Career & Networking Maintaining Connections Tribe Athletics Undergraduate Experience

The Transformative Power of People

By Braxton Hicks ’15, M.Acc. ’16

Hi! My name is Braxton and in light of Professional Development Week being near, I wanted to reflect a bit on my time at William & Mary and how it helped shape my career (and really my life as I know it). Quick background on me: I got my Bachelor of Science in human factor physics from W&M back in 2015, and then got my Master of Accounting from the Raymond A. Mason School of Business a year later in 2016. I played on the W&M Football team during that time and was involved in a few pretty cool extracurriculars, so naturally I had a lot of time on my hands! Since then, I’ve gone on to get my Ph.D., work for NASA at the Johnson Space Center, and now I work as a UX (user experience) researcher at Google. Not bad for a few years post-grad! If you can believe it, though, I can trace those achievements back to three very specific moments at W&M. This might sound like one long ad for the university, but truthfully — it isn’t. It’s about people. In three conversations, the people at W&M changed my life … and I’d like to tell you about them.

William & Mary is an interesting place. You grow, you fail, you learn, and if you’re lucky, you meet a few truly exceptional people who change your life for the better. Coming into W&M, we’re all told that the students you’ll meet will be the brightest minds in the world. With this, I couldn’t agree more. As much fun as I had learning and growing with my peers, it was the relationships and experiences I had with faculty and staff that made it a truly special place. I had the pleasure of interacting with several impactful faculty during my time at W&M, but I’d like to quickly highlight three people in particular and how they led me to my post-undergrad adventures.

For a W&M student-athlete, there are few people as invested in your success as Jason Simms, then academic advisor for the athletics department. For my final year at W&M, I’d planned to be in grad school. Unfortunately, weeks before graduation, I found out that the grad program I’d planned to join was to be discontinued. Shocked and unsure of what to do, I knew where I could get help. I ran over to Jason’s office and, in a bit of a panic, explained the situation. Jason assured me that we’d find a way through this together, and immediately helped me find another grad program that worked for my situation. He sat with me and helped me pick up the pieces of a broken plan to formulate a new one. Truthfully, I’m not sure what I would’ve done without Jason’s guidance and quick action; I certainly wouldn’t have found the Master of Accounting program — and it was there that the direction of my life really shifted.

The M.Acc. program was pretty intense. I wasn’t really performing at my best and while I was leaving early from a tough class, visibly downtrodden, Dean Todd Mooradian spotted me in a stairwell and asked two very powerful questions: “How are you?” and “How can I help?” This was our first time meeting. We had several conversations after that in which I shared my post-W&M dreams with him, and he became a vital mentor. Unbeknownst to me, Dean Mooradian reached out to a few professors outside of W&M to share my story. One of these professors wrote back and asked to meet with me. This turned out to be the beginning of my Ph.D. (and ultimately Google) career. Few people in my life have had as significant an impact as Dean Mooradian. His proactiveness and willingness to connect sparked a monumental change in the direction of my life.

As my time at W&M was coming to a close, I had some good leads on where to go next, but at that stage, nothing concrete. Without knowledge of a direct next step, I was referred by a mentor to chat with Vice Provost for Research and Graduate/Professional Studies Dennis Manos to ask for advice. He listened, challenged and pushed me to think broadly and ambitiously.  Professor Manos took it upon himself to connect me with a head researcher at NASA’s Langley Research Center, inadvertently launching my career at NASA. What amazes me here is not only Professor Manos’ willingness to meet with me, but also to extend himself to forge a connection for me at a place as prestigious as NASA.  

As I reflected on those three experiences, I noticed a few common themes that could be framed as learnings here. The first thing I noticed is that these people showed up for me at low moments, not high ones. Each of these three people stepped in during moments of great uncertainty and were willing to act. Their actions during those moments of inflection reshaped not only the current situation, but they reshaped my perspective as well. Given that theme, I try to see those low moments as opportunities to reframe my thinking and become larger and better than I thought. One other theme I noticed was that these people sought to connect with me having no guarantee of dividends or knowledge of what I’d go on to do. They chose to invest in a person, not a product or a goal. I’ve since felt compelled to do the same for myself and others. There are several benefits to building connections, but I’ve learned that there’s power, transformative power, in building people.

Connect with Braxton on LinkedIn.

