Telling William & Mary’s Story

By Emily Topness ’22

With so many clubs on campus, it can be difficult to choose! Here I highlight my experience as a member of the Spotswood Society for incoming students.

The Sir Christopher Wren Building, constructed between 1695-1699, is a quintessential part of William & Mary’s campus. The “Wren Building” is the oldest standing college building in the United States. Despite its ancient bricks and storied history, the Wren Building is a part of daily campus life, and students can actively play a role in sharing William & Mary’s story.

When I was a sophomore, I became a member of the Spotswood Society. The Spotswood Society is a student organization made up of student volunteers who give tours of the Wren Building and Historic Campus to the public. Learning how to be a tour guide was super exciting, and when I put on my Spotswood Society name tag for the first time, I truly felt I belonged at William & Mary.

Spotswood Society members act as William & Mary ambassadors to both prospective students and visitors from around the world. I was worried that the Spotswood Society would be full of history majors, but we are truly an interdisciplinary group. As a volunteer tour guide and Spotswood Society member, I learned public speaking skills, how a historic building is run and maintained, and met many of my good friends.

It may seem nerve-wracking to remember all of the dates and people involved in William & Mary’s story, but I found I could easily remember the history as I guided my tour group from room to room. It is especially exciting to share my experiences on campus with prospective students as well as hear stories from returning alumni. Being a historical interpreter takes thoughtfulness and quick thinking, whether you’re juggling a large group that just came in or a family with small children. Additionally, it is humbling to work with a group of students who are determined to tell William & Mary’s history fully and respectfully.

One of my favorite memories of the Spotswood Society is our group visit to President Katherine Rowe’s house. The President’s House, part of the Historic Campus, is full of interesting art and historic furniture (and delicious desserts!) that President Rowe shared with us.

As a tour guide, I answered many questions from “What is this building?” to more complex conversations about the history of women at William & Mary. One of the most common questions is: “Is the Wren Building really haunted?” Although on windy, rainy winter days waiting for tour groups I sometimes wondered this myself, I still can’t say for sure. There are classrooms in the Wren basement and on the second floor, and all I can say is that the scariest thing I ever encountered in the Wren was my Intro to Hinduism final exam!

Categories: Campus Life, Student Blogs, Student Clubs & Orgs

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