time (though, now that I’ve been overseas over ten months, I feel like it’s just short-term), can be a big change. If you’ve never been out of your comfort zone before, this is certainly the way to do it. I’ve encountered a variety of hurdles along the way, but nothing was impossible. Everything until now has been an experience or lesson for me, and has certainly made me more open and understanding of the world.

So, if you’re preparing for a big move (be it to a new city, a new part of the country, or halfway across the world), do not fret. And if you’re thinking that one whole year overseas is a long time, I would say it most certainly is not. Time moves a lot faster than you’d think. If I could, I would stay here even longer. I feel like I just arrived and my job here has just begun.

Just the other week, I was talking to one of the teachers here.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea if you go back to your country. You have to stay here,” she said.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because I’ll miss you,” she responded.

I’ll miss her, and all of the teachers and students here at my school, more than she’ll ever know.