Undergraduate Experience

Cementing Love for Publishing

By Bezawit Yohannes ’18

It’s somewhat paradoxical to say that my journey to get into publishing was both fairly straightforward and also a story of taking advantage of unconventional opportunities — and yet both are true.

I’m happy to say the most straightforward parts were because of the Office of Career Development & Professional Engagement at William & Mary. As early as my freshman year, I knew I intended to major in English and that I wanted to go into some kind of career in media. I began going to the Cohen Career Center to edit my resume as I took on extracurriculars that could help me apply for media-related jobs. A William & Mary alumnus at a W&M career fair helped me get my first full-time internship, as a creative copywriting intern for the Wolf Trap Center for the Performing Arts. And most importantly, I attended the biannual Ferguson Blair Publishing Seminar and learned more about the publishing industry from other alumni who had jobs spanning several publishing houses and media corporations. Attending that seminar cemented my career goal in my mind; I knew I wanted to get into book publishing.

However, from listening to the speakers share their experiences, I knew that entry-level positions in the industry were incredibly competitive, and I’d have to be willing to pursue any and every opportunity, even if it seemed circuitous. I also knew that as a young Black woman looking for representation in the fantastical stories I loved, I would have to work 10 times as hard to articulate my vision for what I knew I could contribute to the industry.

After I studied abroad at the University of Oxford (thanks to my scholarship through the 1693 Scholars Program), I developed an honors project under Professor  Hermine Pinson focusing on Afrofuturist literature by Black authors. Working on the project led me to a decades-long history of Black authors in speculative fiction, while showing me how needed a diversity of Black voices, especially Black women, still was in fantasy literature. At the same time, my honors thesis re-ignited my passion for children’s literature, and I began to follow new Black authors publishing exciting young adult fantasy.

I wasn’t ready to leave my research behind, so I attended Georgetown University to get my masters in English, but I never stopped working toward entering publishing. The challenge was that publishing, especially pre-pandemic, was centered in New York, and that wasn’t financially feasible for me at the time. Once again, it was W&M’s Office of Career Development & Professional Engagement that offered me the answer. I applied for the Ferguson-Blair $5,000 scholarship to attend the Denver Publishing Institute (DPI) — the perfect way to get the experience of a publishing graduate certification without having to find expensive housing for an underpaid internship in New York City.

I had built a #bookstagram platform where I shared my reviews of Black fantasy and young adult novels I loved. The speakers at DPI helped me realize that editorial was only one of many sectors of the publishing industry, and if I broadened my scope, my own social media could be my way in. By promoting books, authentically engaging my audience and creating content in partnership with various publishers, I had developed the marketing skills I needed to pivot into digital marketing at a publishing house.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, it was those skills, and the networking connections I gained from DPI, that led to my first full-time job as a digital marketing assistant at Penguin Young Readers (PYR) — all the more miraculous because it was one of the first jobs available after a months-long hiring freeze. After two years at PYR developing marketing campaigns and video content for social media to promote a variety of titles across age categories, I joined Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing as a marketing coordinator, making a smaller shift from digital to title marketing.

My publishing journey continues to evolve, but the foundations were laid by my time at W&M. I’m so grateful to the folks at the Career Center and to the Ferguson-Blair Publishing Seminar for starting me down this path and cementing my love for publishing.

Connect with Bezi on LinkedIn.

Association of 1775 Undergraduate Experience

Challenge the Status Quo

By Christian Chisolm ’18, M.B.A. ’24

Howdy! Christian here, and I graduated from William & Mary in 2018. I commissioned into the Army as an armor officer from the W&M Army ROTC. I am a current MBA candidate at the Raymond A. Mason School of Business, and I am officially an old cranky veteran. Boy, how time flies! With Veterans Day right around the corner, I have done a bit of reflection on my time in military service and how William & Mary prepared me for it.

As many of you know, four years at William & Mary can be quite a humbling experience. W&M houses some of the brightest individuals on the planet who will challenge your mind daily. Former military science faculty members Lt. Col. James Kimbrough, Lt. Col. Dustin Menhart and Maj. William Chesher were the epitome of military and academic achievement. Every day, these gentlemen pushed us cadets to excel in all aspects of their military and academic performances. Their lofty standards for excellence created some of the best officers I have ever seen and had the pleasure to serve beside. William & Mary, despite the size of the program at the time, had a reputation in the Army to uphold: physically tough and mentally sharp officers who would leave an immediate impact on whatever team they served on.

