Undergraduate Experience

(Still!) Young Reflections

By Amalhin Shek ’13

‘Back to school’ carries different meanings, even within generations. For some, new students, lab members, or peers; while for those of us outside of academia, the end of the fiscal year or arrival of that last quarter- a time to tie up loose ends and reflect on the successes and challenges that made or broke us. In that spirit of reflection- read on for a few of the William and Mary perks that persist in the life of a young-ish member of Young Guarde.


Coming from the DMV to Williamsburg gave many of us NOVA (or DC/MD) folks a reprieve of sorts from the mixing bowl messiness and intensity of the area. Orientation itself, while kitschy to some, in and of itself helped cement lifelong friendships. It helped each of us build our first microcosms of community within and across our freshman halls in the safety of quiet, muggy Williamsburg- shout out to my fellow Barrett 3rd west ladies!

My own experience at the college began prior to move-in. I spent an evening on campus after being admitted as part of the Office of Admissions center for multicultural recruitment’s Escape visit. During that weekend I made my first set of friends at the college, freshmen living in Dupont; members of SASA, MSA, and APO; and admissions office interns who would go on to become mentors and lifelong friends. During that same weekend, I made two major decisions. Critical of course, was saying yes to the admissions offer. The second came after one of my first conversations with a multicultural recruitment intern who told me all about SOMOS, the Student Organization for Medical Outreach and Sustainability. Committing to apply into the program may have indirectly gotten me to where I am in my career more than ten years later.

The welcoming I experienced during that one weekend and orientation are what make a William and Mary alum who they are. It’s the openness, mentorship, and familiarity that to this day members of the student, alumni, faculty, and staff community live through their daily actions. Whether to support me through a parent’s funeral, that next career pívot, or to celebrate life’s milestones-I can always count on those in my William and Mary family. 


From the first freshman seminar session with professor Scholnick to my last Maternal and Child Health lectures with Dr. Buchanan-questioning the status quo and digging deep into the why’s of policies, processes, and myriad human behaviors were ingrained throughout my experience. With Dr. Aday, and during each SOMOS seminar session and trip to Santo Domingo I was challenged to reflect on the intended and unintended consequences of what we thought we were accomplishing- a way of thinking that shows up at work every day. In managing infectious disease programming  and supporting the COVID-19 response in Latin America, every single day, I get to consider how our technical and political decisions may impact those on the ground and directly affected for both the short and long term. I’m a firm believer that the challenges we experienced in and out of the classroom make William and Mary grads likelier to go out into the world with an eye towards disrupting the status quo and a heart disposed to serve…


Which brings me to the last emblematic perk and trait William and Mary helped myself and so many others hone. Whether it is in educating and building up tomorrow’s leaders by making foreign language learning accessible; advocating  for a safer and healthier planet; or humanely communicating the decisions made inside the US Government Machine- if there is one thing we seek out no matter what, it is any chance to be of service to our fellow humans. Daily, I’m impressed by, and so proud of the ways in which my fellow alumni go out of their way to get at the root of challenges to find the most socially just solutions. 

While I might not have a crystal ball view into the future, I know I’ll have the support of my William and Mary community, a never ending need to question the world, and a desire to always be in service of our global community, as we collectively work towards a more livable world.

Connect with Amalhin on LinkedIn.

Grad School Health & Wellness

More Life

By DeLauren Olivia Davis, M.Ed. ‘18

Whether you’re gearing up to finish a strong third quarter or refueling yourself to start the academic year 2021-2022, I hope that you’re taking care of yourself. Since we were slammed with the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 it feels like “self care” has become a frivolous buzz phrase to throw around when convenient. I do my best to take it seriously, remember it’s origin in meaning and assign it value in my life. In doing this I endeavor to model it so that others feel empowered to do so themselves.

My transformative journey to self care started at William and Mary (W&M). Like most TWAMPS (Typical William and Mary Persons/Students) I double majored in academics and a robust extracurricular life. I often tell people that I experienced two full burnouts as an undergraduate student. This isn’t a point of bolstering pride for me, but it is more so a testimony that there was a crucial life lesson for me to learn. Attending a public ivy league institution and being a campus leader for countless student organizations (I literally can’t keep track of all of the campus engagements that I found myself in) is no easy feat. It was simultaneously fulfilling and unsustainable— as are many things that we enjoy but over indulge in. The symptoms of my burn out were failed and withdrawn classes, neglect of family and friends, lack of regular physical activity and healthy eating, absence of financial and spiritual discipline, excessive stress and anxiety… the list goes on and on and on.

At this point you’re probably wondering… “Where is/are she/they going with this?” I promise the silver lining is coming soon.

