At William and Mary we always talk about this crazy “Sense of Community” that you can’t find at every university, especially public universities. It was not until this past year that I began to actually realize what this ever-so-popular phrase actually means, and what the factors are that cause this community to be so tight-knit. In addition, it was not until last night that I understood that the community surrounding the College also believes in that same sense of community.
I could throw a bunch of statistics at you to demonstrate how William and Mary is this great public institution that prides itself on being relatively small. I could explain how students have very unique relationships with their professors, how first-semester freshman do the same types of research as seniors doing their honors thesis, or how professors frequently take students to their homes for a dinner with their family. I could explain how a government professor is tonight hosting all of the summer admissions interviewers at his home for a cookout, and that every professor is more than just a professor, but an advisor, a mentor, a role-model, an inspiration, and a friend. I could explain to you how an overwhelming majority of our students live on-campus, eat in the dining halls, and participate very actively in one of the over 400 clubs and organizations; or how it is not unusual for students to walk into the President’s office and schedule a lunch date with him that next week. But I won’t go into the details. All of it makes up what we call a strong “sense of community.” I cannot describe to you the importance of this community, especially on a blog. In fact, I have a difficult time articulating these thoughts to my sister who will be at William and Mary this fall. Its unique, its different, and its something you won’t find at most of the schools with which I am familiar.
But this sense of community does not end at the boundaries of our campus. Instead, it extends into Colonial Williamsburg, the rest of the Williamsburg community, and out into James City County. Last night, after spending 20 minutes in the grocery store with a friend trying to decide on how many onions we should purchase as well as what type of BBQ sauce tastes the best, we ventured back to my home. A few minutes after stepping in the door, my friend’s phone rang and she was receiving a phone call from….me! We were both very confused. Of course, I glanced at my hands and didn’t see a cell phone. I felt my pockets and it definitely wasn’t a pocket dial. We then realized what was going on when a person started speaking on the other end of the line: I dropped my phone outside of the grocery store and someone, a cute old lady, had picked it up. Not only that, but she took it inside the grocery store to see if they could hold on to it for me. The store would not because of the it’s policy (which is weird), so she ended up taking the time to call my friend, which was my last made phone call, and say that she had my phone. I immediately left to find her at this Shell gas station where she went to get some fuel. Unfortunately, I had absolutely no idea where this gas station was, so I had to call her again. She picked up her phone after a few missed phone calls, explained how she has no idea how this phone works, and then gave me directions to where she was waiting. It ended up being a 20 minute ordeal, she missed her television show (which she let me know in a very nice manner), and this was all after her 12-hour shift at the hospital where she is a nurse – so she was exhausted. After introducing ourselves to each other, I thanked her and we both went our separate ways.
It was an eye-opening experience: sometimes I think that we are in this little bubble at William and Mary where everything is governed by certain rules or by the Honor Code, but in all reality, students here are just great people, just like many people in the real world – or at least in Williamsburg. Now I realize that the Tribe’s sense of community is not only a campus phenomenon, but a positive characteristic of the greater Williamsburg area.