Although I am no longer in the Army, I loved my job. To quote the movie “Fury” starring Brad Pitt, serving as an armor officer was “the best Job I ever had!” Ever since I was a kid, I loved tanks. When I was a child, I used to build Lego tank sets and wear tank slippers everywhere I went. Although I have always had a fascination with tanks, I never imagined myself ever serving in the U.S. Army as a tanker. I should have known I would end up in the Army, though, as my family has always joked that “the Army is the family business!” Many of my family members have served, including my role model, my father, Keith Chisolm P ’18.

While in the Army, I had the opportunity to lead one of the first fully inclusive combat units with women. My proudest achievement was incorporating new teammates into roles they previously were denied, while creating more inclusive workspaces for all. On my team of 16, I had four female-identifying soldiers. My team would go on to travel all over the U.S. and Europe together, breaking boundaries and demonstrating the power of diversity. To this day, leading this amazing team is my proudest achievement. I would like to thank William & Mary for offering me the opportunity to share a little bit about my time in the Army and would like to leave a bit of advice. Continue to always challenge the status quo! One thing William & Mary teaches us all is that the world is complex and sometimes flat-out weird: It is our duty to make sense of this craziness and change the world for the better! Roll Tribe!

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

Maintaining Connections Order of the White Jacket Undergraduate Experience

Order of the White Jacket – 50th Anniversary

By Gwendylan Turner ’20

Hello all! My name is Gwendylan Turner, and I graduated in 2020 with a B.S. in chemistry and minor in physics. After a year of working in industry during COVID-19, I started the continuation of my studies in analytical chemistry at Purdue University (West Lafayette, Indiana). Please do not hesitate to reach out if you find yourself amongst the Indiana corn!

Fortunately for us (but unfortunately for this post), the William & Mary experience cannot be reduced to a mere 600 words. That said, I was able to trade a weekend in the Midwest for a visit to our alma mater this past Homecoming & Reunion Weekend, and I had a chance to ruminate on a few things. Particularly, I attended a reception celebrating the 50th anniversary for the Order of the White Jacket (OWJ), an organization centered around giving scholarships to William & Mary students working in food service. I was a recipient of this scholarship for three of my four years of undergrad, and its altruistic intentions beckoned my involvement post-graduation; I began serving on OWJ’s board in December 2020.

The “white jackets” in the “Order of the White Jacket” refers to the jackets the founders wore during their time at W&M. The founders of OWJ attended William & Mary on sports scholarships. At that time, working in the university dining hall (the uniform being white jackets) was a condition of said scholarship. Rather than fall to acridity over their position on the serving, rather than the celebrating, side of festivities, they decided to ascend to philanthropy, starting a scholarship foundation centered around this shared experience. There is so much to love about this organization: participation in an intergenerational legacy; a community of diverse, well-intentioned people; and most of all, a unique appreciation for food service. No one is exempt from the necessity of nourishment, and, ultimately, serving someone food and providing them with an experience is one of the most humbling, yet ordinary tasks.

Having worked seven years in food service during my most formative time, I have a novel’s worth of material to pull from. Here, I hope just to give some insight.

As a first-generation, low-income student, I consistently chose food service positions to support myself because they guaranteed at least one thing in addition to the pay: a hot meal. Working for the campus Qdoba gave me so much more, though. My full-time coworkers gave me a sense of familiarity in a way that my more affluent peers could not, my student coworkers gave me much-needed company (and shenanigans) during all the football games I could not attend, and my participation as part of OWJ has given me an opportunity to give back to an experience that I heavily value.

As part of the OWJ celebration, we started a project with SWEM archives to piece together parts of OWJ’s history. I was pleased to see that my amazing former coworker and current scholarship recipient, Sophia, donated her Qdoba uniform. It is pictured to the left next to Jim Anthony’s original white jacket. Though the color of our uniforms may change, our spirit and dedication to the William & Mary community remains unchanged.

I appreciate this platform to tell my story, but I welcome yours, too. If you are a past recipient of an OWJ scholarship, Dre Taylor is heading our OWJ oral history project. You can reach out to me at or anyone on the board for a link to a short survey or Dre’s contact information for a more extensive interview. If you are a past or present recipient and interested in getting involved or serving on the board, please don’t hesitate to contact me at the same address.  

Thanks so much for reading! Enjoy your October!

