Michele Mason, W&M Class of 1996
Michele Mason arrived at William & Mary in 1992. During her time at William & Mary, she was a member of the Women’s Soccer Team, participated in the Black Students Organization, and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Mason was also a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority.
After graduating in 1996, Mason worked in a variety of fields including the fashion industry before transitioning into education. She received her Master of Arts degree in Education Policy and Management from Harvard University in 2009. Mason currently serves as the Executive Director of the Newark Charter School Fund, advocating for all students to have access to high-quality schooling.
William & Mary
Interviewee: Michele Mason
Interviewer: Carmen Bolt
Interview Date: May 21, 2018
Carmen: My name is Carmen Bolt, oral historian at William and Mary. It’s currently around 10:00 a.m. on May 21st, 2018. I’m at William and Mary Advancement Office in Arlington, Virginia with Michele Mason, Class of 1996.
So, will you go ahead and tell me the date and place of your birth, and what years you attended William and Mary?
Michele: Thank you. The date – March 6, 1974 in Willingboro, New Jersey. And I was in the college, I was at the college from 1992 to 1996. I graduated May 12th, 1996. I remember it fondly.
Carmen: Oh wow.
Michele: I believe it was Mother’s Day.
Carmen: I actually want to hear more about that, if you do remember it fondly, and we can return to that in a little bit, or if you want to talk about that now, that’s fine as well.
Michele: We can talk about it now, because I remember the day because my mom, my dad, my grandma, my brothers were there, and it was a really, really proud day. I think you know, I also went to the college with my identical twin sister, Mashea, so for being first generation college bound students, and for our, my grandma, I don’t even know that she’d ever been on a college campus before. So, I remember the day, because we did the walk. I remember the night before we rang the bell, end of the graduation ceremonies, were really, really important. And I’m much like getting chills thinking about the pictures we took. I should go find the pictures. I remember us going to ring the bell. We all took our photos of ringing the bell, because we were really, really proud to be graduating. I feel like it was Justice Scalia who was our, who read the – do you remember who spoke at your gradu-? I think it was a Supreme Court Justice, but I’m not 100% sure. I remember being – I remember doing the walk.
0:02:00.6 The long walk through campus, and the story telling with our small group of friends, and because I had my identical twin, I remember my dad came with me to my ceremony at Adair Gym, in the – because I was kinesiology major, and my sister and my mom went to – she was in education, so they went to her ceremony. Then we came back and we went to whatever that hotel is over behind the K-Mart there. You know?
Carmen: Yes, I know what you’re talking about, but I can’t –
Michele: You know. And our family, like we were sitting, I remember. I can see pictures sitting in the room and talking about how wonderful the day was, and experiencing how proud our parents were to be there. My sister’s now-husband, a William and Mary grad was there. They’ve been together since that time.
0:02:59.4 Just, I just remember it being really, really special. My parents being so proud of us. I believe my mom had come to campus a couple of times. I actually think it might have been my dad’s first and only time to campus, given that we were from New Jersey.
Carmen: Wow. That’s wonderful.
Carmen: So, do you remember feeling like you were ready to be done with the college experience, or was it a bittersweet time for you?
Michele: You know, I think when you are – you spend four years, you think you’re ready for the world. I remember being ready to leave the college. I got to roommate with my sister all four years. Identical twin sisters. It was time for us to separate. I actually think I would – we had roommates. We lived off campus for the last two years, at Governor’s Square, and I remember being, making it very clear to them, I’m leaving the day after, so whatever we need to do to, you know, clean up the apartment, I’m ready to go.
0:03:58.9 So, I think I – we were, it was just anxious, ready to go. I don’t even – I think – I don’t know that I had a job. I knew that I was just going to move back home, and pursue, I was pursuing like physical therapy school. So, it was time to go. I think, just the tensions of being with my sister for 18 years, and wanting to kind of like spread out and separate, it was bitter and sweet. I think the last week, with exams, we had a good time. They – we did the Busch Gardens Trip. We did the full-on like Williamsburg experience. We did like the ghost tours and went into like Jamestown. I think it was fun, but it was also time to go.
Carmen: Sure, it’s like a closure sort of thing, getting to do all that. Wow. That’s a great story. Actually, I think that’s what everyone wants to feel when they’re graduating.
0:04:59.8 You kind of encapsulated it there. So, if we could backtrack, actually, to the beginning, then – you told me where you were born, but can you tell me a little bit about where and how you were raised? A little more about your family. Your mother and father, your identical twin sister. And you had brothers, also?
Carmen: Yup, yup. And so, I think I’ll start with the education experience, because I’m a committed educator now, and I think your early experiences in education really inform, you know, how you will persist, and how we even found the college, right?
So, my parents are from Philadelphia. My dad went to traditional public schools most of his life. My mom went to Catholic schools. She’s the only child, and her parents made sacrifices for her to attend Catholic school. And I think – fast forward to us living and growing up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, my parents, early on in the story goes, that my sister and I failed kindergarten, and in failing kindergarten, my mom was kind of like, no. My babies are really, really smart, and that’s when my parents made really, really tough sacrifices to send my sister and I to Catholic school. And for us, that has made all the difference in our school experience. My brothers went – my brothers are 8 and 12 years older. They went to traditional public school, and they’re doing well, but our outcomes are very different. And so, the self-sacrifice of putting us through Catholic school was really important in 1st through 8th grade.
You know, fast forward, my parents actually got divorced in the summer of – going into 8th grade. My mom sat us down and said – and things weren’t – I knew they weren’t happy. You know, kids know, right? And so – and why this is important about my story is that when they decided to separate and my mom’s still committed to sending us to private school, sports was a big part of our lives and how we found success. And so when my mom sat us down, we said, “Are we still going to be able to play soccer? Can we still go to the same school?” Unfortunately, we didn’t ask too many questions about my dad, and seeing him. We’re like, “Can we play soccer? Can we go to the same school?” And for us, that’s when soccer became a big part of our lives.
So, I think, fast forward, I played soccer, basketball and track. Had access to tremendous coaches, mentors, role models, and I think pretty early on, I was on a pretty successful club soccer team – decided that I was going to play sport in college. Wanted to play Division 1 in college. Our club team was very competitive.
0:08:04.5 And we won the Under 16 Nationals. Played in the Under 17 Nationals, played in Under 19 Nationals. And so, we were exposed to college coaches and the like. And so, how did we get to William and Mary? There were different tournaments here in Northern Virginia that you would go to, and you knew that coaches would be there. And one of our coaches for our club team made the introduction to, to JD who was our coach at one of the tournaments. I remember meeting, or knowing that JD was going to be at one of the tournaments. He had his little hat; he had his little chair; he might have had the dog, because those are staple JD things. I remember like, him seeing us play. But it’s a general kind of like display of a whole lot of student athletes.
0:08:55.8 And if you let my sister tell the story about how we found the college of William and Mary, there were a couple things in our senior, junior year, going into senior year. We knew we wanted to play Division 1. We knew we wanted to play in a competitive Division 1. So, at the time, we looked up who were the top 25 Division 1, women’s soccer programs. My sister wrote, the first draft of the letter that went to all of the top 25 colleges. I edited my version, but she wrote the first draft, and we both wrote letters. Then our coach introduced us to JD, and I remember my recruiting trip to the college in the fall of, I guess it would have been ’91, to visit with JD. I remember staying overnight. We stayed in the dorm. I’m pretty sure it was the dorm across from the old caf. I remember, I think it was Peggy Alessi was on the soccer team and stayed with us.
0:09:59.9 And I remember sitting at William and Mary Hall, in the room with JD, and then talking about our experience, and then whether or not we were going to come to the college. I remember, very specifically, JD asking us if we would separate. Like, was this a twin package, or could one, would one – they wanted both of us. And, because my mom’s a single parent, it was always decided that we were going to go together. And I remember, just a positive experience. I don’t know that we knew that we were going to be the first African Americans on the soccer team. I don’t know that that meant anything back then, but it actually means a lot, now.
0:10:59.5 And I do believe that it’s the story of being pioneer, and the first, and allowing people to adjust, accordingly, right? And so, I think – if I (my sister sometimes says I have revisionist history) and I think that – there might have been some pressure on JD to have some diversity in his recruiting classes. We were strong. We had the academic background, the grades or the like, to push us through the admissions process. So, I think it was kind of, why not two for the price of one? And so that worked out, and it makes sense.
I remember very distinctly on my recruiting trip, meeting with – I think his name was Patrick Dwyer, who used to work in the financial aid office, and sitting down with him, and him talking with my mom about the financial aid package.
0:10:59.0 I think we got a partial scholarship, between the both of us, but they were going to reassure – they reassured us that our financial aid was going to be solid, coming to, to the college. I remember – I do remember, it was at Blow Hall, going to the financial aid office with my mom. And you know, she really didn’t know what was going on, but I remember the conversation being comforting, and that they were going to take care of us.
So, honestly, we only applied to William and Mary. At some point in time, maybe in January – I don’t even know if it was early decision, but I knew that we completed one application, one essay. Maybe sometime in February, March, when we hadn’t received our acceptance letters, we applied to Rutgers, like a background safety. But we absolutely did not want to stay in the State of New Jersey to go to college.
