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.