Follow along with Gwen on Instagram and connect with her on LinkedIn.

Tips Uncategorized Undergraduate Experience

W&M Learnings

By Jena Araojo ’19

Hello members of the Tribe! My name is Jena Araojo and I graduated in 2019 with a BBA in Marketing, a concentration in Consulting, and a minor in Sociology. I work in Washington DC at Deloitte Consulting and I am currently traveling the country while teleworking! When I was in college I was part of the business fraternity Alpha Kappa Psi, a member of Students for University Advancement, and I was the HR Director for Agency 1693. I also had the coolest job working in Sadler Center & Campus Center as one of the Building Managers. Most importantly and probably the highlight of my time in college, I studied abroad at the University of Limerick in Ireland for a semester. To those considering studying abroad – do it! When else will you spend 4 months integrated in another culture with the opportunity to travel to different countries each weekend?

My relationship with W&M started at a young age. At ages 3 and 8 I was on campus for summer programs, only to tell my mom “when I get bigger, I am going to go here for real.” Fast-forward to 2015 and my family and I were the first 2 cars parked outside my dorm ready to move in! I look back and laugh to think that I was certain I would need every dorm decoration and piece of clothing with me on campus, even my winter coats in August. Note to my younger self and current freshmen, cycle out your clothing when you go home for breaks. Your closet is but so big!

I wish I had a conventional freshman experience with funny anecdotes to share, but on the second day of classes I tripped up the steps in Millington, a since torn down building, where I shattered my foot. Now back home for 6 weeks for surgery and recovery, I was trying to catch up virtually at home and I missed out on the bonding experiences that most freshmen have to assimilate to college. I wanted to take a leave of absence, however, my network from the PLUS program, the Dean of Students Office, and my professors provided accommodations and resources that allowed me to push through and stay on campus. During that period of frustration and assimilation I learned my first life lesson, the importance of asking for help. Whether it was needing additional tutoring support, attending a lot of office hours and TA sessions, or reaching out to friends for support when I was down, W&M created an environment for me to thrive if I advocated for myself.

Second, I learned the power of pivoting and persevering. Throughout college I faced many uphill battles where I was close to giving up. I applied to the business school as a major 4 times before getting in and I spent many hours preparing for my dream job interview post college. I have to give my mom credit in reminding me to pivot when things went awry so I could persevere towards what I wanted, even if it would take longer to get there than I planned.

The last lesson I learned in college is how important the friendships I made would be. There is nothing like living a 5-minute walk from your friends or heading down to Sadler for Late Night together. So my best piece of advice for current students is to enjoy every minute of your time on campus, especially during your senior year. Do as many activities as possible and spend time with your friends because once you graduate you will miss those moments. Although bittersweet, is it always comforting to know that regardless of where you go after college, there is a W&M alumni community waiting to welcome you!

My friends know I am a walking advertisement for W&M and so it surprised no one when I became a Class Ambassador and then a W&M DC Alumni Chapter Board Member in 2021! On the board, I get to plan and host events for the thousands of alumni and their families who live across the DMV area. From celebrating Yule Log and Charter Day, to throwing social events like trivia nights or picnics on the National Mall, to community service and educational events, there are a lot of opportunities for alumni to reconnect or make new friends. Staying involved as an alumna has allowed me to welcome the newest graduates to the W&M DMV alumni community as they look to find a new group of friends in the city! It is really special to see new alumni say they are glad they have a community to reach out to as their first network once they move to DC.

Needless to say, being a member of the Tribe was meant to be and I could not see myself attending a different university and I am excited to continue my time as an involved alumna. To all the current students, know that when you graduate, there will be a W&M alumni community in your area ready to welcome you home.

Connect with Jena on LinkedIn.

Undergraduate Experience

Inspiration from W&M

By James Crafford ’20

As a songwriter I find it difficult at times to muster or identify inspiration. Few things are as effortlessly inspiring than a warm, sunny day in Williamsburg. Golden red bricks, mature green trees, and copper cupolas against deep blue sky.  Of the few who have the privilege to study at institutions as fine as William & Mary, even fewer have the privilege to do so in a place so beautiful.  From Colonial Williamsburg, to Lake Matoaka, the Sunken Garden, College Creek, and more, The College is set in an amazing geographic and cultural location that holds a special place in the hearts of so many students present and past. 