0:12:57.1 So, I think we might have gone to Holy Cross. We got recruited by Holy Cross. But we, we really, we were pleased with our visit. It was absolutely beautiful to come down to Williamsburg. The scenic route, all those good things. And we were just excited. We’re like, they’re good. It looks nice. The facilities seem nice. We’re going to go.
I think, I just calculated, it’s 22 years since I graduated. We had no idea of the prestige and the academic institution that we signed up for. Absolutely no idea. So, we were one-track mind. Division 1, competitive, soccer, academic school! You know, that’s a plus. But had no idea. Had no, no idea. And I will, I will share the story, because it’s the kind of, when people reveal themselves. We did have a very good high school friend that also was on the same competitive soccer team that also – they were white, and wanted to go to William and Mary.
0:14:06.1 And actually, her father actually, they drove us down for the recruiting trip. And this is the authentic, honest truth. And it is – long story short is, when we got into William and Mary and our friend did not, the comments were made at our high school, because we went to the same high school, that the only reason why we got in was because we were black. And the only reason we got stuff was because we’re black. And I think – we heard that in our senior year. And that was a little bit of the beginning of, wow! This is how people think about us. And honestly, my high school was predominantly white. We graduated with about 300 maybe 14 students. I think there were 14 African Americans in our senior class.
0:14:58.1 And then for us – so, this gets me into like my experience at William and Mary. My – we were happy of the number of African American kids that we saw. Now, it’s all relative, right? So, 10% of a population, we’re like, “There’s like 200 Black kids here!” Or 300. So, we were happy that we saw that many more kids of color who were diverse. And not really realizing that that was still a small population. But if you’ve only seen 14, all day, all day, every day in four years of high school, you know, we knew how to navigate it. We were honor society, we were smart. We knew, I know I had a different high school experience because we were students and athletes, and we were popular. And so, for the other black kids, it might have been a little bit different. And I’m sure they tell a little different story, just like I’m sure these students at William and Mary.
0:15:59.0 So, I think – do you want me to stop talking?
Carmen: Nope. I do not.
Michele: I’m kind of like going through it.
Carmen: That’s wonderful. Keep going.
Michele: And so, I remember – so, it’s so funny that all this is coming back to me. In senior year, prom, and honors and all those things come up, and Mashea and Michelle are going to William and Mary. And I think other people knew what William and Mary was, but it was really clear when we were going that it was going to be something special. I’m sure my parents had no idea, either, right? That, as long as they’re going, they’re good. I remember getting to summer workout, from JD and the athletic trainers and the like, and running every single summer, because we knew that when we got there, we had to do two miles in under – I think it was under 13.
0:17:00.2 So, you had to do the fitness test. The scary, scary fitness test was what you had to do before the season started. So, we, my sister and I – did we – freshman year – I’m pretty sure we drove down. I think I might be confusing freshman and sophomore year, but I’m pretty – I remember, it was freshman or sophomore – we drove down and we stayed in some little inn out in Williamsburg to get here, because we had to come the night before. I just remember my sister and I just talking and getting ready for the unknown. And us, like motivating and inspiring each other to like – we’re about to do this. And not really knowing what was going to happen.
0:17:57.6 So, we get to pre-season, and we made it in the 13 – I think I did like 13.33, but JD let the five seconds slide, in freshman year. It was – we came early so that you were there two weeks before most – you know, the student athletes. You get into this process of going to the hall, and you know, changing your clothes in the locker room. There were other – the other freshmen, Natalie Neaton was in our class. Corey, Stephanie Good – there’s another goalie, a Marcy – so, we were in the same like freshman recruiting class. And we had good times together. I think, early on, I made, we both made the traveling team. There was one trip that I did not get to go on in my freshman year, but essentially, played all four years.
0:18:56.5 I think, what I would say about my soccer experience is, I remember working really, really hard. I remember that the discipline that was required to be a student athlete was pretty intense. I remember like, a little bit of cultural like shock exposure with the social life of soccer, and you know and being an academic. My sister and I did not drink, smoke – none of that stuff. You know. We didn’t drink until after college. I remember with some of our, our soccer mates. They had the keg parties. They had the beer slide. Like that – Ki Omega, like all – being exposed to all the different sororities that are, are – the Tri Delta – I remember all those things. That was just different.
0:19:59.8 And I think that, as a student of color on the soccer team, we had different experience, because we can lead a dual life. Like, we could be the athletes, but then when we weren’t athletes, we’d go back to our dorms, and we were – for me, we were like black kids again. And, and I actually wonder, our friends who were not student athletes, they actually had a different experience, I think. And at times it was tough navigating both worlds. So, I’m going to stop there. Or do you want me to keep just going.
Carmen: I think actually, that point that you’re making right now is one of the most poignant. I would love you to go into that a little bit more, what those two different cultures of being a student athlete, being a person of color and that differentiating your experience from either white athletes, or persons of color who were not on athletic teams.
Michele: Yeah. On our team, I would absolutely not say that we didn’t feel like we were like the black girls, or the black kids. Like, we were all trying to win. We were all working hard. And our team was a safe space in place, absolutely, for sure. I think, you know, and just the – I just see the ritual of going to William and Mary Hall, and going to the training room, and seeing all the other athletes, and athletes, you know, they support athletes. So, that part was cool. I remember like, seeing the football players, and seeing the basketball players, both the female and the male players. And so, there was definitely a sense of community in the athletic world, I think. And then you’d go to, to the Caf after practice, and all the athletes sat at the same athlete’s table, but I think this is where – my mom always says that it is – my sister and I came back from William and Mary, more black.
0:22:05.4 And what’s interesting about this, because I think that’s where we found our community, and you know, there’s this book, “Why are all the Black Kids Sitting Together?” And so, it would be, I think I remember, after practice, we spent four hours practicing and showering and all these other things, and then when it was time to eat, that’s when we went to sit and have a meal with our black friends. We didn’t always – we – I don’t remember – that’s when we would meet up. That’s when it was safe. And I don’t remember – I actually don’t remember having meals, particularly after practice with our teammates. And I think maybe they kind of questioned, like why aren’t you guys sitting with us? But, I remember, we would just coordinate with our Black friends.
0:23:01.8 And we would be – have a whole lot of fun just talking about our day, connecting. I think that, and that’s when we learned about other things happening on campus, as well. Because if you staying in your athlete box, then you – that’s when you would say, this is – this concert’s going on, or this – I remember very – it was freshman when the Alvin Ailey Dancers came to campus, and again, all of our black friends got tickets, and we went, and we were just so inspired by these, you know, dancers. They were black, and looked like us. I remember coming back from Alvin Ailey Dancers, and we were all Alvin Ailey Dancers, all dancing on Barrett Hall, you know the soccer field, walking back to Barrett Hall. And I think the other – I’m pretty sure this happened freshman year.
0:23:59.9 My revisionist history doesn’t bring it all back, but it was either freshman year of sophomore year that the, with the Flat Hat, I think that’s the name of the school newspaper, there was an issue called Whitey-Mighty. Have you heard about this? Whitey-Mighty?
Michele: And there was like a depiction of like an African American eating watermelon, and so I feel like – If you know, I’d really want to know the year, because I can – actually, one of my roommates still has the Flat Hat, and I think that’s when it became like, wow! This place called William and Mary is a little bit more conservative than I even knew or imagined. And I remember going to forums, and listening to our black student peers. They were, a lot of them were part of the VSTP, right, and so they had, they connected through VSTP.
0:25:00.9 We were there early, because we were part of soccer. They would see us, but not know who we were, but when Whitey-Mighty came out, that’s when it was like advocacy, and just seeing how different our peers responded to that, and I said, that’s when it kind of – the eyes opened, and you’re like, hmmm. Maybe this isn’t a safe place for everybody. Why would that be okay to do that. Do they not want us here? Are we just athletes? How does this all work out. I don’t even think I know now what it – what those responses – but I knew that it, something didn’t feel right, and it wasn’t good. And our – I don’t want to use names, but like our close friends – that’s when we started having these conversations about the black experience at the college.
0:26:01.6 And you started hearing stories of people getting pulled over, or asked why are you here? And you know, do you work here? The whole like – asking for help, being in the bookstore or in the cafeteria, assuming that if you were a person of color that you were providing some sort of service, and that you actually couldn’t be a student. So, I remember that early in freshman, sophomore year.
It didn’t, it didn’t taint the experience. I think it was a part of the experience. And you know, quite honestly, I am grateful for it now, because of those – those mindsets persist. And how you navigate through them and how you stay focused, and how you keep your eye on the prize on why you’re there, and the purpose of getting an education and opening up your mind to different, you know, thoughts and ideas, and the reality is, everybody’s entitled to their opinions.
0:27:04.1 And everybody you know, has different shared or lived experiences that inform those ideas, and so I appreciate having had them, and not being jaded by that. But, I think now as I look back, you know, I think I started to see it, right before we left high school, right? And it happens when you’re at school. And I think that it was humbling, because being a Division 1 athlete, there’s a certain confidence you have, and there’s a certain swag you have, and there’s this certain invincible mindset you have, but being humble with that, and realizing that there are certain people who have different thoughts, but you still have to persist through it, right?
