So, it’s been a couple of weeks since the traveling Expedition rolled back into Williamstown, tired and zany to be sure, but in high spirits after such an amazing trip. We spent a few days in Williamstown debriefing and decompressing, and then each of us eventually went our separate ways. We’ve been working on wrapping up the details the past couple of weeks and i think, at this point, we’re nearly finished. So, now, with the benefit of a little distance and some recuperative time spent back in New Jersey, I have a few final thoughts and impressions from the trip.
The first and most important thing we need to do is say thank you.
Thank you to everyone in the Alumni Office back in Williamstown for supporting us throughout the duration of the trip; thank you to all of the regional volunteers who helped organize this epic series of events in rapid succession around the country; thank you to all of our hosts for putting us up, showing us around your fair cities, and putting up with us and all of our loopy moods and requests to do laundry brought on by extended hours in a van with one another; and most of all, thank you to all the alums who we met out on the road. You all were welcoming, friendly, gracious, and, of course, so interesting, and it was wonderful to have the chance to meet all of you. Thank you!
Many of you who attended our events got to hear us on the trip talk about how one of our goals was to provide the common narrative, the connective thread with which to bind these various events and associations in different cities together. An amazing thing about this trip, though, was seeing how, on some level, that was already done for us. Not only do we, as Williams alums, have a shared geographic past and, in many ways, a shared college experience, but also we share many things in common about post-Williams life. I don’t mean to suggest that all of us are doing or have done the same things, far from it. I guess what I mean to say is that, despite the incredible diversity of paths each of us has taken, what was instead highlighted to me are the common failures and successes, the shared narrative, the things that unite us and bring us together. Anyway, enough waxing sentimental, I just thought it was cool and, in some ways reassuring that when we heard all these different stories, we were in some ways hearing the same story. Moving on…
Perhaps because this was the first time the alumni offiice had done anything like the Expedition and we weren’t really sure what we were going to get, or perhaps merely because they’re important questions, I spent a lot of time on the trip thinking about whether or not we were being successful and whether or not what we were doing was worthwhile. As in most work that has a goal of “strengthening the Williams Community” and “forging ties between alums and the college and alums and one another,” it’s hard to actually measure whether your work has been a success. However, anecdotally, the response we received while out on the road was overwhelmingly positive. We had 21 events in 23 cities in 25 days, and while some of those cities have well-established and active regional alumni groups, some have groups that meet once or twice a year, others have groups that haven’t met in years, and still others don’t have any official regional association at all. The last cities were some of the most fun to visit, as we brought together Williams alums who hadn’t seen a Williams sticker in years and didn’t know one another existed. I lost count of the number of people who drove at least two hours to come to our events, including some who had never been to a regional event before, but decided to come this summer. Also, we met at least three alums who had never, ever, been to any Williams alumni event before, including reunion; that was really exciting. Can you quantify those connections? I don’t know. But I’m comfortable saying that I think we accomplished our goals and helped bring people together.
So, for now, that’s all I have to say. It’s been great meeting everyone and writing in this space the past two months. This trip was a pleasure and a privilege to work on. Thanks again to everyone involved and everyone we met, and hopefully I’ll see you all again out there in the ‘real world.’
Lastly, I leave you with a few numbers Jen, Ko, Emily and I collected in the van that will help summarize our experience.
All my best,
estimated total mileage: 5834
number of tastykakes given out on the last day: 7
cups of coffee consumed: 73
number of pages of Pride and Prejudice read: 167
number of hours of sleep averaged per night: not enough
number of cities over-nighted: 23
number of states visited: 25
number of photos taken: 1316
number of professors: 3
number of talks given: 10
oldest class met: 1950
youngest class met: 2014
number of subway sandwiches consumed: 14
number of expedition hats given away: 200
number of hours spent in the van: 116
number of spats among the team: 0
longest detour to lunch: 30 miles
number of speeding tickets: 0
number of traffic accidents: 0
number of pounds gained from sitting in a van all day: don’t want to know
Loose estimate number of members of the Williams Family met: circa 500