Not only is William & Mary an inspiring environment because of its intimate setting in Williamsburg, but also because of its bright and eager student body.  The campus atmosphere is bustling and emboldening and there is a strong sense of comraderie and pride shared among the students. Students learn in and outside of class how to assume personal responsibility, manage time, adapt to challenges, and define personal goals. Students develop these skills through working alongside their peers as well as through their coursework, and in doing so create valuable relationships that they will cherish forever.  Many of the friends I met at William & Mary continue to be my closest; for that I am forever grateful.  

In short, William & Mary is a uniquely wonderful place to consider alma mater. 

Follow along with James on Instagram and Spotify.

Undergraduate Experience VIMS

Lessons from W&M Last a Lifetime

By Erin Spencer ’14

I got an email this week from a freshman at my graduate alma mater. “Ms. Spencer”, it began “can I ask about decisions you made in your early career that helped you get where you are now?”  

“I’m still early career!” I thought to myself. I’m happy to chat about my experience, but it kind of feels like a child leading a slightly-younger child. It feels strange giving advice when there is still so much I don’t know myself.

But the truth is, with my 10-year alumni reunion far closer than I would like, I’m rapidly leaving the “early career” phase into the “should have my act together by now” phase. I feel like I’m getting there: I worked in DC at National Geographic and Ocean Conservancy (and had many brunches on 14th St with W&M alums), then I got my Masters in Ecology from UNC – Chapel Hill where I studied fisheries management and seafood mislabeling. In between I led research projects from Florida to Fiji and accumulated more freelance writing jobs than I can count. Now, I’m pursuing my PhD in Biology in Miami, where I put data collecting devices on great hammerhead sharks. In theory, at least, I should have something to offer to a college student looking to start in the field of marine science.

Our conversation was perfectly nice. She came prepared with well-research questions about how to start in marine science, the importance of internships vs. research experiences, how to get into graduate school, and more. I shared what I could, qualifying each rambling answer with “I hope that’s helpful!”.

Later, as I thought about our chat, one thing stood out: Almost all of my advice came from lessons I learned at William and Mary. Despite two other alma maters and four previous employers, my best guidance came from my experiences as an undergrad.

When she asked me about how I got my first job at National Geographic, I talked about how I first got an internship there through the W&M DC Summer Institutes, and how the Career Center helped me build my resume for my dream job. When she asked about how to get research funding, I talked about how the Cohen Center gave me my first grant, which was then matched by National Geographic after seeing the project had initial funding. When she asked how to get research experience, I talked about how I worked at VIMS counting Antarctic plankton, which led to my first peer-reviewed publication and helped me get into my Master’s program.

As cliché as it sounds, the most important things I learned at William and Mary aren’t on my resume. I learned that I don’t have to pigeon-hole myself to one field; I can pursue multiple interests and weave them together into a fulfilling career. It’s because of this that I split my time between working on my PhD studying sharks, and writing children’s books on the ocean (shameless plug—the first of which is coming out in March 2022!).

I learned to pull as I climb, and that there is always room for empathy in your field. I will forever be grateful to my professors—especially women—who gave me advice and countless letters of recommendation, and simply led by example.

I learned that no one can tell you the right path—you need to make that choice for yourself. William and Mary was a safe place for me to try new things, to extend myself beyond my comfort zone, and learn my limits. I’ve carried these lessons throughout my career, and am grateful to William and Mary for giving me the confidence to trust myself.

My early career path has been circuitous, and full of hard work, luck, and good timing. William and Mary gave me the degree, research experiences, and internships I needed to start in my career. But more than that, it gave me the lessons in compassion, collaboration, and confidence I needed to thrive. Sharing those experiences with the next generation was an important reminder that I will forever be grateful to William and Mary and a proud member of the Tribe.

Follow along with Erin’s work on Twitter, Instagram, and her website and connect with her on LinkedIn.

Get Involved Undergraduate Experience

William & Mary Was a Means to an End

By Lynelle Haugabrook ’14

We’re all aware of the reputation that proceeds us before answering, “where did you go to school?” The rigorous academic workload coupled with the influence of our alumni across the world make William & Mary a force to be reckoned with at any social gathering. I proudly waved my green and gold flag outside of the College but, on the inside, it felt hollow.

I had a non-traditional college experience. I traded dorm life and shared spaces for a house and room of my own off campus. Instead of keggers and parties, I was often working nights and weekends. I didn’t feel like W&M was my #Tribe until four years after graduation when I was introduced to our local alumni chapter.  

