The Yule Log at America’s Two Colonial Colleges Turned Public Universities

By Paul Soltis ’16

William & Mary and Rutgers are the only two of the nine “Colonial colleges” founded in British North America before the American Revolution to eschew the Ivy League and instead take on the roles of state universities. As a William & Mary alumnus working for the State Park Service of New Jersey, I enjoy a special place connecting and sharing the long histories of both Colonial colleges turned public universities.

Greetings from the Garden State. I’m Paul Soltis ’16 from Lawrence Township, New Jersey, more famously the hometown of my William & Mary predecessor Jon Stewart ’84. I grew up with an interest in the American Revolution, and even more important, our public stewardship of state parks and historic sites in this corridor of the “Crossroads of the American Revolution” that includes Washington Crossing State Park, Trenton Battle Monument and Princeton Battlefield State Park. For me, it’s not Fourth of July fireworks or autumn leaves on battlefields but the shorter days, longer nights and colder temperatures of the festive season that evoke the Revolutionary War. In New Jersey, we remember the “Ten Crucial Days” when George Washington (holder of a surveyor’s license from William & Mary and the college’s first American Chancellor, even if not a full alumnus) and a small but diverse band of soldiers and camp followers crossed the Delaware River on Christmas night and engaged British forces including Hessians and Highlanders at Trenton and Princeton from Dec. 26, 1776, to Jan. 3, 1777.

I work for the State Park Service of New Jersey as historian for Wallace House & Old Dutch Parsonage State Historic Sites. Wallace House served as George Washington’s winter headquarters during the Revolutionary War’s 1778-79 Middlebrook Cantonment. Old Dutch Parsonage is the historic home of the founder and first president of Queen’s College — today Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey . At William & Mary, I worked in the Spotswood Society as a proctor of the Wren Building and in Campus Recreation as a patron services assistant for the Student Recreation Center. Serving students, faculty, staff and guests at these two facilities at opposite ends of our campus and centuries apart in our history, I valued this unique perspective on the whole stretch of our university life. Now, as historian for 18th-century historic houses that today belong to New Jersey’s State Parks, Forests & Historic Sites as part of our Department of Environmental Protection, I enjoy working again in public service where the diverse needs of natural and historic resources come together for the benefit of the people of New Jersey.

The first of New Jersey’s “Colonial colleges” was the College of New Jersey, today Princeton University. They proposed to name their college building in honor of the Royal Governor of New Jersey, Jonathan Belcher. Gov. Belcher turned down the honor, fearing the jokes generations of students would make with “Belcher Hall” at the heart of campus — OK, no, that’s my attempt at a joke — but Gov. Belcher did turn down the honor, wishing instead to honor a figure of the recent past, the late King William III of our William & Mary. The College of New Jersey christened their new building Nassau Hall in reference to William III’s Dutch titles Prince of Orange and Count of Nassau, and generations later Princeton University kept the allusion going with the adoption of orange and black as its signature colors. Meanwhile, according to Swem Library’s Special Collections Research Center, William & Mary tried out orange and black for the same reason, as well as orange and white to include the white rose of York for Queen Mary II, but eventually settled on green and gold after the rediscovery of William & Mary’s Coat of Arms.

Unlike Virginia, where the Church of England was established in the Colonial era and as such the government sponsored an Anglican college at William & Mary, 18th-century New Jersey had no established church, allowing for the proliferation of a variety of religious traditions, at least among dissenting Protestant denominations. Rev. Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh, in residence at today’s Old Dutch Parsonage, led the effort to charter a second college in New Jersey for the specific purpose of educating in the Dutch Reformed tradition. The Royal Governor, by then William Franklin, son of Benjamin Franklin (first recipient of an honorary degree from William & Mary), granted a charter for Queen’s College on Nov. 10, 1766, making New Jersey the only colony of British North America to host more than one college before the American Revolution.

Women’s education came to the Colonial colleges at William & Mary and Rutgers in the momentous fall of 1918, the same season when the Armistice took effect on the Western Front in World War I and the influenza pandemic called the “Spanish Flu” gripped the globe’s public health. That semester, women enrolled at William & Mary for the first time, while the College for Women opened in New Jersey as a sister to Rutgers College. Actor and activist Paul Robeson began his senior year at Rutgers College, and both the College for Women and William & Mary saw campus closures to stop the spread of Spanish Flu. I was surprised to learn that the first students at the College for Women, later renamed Douglass College for their founder and first dean Mabel Smith Douglass, arranged a Yule Log as a festive conclusion to their first semester in 1918, a decade and a half before William & Mary adopted a similar tradition in the 1930s. Like our Yule Log, the College for Women’s Yule Log has grown over the years to include a variety of faith traditions and diverse perspectives, and it remains a cherished tradition of the modern Douglass Residential College, today a residential program of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.

Drawing from these traditions, I’ve adopted a “Colonial Colleges” Yule Log as a seasonal fixture for our historical interpretation at Old Dutch Parsonage State Historic Site, sharing the long histories of these two Colonial colleges turned public universities with our New Jersey audiences, adding one more flame to the festive fires rising this time of year from Douglass Residential College at Rutgers, the shores of the Delaware River at Washington Crossing State Park, and the Great Hall at William & Mary.