0:27:58.7 And I think that that has definitely helped me in where I am today. And – I’ll say this now, but I’ll say it again. The moment I share with any person in my adult life that I graduated from the college, totally changes the conversation. Totally! Some people are just so obvious. Their facial expression on how – I’m not at the table, right? I’m now, like oh! And sometimes the question comes, like, “Well, did you play sport?” There’s all these qualifying things that happen, but I’m like, “Yup. Yes, I did, and it was great, and I’m forever thankful that I took full advantage of it.” That becomes like, my response, but it is really daunting that when people understand or hear about it, how it shifts. How they, how they engage with you/
Carmen: Sure. That degree has currency.
Michele: It does. It does.
Carmen: Well, there are so many things from that, and directions I want to go in based on what you just said, so – I’ll try to hit all of them, but we’ll start in one direction. So, you were mentioning finding groups of individuals. So, there were students on campus early, athletes.
Carmen: And otherwise. So, you would come in early. Is that when you really started to formalize a community with those individuals outside of athletics?
Michele: I think the Mighty-Whitey thing definitely sparked it. Dean Hardy, I had another friend in freshman hall, Benita Miles, who was great. She was – that’s a good question. I don’t remember when we met Dean Hardy, but Dean Hardy was obviously, he helped us navigate. Like she would bring us in, and we could have these conversations. Actually, let me rewind back, because I just remembered when we got accepted, because I think Dean Hardy probably told Jamal Jones, who was an African American – he’s probably a junior or senior at the college, probably part of the Black Student Union.
0:30:10.0 I remember him calling us, welcoming us to the college, before we even got here. And just saying how excited that he was for us to be coming to the college. I know he worked very closely under Dean Hardy, but I remember that welcoming thing. I remember thinking, why is this guy calling us? But when we got to campus, I remembered Jamal welcoming us. And I think that was like the BSU, Dean Hardy influence on making sure that us, students of color, had a little bit of a smooth transition. I also remember they tried to get us into VSTP, but since we were New Jersey residents, it was hard. But they tried to connect us to, to the black student experience, early. Maybe because they had some foresight on what that might have looked like.
0:31:02.1 So, I remember Dean Hardy conversations, and people meeting with Dean Hardy, and the messages just coming back. So, that was definitely a strong community that was developed outside of athletics. Yeah, can’t think of anything else, right now that – you know I don’t remember – I remember the tutoring and all that stuff came through, through athletics. I remember the folks in financial aid always calling us, like proactive, saying “Hey, it’s time to come sign your payments.” So that we – I remember having a friend in financial aid, like helping us navigate, and I think outside of – I don’t remember when we met Patrick Dwyer in the advancement office.
0:32:00.3 But, I would say that that, too, was another key relationship extension of family for my sister and I at the college. And we’re still very, very close with Patty and Patrick Dwyer, you know. I think they were our family away from home. I said to you, I’m pretty sure my mom might have come once or twice, because it was a five-hour trip, and she wasn’t driving. And my parents were divorced, and my dad definitely wasn’t coming down here. But, Bobby and Patty really took care of us. They made – we babysat Peter and Patrick, and we – they – I don’t remember them paying us a whole lot, but they gave us – they fed us. And any meal outside of the caf was always welcomed.
0:33:00.3 And I just remember them looking out for us. Talking to us, and we also, we babysat for (oh goodness) for YE, for the football coach. I – goodness, I can’t remember her name. And so, we had, we had jobs that look for us. I remember Bobby, like finding some creative scholarships for us, as student athletes, to get coats. And they may not remember this, but there was some little stipend that we could get as student athletes, and he found it for us, and I remember my sister and I got J Crew coats, right? And that was big! Because we couldn’t afford it. And they found these little ways to, to help us be whole at the campus. And, he also helped - helped us get a job. We worked in Sports Information with – her name was Pat.
0:33:59.5 I don’t remember her last name, but she had black curly hair. We’d come and work a couple of hours. Not in season, but during the Spring season. But that’s also how we – we got like jobs and skill sets to help us prepare for the future. But that was another Bobby Dwyer influence for us. Again, just making connections to resources that we didn’t – we would not have known otherwise, and so I think, having Bobby and Patty looking for us, like getting us babysitting jobs with professors, McCoy, from kinesiology, babysat for him. Just really, you know, I think shaped a positive experience, that again, if I think about my black peers, I’m not sure that they had. Right? Because I think we were able to navigate the sports, the social and you know, the Black experience as well, in ways that there were a lot of different outlets.
0:35:00.6 And so if you didn’t have those outlets, I’d be really curious to know how positive your experience was.
Carmen: Sure. It might have been more isolating.
Michele: Absolutely, absolutely.
Carmen: So, you brought up kinesiology, and we’re also kind of this topic of influential or impactful individuals.
Michele: Oh yeah.
Carmen: So, I – well, we can take that route first then, if that works for you.
Michele: Go ahead.
Carmen: Well, one question is how you decided what you wanted to study and how you got into that path, but we can also broaden that and talk about any influential professors you had, or other mentors and advisors you had.
Michele: How did I get into kinesiology? Well, first and foremost, there were a lot of student athletes who were kinesiology majors. I definitely thought about wanting to go into physical therapy. It just felt like a natural thing as a student athlete to be studying human movement.
0:35:58.7 And we had a really awesome kinesiology department. I remember it being very, very unique to be able to spend the whole semester working on a cadaver, as an undergrad. I remember – I can see the cadavers, and I remember one of our cadavers, he had a pacemaker, and we didn’t know. So, he was just like this whole exploratory thing about you know, just science and study. And I remember being in the lab and doing the VO2, like these exercises to just assess your physical assessment. So, that was really exciting. And it was all cutting edge at the time. You know, I think I came to college thinking I was going to be a dentist, and chemistry – bio-chem, definitely set that record straight. I was actually on academic probation at some time. My GPA was low because of the course selections.
0:37:02.7 So, that was – tougher preparation from high school to college, in transition, I would absolutely say that academically, while strong in high school, definitely would not say that I was 100% prepared. And I think the real missed opportunity was the classes that I took in my freshman year. Oh, this is another revelation that is very interesting and telling. And it should be on the record, but, like I remember Psychology 101, and thinking that you’re supposed to study, and study and study and study for those multiple-choice questions, and I’m not sure if it was – I don’t remember when we realized it, but the realization definitely happened, in knowing that the white fraternities had test files.
0:37:58.4 They would collect all of the old tests. And I remember, like – this is a kind of distinction with our soccer teammates, that they would say – JD, our coach called us Daryl and Daryl, from the Newhart’s. That could have been a micro-aggression as related to race, back then, but they called us Daryl and Daryl, because we were very similar. But I remember some of our classmates, after some of these tests, we would all be in the same class, and I remember studying, studying, studying. Flash cards, doing all this stuff, and they would come back like – and they would not like, come into class, not study, and then you’d wonder why they got like, As on the test, and you realized they had test files. And that the white fraternities, who’d been there forever, and sororities, have test files. So, they didn’t need to study.
0:38:59.6 And that is, was wide and rampant. And – have you heard this part of the story?
Michele: Yeah, yeah. And so, I think they had test files, papers. All these things that they were sharing with each other, whether you were in the white fraternity or white sorority, that would help the academic performance. But as a person of color, we, we didn’t know that. We didn’t have access to that, and so, I find, now that I’m thinking back on it, that was just so interesting, right? And I remember like, doing the good old studying thing, and I thought – and I wondered like – they were out partying all night. How were they able to party all night long, and come in and get 100% on the multiple-choice Psychology 101 test? Right?
0:40:01.1 And then, and they weren’t going to class. So, showing up to class every day, didn’t miss class. Take the notes. Doing all the things. And then, so – that I remember early. But, you know . . . it’s part of – it’s the inside game that I think kids of color did not have access to, or know. Why would they.
But you asked me about professors. So, I can talk through most of my kinesiology professors. My advisor was John Charles. He had like a British accent. I think he was from – I don’t remember where he was from, but – he, - so I remember meeting with him, and talking to him about being like a kinesiology major, and I felt like he was just authentic and genuine, and he just opened my mind up to like what you could do with kinesiology, and you know –
0:40:59.0 You could take all this classes, and that class. And I remember being excited by kinesiology in the lab, and meeting with him, early. So, that’s what I was going to do. My very like infamous William and Mary professor story is with Professor Ito, on “Blacks in American Society.” And I had another, like an English Lit with African Americans. I don’t remember who – another famous professor, but – “Blacks in American Society?” Like, okay. We’re black. It was a really hard class, and there was an Asian man teaching it. And so, people said that he was really good, and it was really good. But I do remember – I can actually see myself sitting in the classroom, right now, with this notion of, when things came up related to race or culture, where your white classmates would kind of like look to you to answer, like for the entire race.
0:42:12.4 I remember that happening. I don’t remember owning, speaking for the race so much, but I do remember the conversations after class on, “Did you hear that person say this?” And “Why was it okay?” I remember those kind of downloads with our peers of color, like feeling like they had to represent the race, because maybe the classroom wasn’t so diverse. And if you were in other – Economics, or other classes where there were not many kids of color, how, how the voice of the people was kind of placed on you.
