In her opening remarks for this year’s Claiming Williams events, President Maud S. Mandel contextualized the Williams of today, in part, by reminding us of our past:
“Williams is constantly transforming by the new traditions and perspectives we bring to it, as the people who live in its dorms and people its classrooms and work on its campus,” she said. “It is not just about ‘fitting in.’ It is a constant cycle of exchange and transformation. We claim Williams, and at the same time Williams claims us. Students leave here changed, and the place you leave is changed by your having been here.”
Turn to … fellow alumni and ask, “How did you experience Williams?”
The mission of the Alumni Relations Office is a straightforward one: Empowering the Williams family. Every person, every experience. Implied in this statement is a recognition of the ways in which our perspectives shaped our experiences as Williams undergrads and continue to do so in our much longer-term relationship with the college—and with each other as alumni.
As Maud stated at Claiming Williams: “When this college was founded, there were a lot of assumptions about who the typical college student was and what college should be. It wasn’t said this way at the time, but Williams was already ‘claimed’—just by a much more demographically limited population. At Williams our norms have changed and must change, as our community continues to evolve. One of the reasons I am here is to work with you to help bring about those changes in the healthiest way for all of us.”
You’ll need to go to the Williams archives to get an understanding of perspectives students and alumni brought to the college in its early days. Today, we simply have to turn to classmates and fellow alumni and ask, “How did you experience Williams?” As you know, the more broadly you ask, the more complex the tapestry before you.
Said Maud, “I urge you to think about the ways in which Williams has adapted, and can continue to do so, to the perspectives of all those who now ‘claim’ it as their own. What is our role in fostering and sup- porting that change? How can we work together to ensure that all of us feel that Williams is ours to claim? No one of us can do this alone, Williams doesn’t belong to any one person. It takes all of us making con- tributions that add up to something much bigger. at’s the hopeful part for me—the part that keeps me going even when the changes are hard.”
Maud’s questions are not new ones for Williams, and they are asked at a time when answers are as important as ever. Our college and extended Williams family are comprised of our collective perspectives; appreciation for those perspectives is equally important in working our way toward needed answers.
With best wishes from Williamstown,
—Brooks Foehl ’88, Director, Alumni Relations