- Class: Junior
- Major: International Relations
- Gender: F
- High School: John Handley High School
- Transfer Student: N
The William & Mary community is passionate. Whatever their interest - volleyball, early American history, painting, global public health, or ultimate frisbee - William & Mary students (and professors) pursue it passionately. As a campus, one thing that we are universally passionate about is public service. Each year, students here log thousands of hours of service, from volunteering at local schools to spending their breaks in other countries doing medical work. Many describe our school as having a "culture of service," and I think this is accurate. While not everyone is involved in service, such a large and vocal portion of the student body is that it's hard to miss the passion for service that pervades it. William & Mary students are super-involved anyway, with most people spreading themselves thin in multiple student organizations (of which there are over 400 on a campus of fewer than 6,000 undergraduates), but the extracurriculars to which I have seen the most commitment are service-oriented. The best thing about my school is the passion that students have for their interests and activities and that professors have about teaching. Although William & Mary churns out important research each year and can boast faculty at the forefront of their fields, professors here are most interested in teaching undergraduates. This means that not only do undergrads have the attention and care of their professors, but also that there are plenty of opportunities to get involved as an undergrad in ground-breaking research in any department. Another great thing is our physical campus. While Williamsburg certainly isn't New York City, the town has a rich history that gives it a unique flavor. Where else can you jog down a street past reconstructed colonial buildings and people dressed in early American attire? Our campus is rendered in the same colonial architectural style, and there are times when I am overwhelmed by its sheer beauty. It's also generally a very safe place, and I feel secure walking around by myself at any time of the day or night. The physical environment has contributed much to my comfort at William & Mary. The biggest controversy that recently occured was the Board of Visitor's decision not to renew the contract of our president, Gene R. Nichol. The entire school shut down for two days in protest of a decision that many saw as politically motivated (Nichol had stirred up plenty of controversy in his 2-year tenure at William & Mary, much of which surrounded his attempts to make the school more diverse and inclusive). Although most of the students, faculty, and William & Mary community stand in opposition to the Board's decision and are disappointed to see such a talented and visionary man leave, the reaction of our community is testament to the unity and pride that we have in our school. Many students staged protests and tirelessly wrote letters to the Board and to local news sources, voicing their discontent, and professors held teach-ins to discuss the events. But the important lesson of this incident is that no administrative decision can remove our unity or passion for our school, nor can it dampen the sentiments of inclusion and progressiveness that Nichol inspired.
Academics at William & Mary are tough. But because the professors are so great and because students are so supportive of one another, everyone survives. As at any school, time management is key (especially because the students here are so involved in other things), and students do spend a good deal of time in the library. As a liberal arts school, the education you will get here is very comprehensive and more for the sake of learning than job training, although William & Mary's students have a very high success rate of finding jobs and grad school admission. The most unique aspect of a William & Mary education is the faculty. Professors definitely make an effort to get to know their students and to be there when help is needed. Most are very talented teachers and incredibly knowledgeable scholars in their fields.
William & Mary is lacking in ethnic and economic diversity of its student body. About two-thirds of students are Virginia residents, and the rest hail from all over the country (though the majority of out-of-state students are from East Coast states such as New Jersey). While all political leanings can be found on our campus, most students tend to be slightly left of center. There is a decent stronghold of more progressive students as well as militant conservatives. Despite the lack of apparent diversity, William & Mary students are generally fairly open-minded and many recognize the importance of a diverse student body. The number of minorities and first generation college students steadily increases each year. But more important than sheer numbers is the atmosphere, and William & Mary has a pretty inclusive one for a southern school. Students segregate themselves less here than at other schools and cultural organizations receive plenty of support. As a minority, I have found it easy to get along with almost everyone here and to have a very diverse group of friends. I have never felt uncomfortable or unwelcome at any party or event (although I have have heard of other students experiencing such feelings in some instances). Of course, like at any American school, I have come across ignorance and stereotypes, but generally speaking, I am happy with the college's atmosphere.
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