Michele: But my famous story is that I did not do well in “Blacks in American Society.” I think the final paper had came, and I was getting a C.
0:43:00.5 And I went to Professor Ito and I said, “Look, I can not have a C in this class. What do I need to do?” I remember like, following up and the like. And I said, “My mother is not going to be okay with me getting a C in “Blacks in American Society.” He’s like, “Okay, I’ll call her.” And so, he actually called her, and you know, basically told her how I come to class every day. I was working hard, and this grade wasn’t a reflection of the effort. All these other things, and I’m like – that made a difference. He called my – talk about how – my mother was not a helicopter parent, and I’m sure she was probably like okay – why is this professor calling? But he did make the phone call. And I think what was so – even crazier is that – so, I graduated in ’96. I worked at Sidwell Friends in 2006, and his daughter was a teacher at Sidwell Friends, and was – I told her, “Your father called my mom.”
0:43:00.5 And I saw him again. He kind of remembered, but I remember it fondly, that he actually made the phone call to my mom.
Carmen: Oh my gosh. I’m sure that does. No doubt. Wow. Oh, my goodness. In terms of professors, I’ve been wondering. I actually am pretty aware of the answer, because I think the answer is quite the same now, 20+ years later, but the level of diversity amongst the ranks of professors, and if you saw much diversity there - had the opportunity to take classes under persons of color, and how that shaped, or how the absence of that, shaped?
Michele: Yeah, I don’t think I thought about it then. It meant a lot, but it didn’t. You know, I think I was there to learn, get an education. I don’t know that I had a global perspective on the world. And so, I thought her name was McLendon.
Carmen: Yeah. Jackie McLendon?
Michele: Yes. Yes. I did take her class, pretty early on, but I don’t remember it being something that I came away thinking I should do more of. Writing was not a strength, so I need to stay away from writing. Do I? I think she would, I think between her and Ito, I’m pretty sure all of my other professors were white. Yeah. Chemistry, Psychology – yeah, no. I don’t remember. I feel like the people of color that I interacted with were Dean Hardy and the Black Student Union.
0:46:00.6 And then, we haven’t talked about deciding to pledge a sorority. So, I did pledge a sorority. It ended up being the fall of my senior year that I pledged, but I remember being introduced to - at like, Black Greek life. I remember the Kappas being on campus. The Alphas being on campus, and the Deltas, and trying to decide between the Deltas and the AKs. Some of the older sorority sisters from the AKs came and sat and talked to us. We lived at – sophomore year we moved out to the Galt Houses, out in Dillard, and I remember them coming to sit and talk to us about being in this black sorority, not really knowing what that was. And so that was the other community that I found and felt sisterly and supportive. And I think my experience with Alpha Kappa Alpha was one where you just realized the diversity of black people. All black people are not the same!
0:47:01.1 And being exposed – I mean, I have sorority sisters who were like, you know, third and fourth generation college graduates, whose parents were doctors and lawyers and very, very wealthy. Driving fancy cars. And I just remember being like, where are these black people? Because they weren’t in my high school. I wasn’t exposed to them. So, I feel like that’s when like the bar was kind of raised on the black experience, not always being one of struggle. And you know, being in single parent households. You know, when you play soccer with my club team, there were people on our club team who were wealthy and who had summer houses, and beach houses, so I knew all that. But, they weren’t black-owned. They weren’t black families. It was kind of like a white thing, to have a second home – to have another car.
0:48:00.6 That – I was exposed to it. I had high expectations, but access to it was not 100% clear. Going to William and Mary and being in the sorority and seeing black kids and families who weren’t just athletes having all the same stuff, was definitely eye-opening. And, yeah.
Carmen: Yeah, yeah. I would say so. So, what led you then to rush at that point in your – yeah, pledge at that point.
Michele: Because I think – if you know anything about black greeks and sororities, they have a very, very long tradition, and I think the promise that you hear about – if your parents aren’t a part of it, in that top – in that little legacy thing, the thing that you are excited about is sisterhood, a community, and you think this is a lifelong thing.
0:49:00.2 They talk about the life after college and access to networking, and professionals. And so, you’re seeing, you know, strong women of color who are educated, doing great things, who are giving back to the community, who are volunteering, who have purpose. And so, this idea that you would now be a part of that thing – post your undergrad experience. Like, this is a life-long sisterhood. Why wouldn’t you do that, right? And it was elitist. Let’s be clear. Not everybody gets to be a part of that. There is a process of elimination. And some people can and some people won’t. So, I think that you realize and know that that’s just another opportunity of resources to whether you’re thinking about jobs, and mentors and role models, and so I think that –
0:50:01.0 and also, just safety in experience. So, now you’re having this college experience – I’m a first-generation college-bound student. Our parents – my parents are not talking to me about college. So, who can you talk about, not quitting, or not giving up. I think through sorority, you start to learn more about like, just tutoring, and how do we help each other. I think that’s another aha moment that in college that I learned about. For white students, they are working with each other. They’re in study groups. It’s very natural to do that, to share resources. And if you knew something – and they would work on problems such – you do these set of problems, you do this. Let’s come together. That’s how you learned that that’s what they were doing.
0:50:58.9 And for – sometimes I felt like in our black culture, we didn’t like to ask for help. We thought we were supposed to know, and the notion of like studying together or working together wasn’t a natural thing. But I think through sorority, we’re like, what classes are you taking? Have you taken this before? Like, those conversations were like, happened more, ready and free.
Michele: And I think you’re like, okay. Why wouldn’t I do this? I just remember the two – her name was Aisha, who came and talked to us about what the sophisticated ladies of Alpha Kappa Alpha, and what it meant to be a part of that, and it was very telling and very selling. And then you start to do a little bit more research, and well, absolutely. That sounds like me. So, that, that was a part of it. You know, there was definitely a service component.
0:51:57.5 While I still think that I was wanting to be a physical therapist, as a kinesiology major, we mentored little girls, little black girls and they had some really tough stories. I think that resonated with just being a positive person in a little girl’s life. One of my roommates had a little girl – I think it was Shanita, and the stories of, of how she was growing up with a grandmother who had taken her on, but she was an elderly grandmother, and I think that giving back is what, and mentorship and – was really a part of joining the sorority, outside of the professional networking. But you know, that’s what you thought it was going to be, anyway.
Carmen: Yeah, definitely. It sounds like it really contributed a lot. There was the networking side of it, the community side of it, offering just things that you might not have found elsewhere. And then yeah, the giving back component.
Carmen: It sounds like it was an impactful decision to make. So, you were also involved in – as a student athlete. As a student at William and Mary, and then as an athlete, and then being involved in some other things, it’s always astounding to me, because that’s a lot at any school, and then to take it on at William and Mary. You were also a member of the Black Students Organization.
Michele: Yes. We were part of the Black Student Union, and it actually just jogged for me, I was also part of SCA, which is the fellowship of Christian Athletes. So, we grew up Catholic, so that’s what I knew. So, we went to church service on Sunday evenings, because I think Sunday was often like not – this whole day of travel with sports. I think we had to be like seven days on, and one day off.
0:54:00:0 We couldn’t be there every single day. I definitely remember finding community with the SCA, and so, again, with our athletes who were spiritual and committed to going to service. So, I remember meetings at the campus hall, but I also just remember seeing familiar faces and going to service at St. Bede’s on Sunday evenings. And just – it’s so interesting, because I feel like that’s where I could sing my Catholic songs. I remember going and feeling kind of like how high school was again, but we’re now here with athletes. But they definitely were not black. Our black athletes were not in there. It was definitely – I think my sister and I were often the only – in that space.
0:54:57.4 Black Student Union – they had parties and gatherings, and I think that’s where I listened to more black music, and cul – again, this is back to my mom saying we came back more black, because we were just more exposed. I remember going to step parties and dances. I remember our – our sorority like going to Hampton, or going to – taking a road trip to Howard. That was even more mind boggling, to see like a full student body of kids of color. I remember going to Hampton Library, and just like it was something through the Black Student Union. The interlibrary loan that you just drive down to Hampton. I do remember at Hampton there was sort – at certain black colleges there’s a certain dress code of how you present yourself, that is not – that is totally different at William and Mary.
0:56:03.0 I remember like going to class in sweats and boots, and then like, I don’t know, I’m sure I did not try to do that at Hampton, but there’s definitely a distinction between how you present yourself and the professionalism of – but you only learned that through organizations like the Black Student Union. I don’t remember – I don’t remember Asian students. Hmm – yeah, I don’t remember – again to get into the notion of diversity – yeah. I don’t remember having any friends that were Asian, Indian – maybe, even like Russian, you know or European, that way.
0:57:03.1 Like exchange students. I can think about it, but – my sister – I’ll ask my sister, but I – I don’t – I just remember it being pretty much black or white.
Carmen: Sure. I think based on what we’re continuing to learn about William and Mary, that’s not particularly surprising. There’s probably in the past decade we’ve seen a greater increase, especially amongst the student body. We’re still waiting to see that prevalence of professors show up in administration. Yeah, so – you know, it was 20+ years ago, and so, you would think. You would think, but still it wasn’t all that long ago at all.