Morgaine Beck was president at the time. We met at an alumni event where she invited me to join the local board… and the rest is history.

Since that fateful day, I have a newfound love for William & Mary. I discovered a group of people who matched me and countless others simply by sharing an alma mater. I attended shared business cards with my breakfast, watched the numbers grow on #OneTribeOneDay, cast my holly woes onto the yule log, and even served a term as president. The sense of community I found in our alumni chapter was what had been missing for me at the College.

For those of you (like me) who think you missed the boat now that your days as a T.W.A.M.P. are long behind you, it’s not too late. Sometimes all it takes is an online networking hour or follow up message on LinkedIn to make a connection. Whether you’re looking for a new career, to expand your network, a recommendation, or a couch to crash on when you’re overseas, never underestimate the power of connecting with our Tribe – at school, online, and in life.

Connect with Lynelle on LinkedIn.

Undergraduate Experience

The Secret to Life After College

By Jack Edgar ’15

Life is weird. No one has the answers. Hug the friends you make along the way. 

I graduated from William & Mary in 2015, which somehow puts me on the back half of my Young Guarde experience. The fact that I graduated over 6 years ago now feels completely insane. How could I have been out of college for longer than I was in college? To be closer to 30 than closer to my college years? Everyone will say that they met their friends for life at William & Mary, and that rings true for me as well. I have the best friends in the world and I owe it all to that place (they’re probably better than your friends, but we don’t have to have that debate). What they don’t tell you, though, is that this gift is a double-edged sword; one day you’ll look up at your friends – feeling as though no time has passed – and realize that it actually just feels that way. Time moves alarmingly fast, as it turns out (My friends don’t look old. This is just a metaphor).

I wanted to compare where I am now in my life with where I thought I’d be. But the truth of the matter is, I had no idea what life after college would look like for me. I was always a high achiever in school – “most likely to succeed”, etc. – but the achievement, the destination, the endpoint, was always a college degree. I don’t know why. I think making it past that threshold of adulthood always felt like the right destination. For someone who carried so much stress and pressure around, and dove headfirst into everything he did, thinking any further out felt too difficult to comprehend. I always figured that the next assignment for me to tackle would come, the same way that it always had in my incredibly linear life. After elementary school, you achieve in middle school. And then, high school, and finally, on to higher education! And so as graduation neared, I found myself realizing that no one was going to chart the next course for me, but me. And that was a terrifying proposition.

And so I charted a course. But, I didn’t go very far. My first job out of college was spent advancing a place that had already given me so much. I worked for William & Mary in Alumni Engagement, contributing to the university’s For the Bold campaign, all while wondering when I would be bold enough to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I found the next step in my career through a William & Mary friend, and it was the skills learned at that new job that prepared me for my role at my current agency. Embarrassingly recently, something clicked for me: I was already living my life. I was looking for another endpoint to work towards, but college was never an endpoint at all. It was the starting line. 

This summer I was able to travel a bit to see some close college friends that the pandemic had robbed me of seeing for some time. I was thinking about the post-college journey that we all had been on since walking across that stage together. Taken at a birdseye view, it looks completely chaotic: there have been new jobs, career changes, cross-country moves, break-ups and engagements, marriages and divorces, new schools, illness and the loss of loved ones. And suddenly no one’s post-college life looked especially linear – no one had accurately charted their entire life. But one True North for each of us had been us – the William & Mary friends who push, console, connect, and laugh with us. And looking at each of my friends, we’re in the best places of our lives thus far (global pandemic notwithstanding). It didn’t happen when we were handed the diploma, and it didn’t happen all at once, but I’m proud of all my friends and me for the path that has taken us here, and the paths we have yet to embark on. 

I spent a little time after I graduated wondering if I had missed out on some secret tool that everyone else had found at college, some instrument that equipped them to crack the code and do life right. In hindsight, that was simply the desire of a task-oriented, Type-A personality, searching for direction in a post-college world that can both look and get pretty foggy. But William & Mary actually had set me up for life. Yes, I feel like I learned how to learn there, preparing me for whatever direction my future takes. But probably more importantly, it gave me the friends that I could look up at – in between the starts and stops of this nonlinear journey through life – feeling like no time has passed, but proud of the time that has.  

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

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.