After graduating and continuing straight to graduate school I was forced to take a hard look in the mirror as round three of burnout was both quickly and surely approaching. In that short summer post undergrad when I moved to Athens, Georgia for my graduate studies, I didn’t make any major changes other than that of my physical environment (shout out to my Georgia Peaches and Bulldogs).  Grad school is hard enough by itself. Being at another prestigious institution and in a top nationally ranking program didn’t lift any of the pressure that I felt to succeed. My burnout symptoms continued, and that caused me to search for the source of this workaholic ailment.

It is much easier to care for oneself when you can identify the cause of your lacking. As I found myself reflecting on my time at W&M (I do this quite often) I learned that I tied my personal value and worth to my productivity as a student and as a leader. This is a huge no-no. You are worthy of care of yourself and from others for merely existing. This was the lesson that took me a concentrated six years of failure to learn. In March 2020, I took a decent enough stance to make a change in my life because I had the gift of the absence of certainty as it pertained to my human existence. To this date, I have survived the first global epicenter of COVID-19 and I’m currently surviving in the epicenter of the United States of America. Self care is crucial to me more than ever because of how uncertain our time on this Earth has become.

I leave you with this advice: Whether you’re an aspiring W&M student, current student, young alum or seasoned alum, please take care of yourself. It will have the most positive ripple effect into all aspects of your life in ways that you might not be able to imagine at this point. If you don’t know where to begin, go back to the simple things that made you happy as a kid. Was it a favorite tv show? A song? A hug? A piping hot dish of Grandma’s mac n’ cheese? Find your inner child and care for him/her/them. You’ll find that things in your life will naturally begin to align. I leave you with this timely quote from Chaz Miller @cdiddy77, “The most important reason to live in the moment is that nothing lasts forever—enjoy the moment while it’s in front of you. Be present.”

Connect with DeLauren on LinkedIn or email her at or

Tips Welcome to the City Series

What is Possible for You?

By Denée Reaves ’11

Hello! Hi! Hello! My name is Denée Reaves and I am a Wealth Coach at, and founder of Focused Work. Through my coaching, I assist women who are facing financial challenges remove the roadblocks that prevent them from living the life they want for themselves and their families. I am also a proud alum of the College of William and Mary, class of 2011 (ten-year anniversary this year!)

Today I want to talk to you about your values. But first, I want to acknowledge that first half of 2021 have been A LOT. Between working from home and being super busy at work, and getting my coaching certificate, I have been B U S Y. I’m sure that you all have been too. And sometimes when we get busy, we also get tunnel vision, focusing on the next thing to make sure everything gets done. So I want to open your thinking a little bit in this post, and have you consider: what is possible for you?

I started my blog to take people along my financial journey so they would know they weren’t alone, provide some tips on how to manage your finances, and hopefully explain some financial jargon in more digestible terms. What I realized is that there was so much more possible for me. I took a six-month hiatus from blogging to explore these possibilities, and, as a result, have started a successful Wealth Coaching practice. I’ve taken all I’ve learned from personal experience, and from coaching training and am helping my clients discover and explore what is possible for them, in their finances and in their life. We focus on what they are deeply passionate about and align their financial decisions to that. And I want to offer a bit of that to you all here!

This is the biggest piece of wisdom I’ve gained through my wealth journey: Financial fitness and financial freedom is all about choices. This is not to ignore the very real restrictions and disadvantages caused by racist policies and systems that are built to help the rich get richer and the poor poorer. However, when we consciously and completely reject that there is only one path to financial freedom, we open up a whole new way of thinking. Madam C. J. Walker didn’t become the first female self-made millionaire in the United States by following the beaten path. Neither did Steve Jobs start his Apple empire by following the crowd.

We are taught that there is one path to managing our finances. Get an education and then get a high paying job, whether or not it’s a job we love. Buy a house and a car; contribute to your 401k. Make sure to be in debt but only be in debt responsibly. (That one particularly gets my goat.) This path isn’t wrong. It just isn’t for everyone.

We are not making our financial choices from the right place. We make them from what has been done in the past, or from a place of fear. But there is another way! And I’m challenging you to do it differently.

What if you value travel and would prefer a nomadic life style? What if you wanted to pay for everything in cash and not worry about credit cards? What if you saw a need in your community and decided to fill that gap? What if instead of a college degree, you’ve started a business out of high school that you’re passionate about? What if you made financial choices based on honoring your values?

How we use, manage and regulate our finances should align completely with what brings us value, not what brings society value. Money should be a resource to fund the lifestyle that makes us feel most alive. It should definitely not be the driving force in our decision making.

This all sounds well and good Denée, but how do I go about this? Well, I’m glad you asked! My answer is: take some time for yourself!

Maybe you can only swing 5 minutes, but try and take at least 30. Get some pen and paper (yes old school, no computers!) and start jotting down some thoughts. Ask yourself: What do I want more of? What am I passionate about? What makes me feel most alive? What am I naturally inclined to? You may be surprised what you come up with. Then ask yourself, how do my financial decisions align with these discoveries? That’s where you’ll really get some insights, and potentially some clear first steps toward your own unique path to financial fitness.