Michele: Yeah, so something – again, about the Black Student Union. I remember – so freshmen year we lived at Barrett. Sophomore year we moved to Dillard, and we had other friends.
0:58:00.1 Our other friends who were not athletes also moved out to Dillard. So, Dillard became a little bit of a mini-Black Student Union. Okay, now it’s coming back to me. So, the Black Student Union always had an end of the year barbeque. It was at Dillard, and I remember like the loud music, and just getting ready for it. I remember, we went to a Black Student Union formal. It was like a homecoming formal for black students. I definitely remember that – getting dressed up. Community sophomore and junior year. And my fondest, fondest memories at – some of them – you know, my athletes, which was great too, but with our Black Student Unions, we had this end of the year water gun fight, and we, we still laugh at it today when it comes up, because we got all dressed up.
0:58:56.0 We had camouflage, and my name, which is now like my nickname for my alter-ego, was named at the college. My alter-ego’s name is Nino Brown. So, I can go on record for that, because that was my water gun fight name. And it’s from a movie, that – goodness (Nino Brown – what was the name of the movie?) I’ll remember in a second. But, we just had fun. I remember being in the dorms, playing games. We did crank calls to older classmates, and I think our – my BSU experience definitely allowed us to just be safe and comfortable and laugh and be innocent. I think we were innocent together. We bonded together. We supported each other.
0:59:59.7 I’m just going – I can see everybody’s faces and names now that we had good times. And it’s good – what would we do without Facebook? So, you still know what’s kind of going on with them. And you still just kind of remember the impression that they made. Crazy and the like.
I have another – I just came up with – you know, our black student friends, they threw a surprise birthday party for my sister and I at Red Lobster. So, Red Lobster, the biscuits was the thing. And they – the funny part of the story is that they, they coerced us into going because they said, “You gotta go to Red Lobster.” You know, the police are there because – I don’t remember. I think it was – Russell.
1:01:04.9 They’re trying to arrest Russell, because they say he’s not a student. Like it was some – they coerced us by saying that this thing had happened to Russell, because they said he wasn’t a student. They said he was stealing, or trying to walk out on the check, and we’ve got to go like, save him. Like it’s so – now that I’m thinking back about that, like, that was the incident that was used to get us to be surprised that everybody was at Red Lobster for us to have this surprise birthday party. And so, I think that tells you that that was like the climate, how we had to rally behind each other.
Michele: To get people to move into action, right? And so, I want to ask my sister about that. She remembers, because I think – there was like this big surprise birthday party, but it was fun, but – I only remembered that story just now, in this context, and I think that it’s actually pretty telling.
Carmen: Yeah. That’s a multi-faceted story right there. There’s so much you can take from it. One, that’s awesome that the community throwing you a surprise party, where the biscuits are still ‘the bomb’.
Carmen: But yeah, also that, and incidentally, that could be used, because at some level it would be believable enough, or would elicit a certain reaction, that it would get everybody at Red Lobster.
Michele: Yeah, exactly.
Carmen: Well, thank you for sharing that. You’ve been talking a bit about some of your favorite experiences, and if you have any more, I would love to hear them, but I also want to talk about any difficult memories, in particular, that stand out. Moments or events that occurred that stand out as difficult or something that was challenging during your time at William and Mary.
Michele: Yeah – you know, I was trying to think about this before, and I don’t know if it’s because it’s been suppressed, or I think that the mindset while I was there was just to persist and push through.
1:03:05.8 And I think if I thought through a little bit more, there’s probably these notions of micro-aggressions and things that happened. But I think I was so like, numb to most of them, and I think that I was having this balanced, like multiple realities of living in a lot of different worlds that allowed me to just go through them. I had my sister, so that’s safe, and we could talk. And we knew we were there to get an education and graduate.
Michele: That was – we were there to make our parents proud. We were there to be successful. And so, I – I don’t – let me think – I feel like if there were, it would have happened to somebody else, and –
1:04:00.9 Let me think about – you know I think – I had classmates who we had good times and fun times with but didn’t graduate. So, you kind of wonder like, well, what happened to them? When we were all kind of there, together. So, I think I’m curious about that. I can’t – I honestly cannot think of anything traumatic or difficult. I remember not doing – I think I graduated with a 2.4 – like, my GPA was not high. I remember feeling a little like, self-defeated with my academic performance, and you know, the not-good-enough. Like what happened. You know, when you graduate with a 4.0 out of high school, then you’re like a 2.5.
1:05:01.2 There was a time, I think, junior year that I was thinking about transferring. But this was also related to soccer as well. Still on the travel team, but not playing, and you know, that gets a little bit hard to be the practice player, and not actually getting real playing time. I think I played in every game, but not a whole lot. I had my peak performances in my senior year. And it’s – actually the thing about William and Mary, and the difficult thing is, is being the first African American players.
1:05:55.4 Feeling like we checked the box on getting them on the team. I think I felt that way. And I also, the politics. So, this was my real experience. The politics of who’s playing and who’s not playing as related to whose parents are coming down every weekend and seeing the games, and who is the pressure to play, and the conversations that happened with the coach, and are my parents not doing that? That was real. And I – I definitely felt that at times, if my parents were here every weekend in the coach’s face, saying, “Why isn’t my daughter playing?” that I might have got a little more playing time.
1:07:00.4 So, I think that the politics of playing time would be my hindsight reflection of something not so great. And having felt that I deserved to play a little more than I might have, and how investments were made in other players that had active parent advocacy. I think, I feel like I’m walking a fine line in, in communicating that experience, but that was real.
Carmen: Sure. I think – yeah, you’re definitely talking about a scenario in which privilege doesn’t only result in certain outcomes, and you had a front row seat to observe that unfold.
Michele: I would say that definitely, it’s – I’m 44. I’m figuring out – I’m just now finding my voice, right? And the story that I tell myself, and the reality of it, which trying to converge the two of them. So, in my own personal reflection, having gone to college with your twin, and this notion of it being both of you, or one of you. So, my sister was captain. She played all four years. And just this idea that it could – I feel like – the story that what was told to me was one of well, you guys are similar players. So, it can’t be both of you playing. And so, whether that’s race, or whether I think that’s privilege and title, like, why can’t we both play? Right? So, I think in my head, back then, that that’s how I was processing it, and seeing parents who come down, baking cookies and taking people out to lunch and dinner.
1:09:03.2 And you’re just seeing all these transactions happen around you. In hindsight, I wonder how that influenced decision making. Whether, deserved or not, I had a fabulous senior year. I had my break through as a senior. I won the most improved player as a senior, and when I got that award in the Spring of my senior year, and you know, everybody recognized that, I remember very distinctly, to myself, “I’m not the MVP because of my performance this year. I’m the MVP because this is when I got my chance. And had I had my chance earlier, I would have been a MVP sophomore or junior year. And so, this is when – big suck – I actually think it’s because my sister got hurt, that I got more playing time. When they put me in a different position, or something happened, and I’ll try to remember it.
1:10:00.8 But the reality is, I remember very clearly the feeling of when I won the senior award, I’m now sketched in history at the college for being the MVP and the most improved player, but I remember the feeling of – no. This is because finally got a chance to play, and had I had the opportunity to go in and make mistakes earlier, I would have – I could have had this experience all four years.
Michele: So, I actually would like to follow up with JD about that.
Carmen: Yeah. Just to know after – yeah. But at the time, did you feel like there were avenues open to you to question that?
Carmen: That’s a weird, hard dynamic – a coach and player anyway.
Michele: I don’t – I don’t remember feeling like you could ask why am I not playing?
Carmen: Yeah, that’s a weird line to walk.
Michele: Yeah, yeah – no. But you know what? I’m sure, you know, people did. I remember feeling like I practiced really hard. And I kind of remember that every time the starting lineup was like named or posted, thinking like, maybe this time. Maybe this time. And then, you know, when you become a junior and senior, then there’s like freshmen playing before you. And you’re like, how did this happen? What promises were made to them before they got here about starting or not? You didn’t let us know that I’m going to be on the bench. So, this sounds like you should just suck it up. You weren’t good enough.
1:11:57.2 But yeah, so I think it’s interesting that this is coming up with the question of my - your most difficult or not favorable college experience, but that that’s my truth. That is definitely my reality as related to playing time, and acknowledgement, and whether or not there was feedback or opportunity or chances given. And I, I have to believe that this is about privilege, entitlement and the politics of parents influencing decision making, and whether or not, you know, I was given the opportunity to make mistakes.
1:12:58.7 You only get better – you know, failure is feedback, right? So, you only get better when you’re given the opportunity to do it in real time. So, who gets that chance? And that, I think that’s the story I’m taking with me, that this played out because my parents were not down there, calling, and helicoptering about why is my daughter not playing? Why is my daughter now playing? And now, as I talk out loud, I just wonder, well, were donations being made? And what are all these – what are other things that happened to influence, you know, the such and such memorial fund. Because now I know that’s how things happen. Having been a college counselor and worked with kids and the college application process, you understand how things miraculously get put up on campus, but that a negotiation for what? I wonder. That’s all
Carmen: Sure. And I think that’s completely natural to do. And one of the most interesting pieces I think you brought up is the explanation for why it had to be you or your sister. That in and of itself is not helpful feedback.
