When describing the college’s commitment to Williams students of today, President Adam Falk often shares the following statistics: 1 in 7 students has at least one parent who attended Williams. Another 1 in 7 is a first-generation college student.
Take a moment to think about that.
Colleges generally use the term “first generation” to describe students who are the first in their families to graduate from a four-year college or university in the U.S. Much work has been done at Williams and places like it to ensure that students from these backgrounds are aware of and have access to the opportunities available to them in higher education.
Williams also has an obligation to provide resources for all students once they arrive on campus, particularly students without established networks of support (or even an understanding that such networks exist). Leading the work on this front, Rosanna Reyes joined the Dean of the College’s Office last summer as dean of first-generation initiatives. Mike Reed ’75, VP for strategic planning and institutional diversity, is also engaged in this work. He oversees the Diversity Action Research Team (DART), a campus think tank that uses data to better understand issues of diversity and inclusion. DART also proposes institutional strategies to facilitate the college’s continued commitment to building a community where all can live, learn and thrive.
Williams has evolved in many ways over the past 50 years, opening our student body to greater religious diversity, to greater diversity of secondary schooling, to coeducation and to greater diversity on the basis of ethnicity and national origin. Throughout each transition, the college has emerged stronger for the changes it has undergone. And in each case we, as alumni, have played a central role in strengthening the community our students will enter.
As members of the network our students are joining, you have the ability to influence the undergraduate experience more than you know. When you recommend Williams to a student from your region, you become the first person in his or her network. When you work with the career center to hire a student for the summer, during Winter Study or into his or her first job after Williams, you perpetuate the network. Even simply making sure your career data is up to date means that an undergrad or fellow alum can seek you out for advice and direction.
All this already happens within our network. Strengthening it for all Williams students and alumni is our collective charge.
Best wishes from Williamstown!