If you take away anything from this blog it should be this: you decide your financial path! Don’t limit yourself because society has only presented you with one. Channel that inner child and use your imagination. Ask what is possible. Make choices from your values instead of from fear. Explore non-traditional ways of living that can better your finances, and more importantly, your peace of mind. The possibilities are endless.

Connect with Denée on LinkedIn.

Get Involved Maintaining Connections

Staying involved with William & Mary after the Joint Degree Programme

By Ian Doty ’21

Staying involved with William & Mary after the Joint Degree Programme

It’s an understatement to say that my time at William & Mary was unusual. From the beginning, my time in Williamsburg was limited; as a member of the St Andrews Joint Degree Programme, I entered college knowing that I’d only spend two years in Virginia. Add in the COVID-19 pandemic, and several work-related trips, and I spent fewer than three semesters physically at the College.

Yet when I graduated this past May, I left with an overwhelming feeling of gratitude towards the College, its students, its professors, and most of all, the shared community we had. As COVID brought collective difficulties, and William & Mary and its students learned to adapt, there was a certain mutual commiseration. It was the feeling of: “We’re in this once-in-a-lifetime situation, in the once-in-a-lifetime experience that is college, so we might as well get through it together.”

Nonetheless, attending St Andrews complicated my adoration for William & Mary. Indeed, having attended two universities, I have two different and simultaneously equal loves for both of my alma maters. Where one school succeeded, the other struggled, with almost no overlap. And speaking to other students and graduates from the Joint Degree Programme, I know that’s a common sentiment. Students who bounce back and forth between the United States and Scotland never experience the comfort of a permanent home – while William & Mary is a lovely place to study, it’s always accompanied by the portents of change.

The result often is that students become disillusioned and frustrated by the seemingly endless red tape surrounding grade transfer, course compatibility, and the difficulties re-making friends. For some, that dispiritedness becomes overwhelming, and they choose to leave the Programme. But for others, it becomes numbing agent, and they learn to deal with the struggles of two universities, often with a little bitterness towards both sides.

Of course, like regular students, there are things we wish the administrations (both!) did differently. But for normal William & Mary students, that doesn’t prevent them from engaging with the College and its alumni after graduation. The same should be true for Joint Degree students.

I recognize that my experience is colored by a positive experience with the Joint Degree Programme and both of its constituent universities, and that not everyone from the Programme is ready or willing to engage with either William & Mary or St Andrews. But for those who are looking to develop that deeper relationship with their alma maters, here are 6 ways to continue to be involved:

1. Stay connected to your local alumni networks.

William & Mary has a renowned alumni network, and our programming is truly one of the best in the nation. Whether it be social development, employment connections, or opportunities to rekindle relationships with old classmates, William & Mary has an outstanding capability to keep you connected to your home in Williamsburg.

More information, and a full list of alumni services and local chapters, can be found on the William & Mary Alumni Association Website.

Although still nascent, St Andrews continues to build out its alumni engagement, emulating William & Mary in creating local, regional, and national networks for alumni. These tend to be no-frills opportunities to socialize; the engagement level is lower, but once or twice a year, there’s a large party to connect you to St Andrews. The St Andrews officers–who usually are present at these events–are your key to planning for graduate study or remaining in close contact with the university.

Find out more information here.

2. Attend William & Mary homecoming.

Although St Andrews doesn’t have a homecoming tradition, William & Mary’s intimate yet exciting annual gatherings are a special opportunity to reconnect with classmates and feel the “magic” of Williamsburg in the fall. I’ve spoken to so many students who said that their decision to come to William & Mary was made when they saw students socializing in the Sunken Gardens on a Fall Visiting day. Though we might not have that freedom and proximity to campus once we graduate, every year Homecoming aims to rekindle that feeling with a weekend of connection and college revelry. It’s a genuinely tender time and one of the opportunities to really feel the pull of college once again. Homecoming is just a month away.

Register for homecoming.

3. Recognize that each university has its strengths and weaknesses.

I, like all my fellow Joint Degree Programme students, have bemoaned William & Mary and St Andrews in the past, sometimes even in the same sentence. That’s normal. But my adoration for both colleges comes out of an acceptance of their differences, and an understanding that I’m better for having dealt with the same struggles and successes as every other Joint Degree Programme student. In some ways, it’s the constant change and overcoming of adversity that sets the Programme apart from other opportunities; that’s not fun in the moment, but it is something to be respected and rewarded after graduation.