Carmen: What can you do with that? Did that impact your relationship with your sister in any way?
Michele: No, no – we were – we – pre – I mean we were – she’s my best friend, we’re each other’s number one fans, and nobody’s ever, ever going to take that away. And I was, when she was captain, and when she was playing, I was super duper duper proud of her, and I could say bad things about my sister, but I dare anybody else to do such. And we’d have some fighting words, and they fight only your hands. And so, our bond was never compromised in that way. And she always, she – I always say, she was more disciplined; I was more athletic.
1:14:58.3 And so, she pushed us to be even better. And she’s the vocal captain. I feel like I’m the leader by example captain, or leader, because she’s very vocal. I’ll just leave it at that, because she’s very vocal that way. She, I think, takes a lot of air out the room, and I think that’s just the role that I played, or that’s the lane that I stayed in for the most of my life, but no. It wasn’t between us when there was no way we would have survived, or I would have survived without her. But, you know, senior year was time to separate. Yeah.
Carmen: About your time, together.
Michele: Yeah, but we –
Carmen: Well, good. Thank you for sharing that, because it is, it’s so complicated, and you’re still working that, thinking back on it, and it’s just – it’s just very interesting. I can do research and I can note that you and your sister both are all-time players at William and Mary, but it doesn’t tell the details of the story.
Carmen: So, thanks for sharing some of that.
Michele: Well, I will say that you know, we did go to Australia, and we traveled with our soccer team, and never ever would have done that, so that was absolutely amazing. It was also very interesting, going to Australia, and there’s Aborigines and again, at the time in Australia, common folks are not used to seeing black people who are not Aborigines, and so people were like amazed by my sister and I, and I remember that our teammates were like, Daryl– “Mashea and Michelle, did you see how they were looking at you? Did you see how they were gawking at you like this – like we were like an anomaly, like Oprah, walking through the streets. Right?” And I remember our teammates like seeing this thing happened while we were in Australia, and but they didn’t look at us any differently.
1:16:58.7 When we were on our team, we were on our team. That’s what we did. I never felt like they – I think appreciated and respected us all, all the like. I don’t ever remember feeling, you know, any sort of animosity. There’s probably a lot of things that were said that were inappropriate, but again, having been used to it in high school, and just knowing that that’s just how people are and do – I don’t remember any bad feelings that way.
Carmen: Yeah, and I think your whole story there just demonstrates it doesn’t have to be a binary, it didn’t have to be a bad time or have to be a good time, it was complicated time that you enjoyed and had difficult experiences through, and that was what it was.
Michele: Yeah, yeah.
Carmen: And I think that’s helpful to have on record. So again, thank you for going into that. And I don’t want to stay on the topic of difficult things for too long, because I don’t want to completely you know, drag you down in your interview.
1:17:57.9 But, there are a couple of different questions I have. A few more, actually, before we kind of transition to your life post-William and Mary.
So, one question I like to ask is, and I think it’s really telling of a campus culture is, what parts of your identity as an individual as you knew, while you were a student, did you find to be supported or not supported during your time at William and Mary.
Michele: Ah – the part of my identity that I felt supported was definitely that as an athlete. And, as a student, yeah, I think as a student athlete, I definitely felt supported. I – I think my growing identity as an African American, as a black person developed, and I think it was supported, maybe probably like informally, by default, because this shared outside of the classroom and and playing sport, like, you had to be black.
1:19:15.0 Like there – I didn’t hang – I didn’t have others – we didn’t hang out socially with people who were not in sport, or in your dorm, or your living situation. And so, I think I feel that the, the experience outside the classroom was mainly supported by my black friends, honestly. So, supported, not supported. I will say academically, if I had to rewrite it, I think I could have used more support.
1:20:07.4 In terms of like preparation, transition, course selection, advising, career, life. I think – even with what you did in the summertime. I think – I’m conflating like what I know now, and – right? But there this notion of like, what are you doing with your life in your non – when you’re not an athlete? How are you preparing. How are you getting the skills and the experiences and the jobs that are going to set you up for future success?
1:20:57.7 And maybe back then, I think we all thought, you’re going to graduate, you get a job. I couldn’t imagine graduating now. It’s just so hard and so competitive, right? I think back then you just assumed. You get this degree, and the heavens open, you’re going to get a job. But, you know, I’m fine and happy where I am right now, but I think this career path, internships, how are you being exposed to things as a student of color that now I know, like your white peers, their parents are giving them jobs. Your parents have networks, and you’re getting all these things. That’s the part where I wished or maybe didn’t feel like 100% supported. And then, when I was on academic probation. For me that was all poor course selection.
1:21:57.3 And not being prepared to be taking chemistry. And I think I took Org and Chem 1 and Org, and I kept on doing it. Right? So, somebody should have said, time out. Go take another class over here. This isn’t quite working out for you. [chuckles]. And that’s okay, no judgment. But I think thinking of feeling that you’re going to be a failure is maybe where you don’t know to ask for help or find passions or the like, but I think for the most part, yeah, I feel like you just – it was, just kind of push and get through. I have something else, but go ahead.
Carmen: Well, no – if you have something else –
Michele: I just – I, I’ve had a recent (in the last six months) and it’s post-Hulon Willis experience this summer, about like why don’t people come back.
1:23:03.4 To your early question, after I graduated, I was done. I was ready to go. I came back to homecoming the year after I graduated, so call it, graduated ’96, I came in the fall of ’96, because I had friends there, whatever. But I did not come back to the college, probably like at least 15, but probably 18 years later, and I think there were two things kind of guiding that. I stayed in touch. My first time back, actually was in – actually, I think 2014, when I was working at Teach for America, I came back to interview prospective candidates at the college.
1:24:01.0 So, it had definitely been a long time. And I got the emails and all this other stuff, but I didn’t, I didn’t feel the need or desire to come back. And I – there’s two things that – I don’t know – of why – I’m not going to come back until I was like, successful. Like that was one thing. I think, just where I was in career. Like I never felt like I could come back and like be proud. So, there’s that one self-thing, but I think that the recent conversation that I had with another male who graduated the year before, who was not an athlete, who just was there as a student from New Jersey, like, he’d never been back, either. And I think, he talks about how horrible his experience was as a male, as a black male of color who’s not an athlete.
Michele: There’s no community there, whatsoever. Like, you can be cool with them, but you’re not one of them. And then there’s probably not a whole lot of other males like you on campus, so how do you find community there? And so, I think, in talking to him in the last six months, it actually kind of opened my eyes to the experience of kids of color who were not – who didn’t have what I had. And I think I share this because I’m like, I’m grateful. I am forever grateful for my William and Mary experience, because – again, because I feel like I was in all of these pockets that it informed a whole mystic experience for me, but only, you know, after Hulon Willis that I realized wow, not everybody had that.
1:26:04.6 And it was probably pretty difficult to navigate. And so, I think that what brought me back, like the Hulon Willis thing was significant. And I am older and more mature now, and can feel more proud of where I am, but there was nothing like that pulling me back each year. To say, come be a part of this thing. Come be a part of these things. I would get the – get the Women’s Soccer, the Tribe Booster Club thing. I think I’ve given like $25 every year for that thing, pretty consistently, but for the most part. Then you have to remember, my soccer experience in the end was eh – I’m not coming back for that. They didn’t honor me, right?
1:26:59.8 And so that wasn’t going to bring me back. And even at the Black Student Union experience. It just – I think, now in hindsight, I’m like most of the people who graduated like, didn’t have a good experience and they were, we weren’t like calling each other to come back.
Michele: I think we stayed in touch in our own ways, but it wasn’t about coming back to the college. And so, I think I find that I’ve been probably the most engaged since the Hulon Willis thing, in realizing how, you know, it was just such an important part of the history of the college, and being the first to play soccer, and black girls and being pioneers and well, what I persisted through, and navigated through, and turning out okay? You know?
1:27:57.8 I’m, you know, I’m just really, really thankful for that experience. The good, the back, the ugly, because I absolutely believe that it’s shaped a lot of who I am today, you know? And yeah. So, I take it all. I take it all with me, and I think where I started with, and I make no apologies for, is recognizing that when I say I graduated from the college, it totally shifts how people engage with you. And so yeah.
Carmen: That’s really helpful insight. All of that. Also, this idea that maybe the connections you had with the communities you were a part of were connections to people, and not a place. And that’s why there wasn’t this pull back to the place that is William and Mary. That’s really helpful to know, and recognize, because you’re right. That’s not unusual. That’s not unusual individuals from the black community were not, and are not, still, sometimes returning.
Michele: Yeah. Yeah.
Carmen: To William and Mary. And so that can be unpacked some. So, that’s really helpful.
Michele: And Earl – I’m sorry – Earl Granger, who is very actively involved, we were at the college during the same time, and so I remember, you know, his engagement. I remember him being in the black fraternity. And him working very closely with Dean Hardy, and you know, just trying to bring, bring unity to the Black Student Union and to the black students, and so, I think that, too, is a big part of – like, if Earl can stick it out and still be engaged and still be fighting for us and our voice, and then I think it was pretty momentous to be at that – because you said it was the 25th year?