Watch the Colonial Colleges Yule Log 2020.

Connect with Paul 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.

W&M Women

Celebrating W&M Women

By Ingrid Braun ’19

One thing I believe all past and present students can agree on is that William & Mary is a special place. A big component making it such a special place are the people. Everyone from the dining hall employees, librarians, maintenance crew, groundskeepers, RAs, classmates, professors and everyone in between shaped our experiences on campus.

As an alumna, my relationship with William & Mary continues to evolve, most recently at Women’s Weekend. From Sept. 16-18, women from all over gathered in Williamsburg to attend panel discussions, keynotes, breakout sessions and Mary Talks. When I first received an invitation to attend this event sponsored by the Society of 1918, I signed up almost immediately. I saw this not only as an opportunity to visit campus, but a chance to connect with other Society of 1918 members. The Society of 1918, if you are not familiar with it, was founded in 2018 in honor of the 100th year of coeducation. An endowment was established to support various alumnae initiatives programs bringing together William & Mary women to strengthen their bonds with one another and alma mater. Engagement opportunities are vast — from a volunteer university board to society events, mentoring, networking and advocating on behalf of the university.

I joined the Society of 1918 to begin giving back to a school that has given me so much, but I quickly found the society providing me with much more than I ever could have imagined — Women’s Weekend was no exception.

After a surprisingly quick drive down to Williamsburg from Northern Virginia on a Friday evening (only 2.5 hours!), I was excited to head down Richmond Road to the recently completed Alumni House. Upon entering the reception, I was very quickly reminded of why I joined the Society of 1918 and remain active at William & Mary. Within minutes of arriving, I heard “Ingrid! Ingrid! Ingrid!” echoing out from various voices. After a few moments of frantically looking around the room I spotted the source — a group of Society of 1918 women I had met on a trip last year to Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Taos! They all said they instantly knew it was me when they saw my cowboy boots, which I had bought on our trip in Santa Fe. Skip, the photographer, was quickly called over to capture our “reunion” and in that moment I knew I was surrounded by a special group of women. The passion, selflessness and love of William & Mary was evident from each and every individual at Women’s Weekend.

Each of the breakout sessions, panel discussions and Mary Talks were expertly planned and featured phenomenal William & Mary women. Topics varied greatly, from “Women, Sports and Social Change” to “Women in Marine Science” to “Storytelling for Results.” Behind-the-scenes campus tours were also available featuring the Tribe Square Entrepreneurship Hub, Hearth: Memorial to the Enslaved, Integrated Science Center (ISC), and Kaplan Arena. (The Entrepreneurship Hub is located where The Crust once was!) After a busy day we all gathered for a lovely wine, cheese and chocolate reception in Sadler. From there, I headed back to the Alumni House for the Society of 1918 Stewardship Dinner, where I was reminded, once again, how special this group of women are. In a mere matter of minutes, we raised $250,000 to reach (and exceed!) the $5-million goal for the Alumnae Initiatives Endowment. The generosity of these women is all-encompassing and knows no bounds.

On Sunday, when I left Williamsburg to drive back up to Northern Virginia, I found myself overflowing with Tribe Pride, new friends and, of course, a Cheese Shop sandwich.

Follow along with Ingrid 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.

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.


Embrace the Experience

By Jackie Valles `19

As someone who graduated two years ago, it’s easy to look back on my experience at William & Mary with rose colored glasses, but the reality is that as a woman of color, my experience was extremely different from many of the other students I went to school with. Although it took some time to find my community, W&M provided a lot of learning lessons for the corporate world and life after. Hopefully these next few bits of my experience help you as a recent alumnus or as an incoming student.

My first takeaway is to always embrace your culture. I’m a proud Salvadoran and I make sure that everyone knows that. Embracing your culture will help you find people that are similar but also bring a unique character and perspective to campus. I was grateful to have done the PLUS program before orientation and joined Hermandad de Sigma Iota Alpha, Inc. which is W&M’s only Latina based sorority. My friends from PLUS and the women of SIA ended up being my soundboard and family during school (and now after graduating).  

My second takeaway would be to get out of your comfort zone. It’s easy to rely on and be with the same people all the time, but it’s not until you get out of your comfort zone that you begin to grow and find opportunities (this also applies to networking outside of your team once you join the workforce)! The scariest thing I did while being at school was join the admissions office. For a long time, I undervalued my experience and didn’t think I could give valuable insights to prospective students. Joining the team gave me the chance to see W&M through excited high school seniors and rising seniors at W&M who were involved in other areas of campus. This gave me a greater appreciation for the school! I quickly learned that so many people go W&M for different reasons (my reason was money/financial aid). Being able to leave your comfort zone will also help after graduation because you may have to build your own community. I was lucky to start at a company that had an Employee Resource Group dedicated to helping Latinx professionals, but this is not always the case.

Lastly, I would appreciate all the experiences that W&M has to offer (whether good or bad). I know many black and brown students sometimes feel like they don’t belong or are kept on the outskirts of W&M because I felt that way. But, even through those feelings, I was able to leave my mark on the school and make friends for a lifetime. Appreciate the space you are in and know that you are uniquely you, take charge to make change, and you will be looking back reminiscing with rose colored glasses as well.

Connect with Jackie on LinkedIn.