4. Donate to the causes you care about. Fortunately for graduates, William & Mary lets you designate your donations to a specific cause (something I saw a LOT of this COVID year as a Senior Class Gift member). In recognizing that William & Mary and St Andrews have their unique areas of strength, it’s only fitting that we decide to give back to those areas we felt supported by (or even need improving!). Moreover, William & Mary lets you donate directly to the Programme, giving money to the Small Grants

Fund, to social bonding events during Orientation and Freshers Week, and hosting senior events for future graduates.

Donate to the Joint Degree Programme here.

5. Return to Williamsburg and St Andrews and reignite your passion for your alma maters.

Talking to alums, so many of them felt disconnected from their college years until, on a roadtrip down the Eastern Seaboard, they decided to stop in Williamsburg. One look at William & Mary, and their memories of college came rushing back. They were hooked.

Even though we attended two universities, the same still holds true. I’ll always have memories of my first William & Mary football game, Winter Blowout on campus, or Raisin celebrations as a green second-year at St Andrews. Some part of those memories are connected to the place, and as we head out of COVID restrictions and return to regular travel, I’m looking forward to heading back to Williamsburg and St Andrews and feeling a sense of connection our colleges and what made them so special.

6. Stay connected to other Joint Degree Programme alumni.

In the past few months, I’ve made it a priority to speak to Joint Degree Programme alumni, all of which have gone on to impressive things. They say, invariably, that there’s comfort it talking to other Programme alumni, sharing in the joys and frustrations of college and laughing about the unique experience that we all share.

Although there isn’t quite a structured alumni group for the Programme (yet!), there’s real value in staying connected through social media, in-person events, and homecomings and reunions. Much like how we stayed together during college to enjoy and survive the challenges of the Programme, there’s value in remaining close after graduation.

I’d love to hear from any Joint Degree Programme students, whether it be your stories, or ways you’re still connected to William & Mary and St Andrews. Feel free to send me an email or connect with me on LinkedIn.

Follow along with Ian on Instagram and connect with him on LinkedIn.

Crim Dell Association Tribe Athletics

Building Identity

By Peter Makey `19

Having grown up near Minneapolis, Minnesota, my journey to William & Mary was far less predictable (and much longer) than my relatively shorter, well-traveled path up to Washington, DC after graduation. As many before and alongside me can articulate, there’s a certain allure to moving to a major market, the center of American politics, and to a place where you’re bound to bump into a fellow William & Mary grad if you just happen to overhear the right conversation.

During my time as a student, the epicenter of my experience was in Kaplan Arena, where I participated as a member of the Men’s gymnastics team. Tribe Athletics – and Men’s Gymnastics specifically – was my entrée into William & Mary, and it remains one of my strongest ties. Where I live in Washington, DC, Metro buses adorned in green and gold dotted the streets during the fall of 2019. In 2020, I became more deeply engaged as a young alum than I could have predicted, as I joined with students, families, staff, and community members in urging Tribe Athletics to find its way back to the mission it anchors on. Now, in 2021, I felt the reach of William & Mary as I cheered on my younger teammates competing at the NCAA Championships at the University of Minnesota, just miles from where I grew up.

If athletics has proven itself a special venue for building and sustaining community, so too has my identity as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. While not officially a part of any LGBTQ+ student group on campus, shortly after graduation I leaned into my identity as another way to meet and engage with other alum I could relate to. Having been on campus during William & Mary’s inaugural Lavender Graduation ceremony and taking part in its second, I knew there was an under-told history of LGBTQ+ student life that was resurging in front of me. Through the Alumni Association, I have been able to support the newly renamed Crim Dell Association, birthed out of GALA, the College’s LGBTQ+ affinity group, which celebrated its 35th anniversary at William & Mary this year. I was also pleased to attend William & Mary’s first formally partnered Pride event in DC, where I’ve been able to connect with alum from years, sometimes decades past, who knew an entirely different experience than the inclusive one I so appreciated.

In each of these ways and more, the College’s active engagement with DC alumni has provided an enriching layer of opportunities, personal, professional, and social. From networking events at alum-founded solar energy startups, to sailing excursions on the Potomac, to William & Mary Night at National’s Park and W&M at D.C. United, the ways in which the William & Mary Washington Center and DC Alumni Board have made intentional efforts to engage students and young alumni sustains connection and community in a remarkable way. In the virtual environment too, the breadth of William & Mary’s alumni network is clear. As Zoom became my new normal, I found myself able to stay connected as I virtually celebrated Pride, watched gymnastics competitions, commemorated Charter Day, and continued to pursue research with the support of professors who I admired during undergrad.

Although I’ve been able to forge strong connections that span both time and distance in the virtual environment, I’m reminded now about the importance of place. With October’s Homecoming and Commencement celebrations around the corner, I’m eager to make the familiar trek down to Williamsburg once again, to return to the sights and people that have made W&M home.

Until then, here’s to hoping you all stay safe and well. Go Tribe!

Follow along with Peter on Instagram and connect with him on LinkedIn.