Carmen: The 25th.
Michele: The 25th year, and just realizing your role in that 25-year history, I think, it’s maturity, but it’s also proud – pride.
1:30:03.7 And being proud, and I think, I listened to some – there’s the young lady (I can’t remember her name) whose father – who spoke at the Hulon Willis thing, and how her father told her she should go, and she wasn’t going to go –
Carmen: Danielle Green?
Michele: Yes. And just hearing how like some things are different, but some things are still the same, right? It’s saddening and heartening. I think that’s when we sat down, and I will applaud you for your persistence in getting me here today, but I think that that was a little bit of a turning point for me to figure out how to, to continue this story telling, because I believe in storytelling, and the experience of you know – you know, it’s all part of it.
Carmen: Absolutely. So, if it’s fine with you, I’ve just – you’ve covered so much of this, and it’s been wonderful. I felt like it really truly has been a conversation. I just had a couple more questions about your transition from being an undergraduate at William and Mary to taking off in your career trajectory. So, you told me about graduation, that it was a wonderful time, but you were ready – it was time to close that chapter. So, can you just talk me through where you went next?
Michele: Sure, sure. So, after I graduated, kinesiology major, I thought, I’m going to apply to physical therapy school. That teetering GPA, so I knew that I couldn’t apply right away. My advisers and counselors said, “Okay, you’re going to need to, like, retake some of those prereq – the required classes. Like the Chem and Physics and all that stuff.” So, I moved back home to New Jersey, and actually took classes at community college to get the right – basically get As in Chem and in the Math.
1:32:05.2 But you know, I applied to physical therapy school. Didn’t get in. Had a couple different life courses, and worked in different places in New York City. I worked in the fashion industry, and thought that could be an interesting career path, but I think what was most important is my transition into education, and being an educator; I’m a lifelong educator at this point and phase and stage of my life. And so, I’ve been working in education. This is my 17th year, and I think it’s just interesting that we’re like, we’re talking about the college and we’re talking about how that educational experience has shaped me into who I am, and I think that if not for my experience at the college, I would not be just so well equipped to be –
1:33:05.0 I’m an advocate for children, particularly from low-income neighborhoods. And for first-generation college-bound students. And that is important to me. I spent my first ten years in education as a college counselor. And I’m about to cry, because I think that, as a college counselor, working with first-generation college-bound students, I always believed that they should have a college experience like mine. That they should go to a college campus to have the rolling greens, like the sunken gardens, and be able to go walk over the Crim Dell, and go into – what’s the – Phi Beta Kappa – but more, in the theater and the art class. I remember my theater class. That I had to act.
1:33:59.7 I remember having a crush on a person in my acting class, and being super duper nervous to practice my results. You know, my lines. Like I said, I remember going to Alvin Ailey and we were – like we were like doing all kinds of pirouettes and jumping on the grass greens, that were the place where I played soccer the next day. You know Those are the things that I remember. And like, every kid should have this safe-ish experience where they could go and find friends, and meet friends, and meet professors and study, and be independent, and go away from home. You know? And so – I think that like this is just so – touch – I don’t even – I’m realizing this, because this has sparked what I believe is possible.
1:35:00.7 And should be – every black kid in every poor community should have. And that’s my frame of reference, right? And so, I was a college counselor for ten years, helping students navigate the financial aid pack process. Helping, figuring out what college they should go to. There should be a fit and a match. Not just because you get in. And I remember talking to their parents about meeting with somebody in financial aid, and making that person your friend, because I had that at the college. And I remember this – there were different people, but I remember them calling my mom. Like, they got to get their paperwork in. So, like all these things that happened for me, I wanted to – I felt I wanted to make sure happened for others. And so, I think that – so I spent ten years being a college counselor, working at various public charter schools.
1:36:01.8 And you know, the thing I kind of also realized, working with a lot of first-generation, that I shifted to some private schools. So, I worked, this is where I said I worked at Sidwell Friends School, where I met my professor’s daughter, years later. But my transition to private schools was again to really understand what happens when every single parent believes that their child, high, low and and in-between, should go to a Harvard, Princeton, Yale, William and Mary. Like this level of entitlement, but always understanding that, understanding what access to resources would look like. They’re always bringing the notion of bringing it back to the communities, and I wanted to serve.
1:36:57.4 So, fast forward. I wanted to be – I was working in college counseling. I knew I wanted to be a director. I knew that I wanted to be, not executing, but leading, and that’s when I applied to Harvard, and did my Masters in Education Policy and Management. And so, I knew having a Masters degree was going to be important to my level of access to greater opportunities. And so, 2008, 2009, which isn’t that long ago, but as a mature adult, I went to graduate school, and I think that made a little bit of a difference. There’s a gap between my undergrad – I had work experience, and – and I really – it was really great to be an intentional student as a graduate student, really focusing on access to higher education and some of the roadblocks that the students of color face in pursuing their life goal and dreams.
1:37:59.8 And so, fast forward, you know, I’ve worked in a number of non-profits, and I think you know, to where I am today, as the Executive Director of the Newark Charter School Fund. I’ve been in this role for two years, and it’s been really, really awesome and amazing. Newark is the largest school district in the State of New Jersey, so I’m kind of like, back home. I’m having impact in the state that I grew up with, grew up in. And we have like over 55,000 students, and I’m leading an education non-profit that is really about making sure that all students have access to a high-quality school, primarily through charters, and I think – I couldn’t come on Friday, because I really wanted to go to one of our charter high schools had college signing day.
1:38:57.5 And college signing day is when the seniors essentially announce to the school community where they’re going to graduate in four years from college from. And when I tell you – I’m crying now. When you see the parents, and you see the pride, and you, you hear about Newark, New Jersey being the highest crime and all these negative things, and perceptions coming out of our city, but there are 119 seniors who got up on that stage and announced where they were going to graduate from college in four years, in Newark, New Jersey. And six of these students said they’re going to graduate from Yale, from Brown, from Stanford, and from Princeton. And that’s happening in the city that I live in. And these are first-generation college-bound students and are going to great places. So, that’s kind of like where I am now, and why I do this work. And primarily through charters, because my parents made sacrifices, and I believe that every single kid, every single family should have options of where they can go.
1:40:07.4 Because not every school’s for every kid, right? And this notion of choice, and I – my stock lines are like, your block shouldn’t determine your blessings, and your zip code should not determine your destiny. So, wherever you live, you should be able to have access and options. And so, I’m here today because my parents were advocates for me to shift out of having failed kindergarten. I’m here today because I had an awesome William and Mary experience. And I, I literally believe that every kid should have that, because I wouldn’t be here today, for it. Right? And so, I know that there’s some kids who should go to city schools, and I know that there are urban campuses.
1:40:55.5 But there’s just something that, that when I think back, that was just so freeing and liberating and poignant, and I still remember Mighty-Whitey, you know, that was shocking and jarring, but still needed to happen. And so, I think my mom, I try to be a glass-half-full, and not a glass-half-empty. And so, I would – I don’t – I don’t want to tell the story in a glossed over way, and the experience, but, like, I’ve been extremely blessed and extremely fortunate to live the life, to have had access to the things that I’ve had. I’ve worked really, really hard.
1:41:58.9 And you know where it taught me to work hard? And to persist? And so, I was – you know, honestly? I’m really proud of – I’ve always been proud, but I’m – I became re-engaged, re-motivated, and re-inspired after the Hulon Willis experience in the, in the summer. I look at the emails, now. Right? [chuckles] Which is a start. I look at the emails. I read them, I kind of want to know. I do like getting my magazine, and looking in the 1996 section to see who’s doing what. So, that’s been important. My sister and my brother-in-law have been actively engaged. My brother was on the Board of Visitors, and my sister’s on the Alumni Board, so I kind of like hear things from them, that I’ve kept in touch. And you know, I’ve stayed in touch with Bobby and Pat – Patty Dwyer, which has been really – I really appreciate them in so many ways.
1:43:02.5 I think they know. I think they know, and we stay in touch. But when I look back, I really do just appreciate their support. So, that’s like the familial support. You asked me if you feel and not feel supported. And so, I think you know, being the first in your family being five hours away from home, that means a lot, and I think just not taking it for granted. And how loving and kind and warm – I think they might have even let us do our laundry at the house. You know? It was just those simple, simple things that – I remember her making this wonderful meatloaf that I’m grateful for. You know, 22 years later.
Carmen: Yeah, that’s huge. Standing in – that’s invaluable. Standing in as like a family when you’re so far from your own. That’s huge.
Michele: Yeah. Yeah.
Carmen: Well, a couple - what you said first of all, I can’t help but noticing kind of a connection between the service work you did as part of your sorority and kind of what you’ve done long-term career-wise.
Carmen: And how you, and your perspective on that, which I think is wonderful. I’m also very glad we postponed on Friday so that you could be there, so, yes. That’s wonderful.
Carmen: Yeah, I just, you know, you’ve covered so much. We’ve covered so much in this interview, and the last few questions have to do with kind of the time William and Mary is going through right now, and your perspective on that, before I open it up to you. And then that’s –
Michele: I’m glad you said that, because that’s what I was getting to. With, in these, I feel like in these last six months, or however many months it’s been since August, I’ve been – I was invited and met Samantha – is it Samantha K. Huge? Our athletic director? I’m like, okay! I’m with her.
1:44:58.5 Women, you know, we’re all in the scene, you know. I’m with her, and Hilary, like, the women’s movement. I’m like okay! The college has picked a woman athletic director, and I’m – I follow her on Facebook, and I’m like, it’s great. I think that says a lot. I haven’t read the full bio on our new president, but the college has selected a woman president. Like, okay! Maybe we are, you know – maybe! I think those are statements. Those are statements that aren’t for naught. Whatever your experience was, that – because there are places across this country where it still would not happen. So, I think, let’s be really clear that that’s our new reality. Right? I think, I saw a lot of the honoring of Dr. Hardy and the dorm, and those things.
1:46:04.9 You know? I haven’t talked to recent students, but you know, we all have work to do. I think it’s the state of world, the state of the union. So, we are not, what’s the word I want to say? It’s not unique to the college, so I think having a bigger perspective, you understand that. I think you just wonder what’s the level of commitment to like making some more change. I’ve heard the statistic. It’s more diverse than it’s ever been-ish. And so, I am curious about charting a course, and what is next? And how the black student experience is growing or different. You know, I think I share that – I went, I worked in a number of private schools, and I went to St. Louis.
1:47:02.7 And the way they explain it in St. Louis is – I worked at Mary Institute in St. Louis Country Day School, and that’s where the Democrats sent – I’m sorry, that’s where the Republicans sent their kids. That’s the school that I worked at. Then John Burroughs is the other private school. And that’s where the Democrats send their kids. So, that was like an eye-opening experience for me to be around some pretty staunch conservatives. And I started a Black Student Union there. So, that was like, you know, like whoa! She’s gotta go. But I say all that to say that I heard, even in the last year at that school, they’re still dealing with some major race-related issues.
1:47:59.9 And that is – it just – it doesn’t surprise me that being in the heart of Williamsburg, Virginia that far away from any major metropolitan city, that experience still persists.
Michele: So, it’s sad, but, you know, what’re you going to do?
Carmen: Do you have any specific hopes for William and Mary in the next 10 years, 22 years?
Michele: Yeah, hmm –
1:49:03.3 I think it probably reflects more of my lack of connection or knowledge, but I think I just – I think I wonder about like the resources and support that are going to put in place behind things like the Hulon Willis Society, and endowments and money and how are you really supporting courageous conversations around race? And you know – our students are phenomenal and great. Like the students I work – they’re just so brilliant. So, I don’t know that I think it’s the students, per se. It’s the top down. It’s the leadership and how are we investing and being uncomfortable with difficult conversations. And you don’t have to change it – it’s not going to change overnight, but you at least have to acknowledge that this experience is a real experience for kids of color.
1:50:03.1 And so I think, I’m just curious about like the, the financial commitment to support getting, making it a better experience. I don’t know, I think I just had in my head, who are all the famous you know, black alum that have graduated from the college? Like you hear about Glen Close, and you hear about John Stuart, and you hear about – you know, even the Nobel Laureates, and all those other folks. But like, how are we telling this – Mike Common, like who are the black alum that have done great things?
Michele: And I think the challenge with, I don’t even know who we compete against, right? Like who do we say we’re in the same league? I think the challenge will always be that we remain a fine academic institution.
1:50:59.1 And, if we ever want to be an athletic powerhouse, how are we supporting student athletes who may not have the same access to academic preparation, but they can – but they have grit, they have tenacity, they have worked hard, but how can they be supported in the high expectations, cultural environment, to still feel they can do both ends. It’s a tough tension. It’s a tough tension, but, and it’s not lowering expectations on prerequisites or requirements, but there are creative solutions around, supporting student athletes from low income neighborhoods. But you know, they, those kids in families make choices to go wherever they’re going to go, but how do we make it more attractive for kids who don’t have the same access to the academic preparation.
1:52:05.5 And so, in 10 years, in 20 years, I hope that the story that we’re hearing is one where there are more kids of color who have had more positive experiences than not. That there’s a real presence – and I’m not even just talking about black kids, like diversity of thought, diversity of experience, and I just hope that it continues to be the academic powerhouse that it is, and people can still associate like honor and prestige and that – I don’t even know if William and Mary has – you know how like how Harvard and Princeton, Yale have opened up like the, like, if you’re families of like $55,000 – like, if family incomes are under a certain threshold, they get full scholarships.
1:53:04.0 And things of that nature. That’s what schools with significant endowments, do. That they make it free, so that to me, shows a level of commitment to making sure that not only racial diversity, but economic diversity in our student experience, because our kids from low-income neighborhoods, they have a real, lived experience that adds a whole lot to the conversation. And perspective of the world. And so, I just think that we have to value that part of their experience to the conversation in ways that it hasn’t always been valued in the past. And so, I think that – I would love to see William and Mary in a place where they’re offering free tuition and scholarships for four years for first-generation, low-income families, because the students meet the academic bar.
1:54:06.9 SAT bar. But also, not only give them the free tuition, but the supports when they get here.
Carmen: Absolutely. Great. And you just got at this question a little bit with what you were saying, but, given that we just kind of brought to a close, officially, the years of African Americans in residence celebration, and that we’re kicking off 100 years of co-education. And we’re recognizing that these two unique incredibly important events, can you speak to, just for a moment, a little bit about the value of and contribution of women, and the value and contribution of diversity and inclusion on a college campus, like William and Mary.
Michele: Yeah, the value of women. You know? I think it’s, you know we talked about like the athletic director, and our new president.
1:55:02.4 I just think we’re at a phase, stage in our country and in life and time where . . . and even like I think about myself, and like where I am as a leader, how important it is for women to be at the table in decision making. I find myself often in rooms where I’m the only woman, and/or woman of color. And we just think differently. We process differently, we execute differently. It’s not to say it’s warm fuzzies, or even you know, the emotional stuff, like, I just think that it’s all a commitment to diversity of thought, and the – a new, different way of thinking, and we – it’s just so important to challenge the status quo.
1:56:01.3 And people, it drives me crazy when people go, “This is just the way we do it. This is how it’s been done.” Okay, we need to stop all that, right? And how’s that working for you? [chuckles] Like, have you asked yourself that question, and I think, in – for the college – you know better than I, like, there’s a narrative, and there’s a story of – I want to even like, in the Board of Visitors and the Board of Directors, who are the people represented there? Right? That are, women are not women – or diversity of experience, and I don’t know. I wonder, and I think if I made some assumptions, if you look at all the people on the – like the portraits of the people on the wall can look a little bit different.
1:57:00.4 In 50 years, can it not just be White men? And I think if we’re really being honest. There are certain types of diversity people who would be okay, or permissible to be on the wall or to be at the table, and so I would want us to challenge that notion, as well, because, as I tell my niece and nephew, as black people, our ancestors are kings and queens. And so, we’ve been kings and queens for a long time, so we don’t have to hand pick certain types of people of color who are palpatable [sic], right? And so, it just – I think that – I mean, it’s a lot to ask, but I don’t think – if you don’t ask, you’re not going to get it.
1:57:58.5 I just wonder about, I’m curious about who’s on the Board of Visitors, right now, and what’s their pedigree? Right? What’s their background? Were any of them the first member of their family to go to college, go to law school, go to business school? And then this notion of like, giving, right? And how does that actually influence who gets to be seated at the table? Because the reality – I don’t come from a family history of, of wealth. So, no. I’m not writing a $100,000, or $50,000 or $20,000 or $5,000 check right now, to the college. So, I know that we have to balance who gives and who gets. And so, I don’t really have an answer for it, but I know all these things play out.
1:58:57.8 And, the racial and the economic diversity of decision making is really, really, really important to have a level of intentional commitment to making sure it’s different. And, I think that sometimes requires really difficult conversations about who should leave and who should go. And, yeah. So, I think that – I think the question was around women having a seat at the table, and the diversity moving forward in the next 50 years. No, I think, hoping that our new president and other – there are other roles that I’m sure are coming up.
2:00:01.1 And I don’t know how it funnels down, but it’s not – like I say, it can – our students are amazing and great. It’s the lead – academy of leaders that demonstrate and show the value in experiences, goo or bad, to inform a better tomorrow, right. So –
Carmen: Absolutely. So, I finished my list, but at this point, I like to open it up to you, to add anything that we haven’t covered. If there was something you thought we’d cover that we haven’t, this is a great moment to add that, or any other memories, thoughts, questions you have.
Michele: A little bit more experience in the oral history in which you’ve heard and learned. Maybe it’ll jog some things for me.
Carmen: Sure, so actually, I’ve been sitting here, thinking during your oral history, some of the things you said reminded me of what I’ve heard in other ones. The thing that you just said about the kings and queens.
2:00:58.4 I don’t want to say verbatim, because I cannot remember the quote, verbatim, but another individual said that she speaks – she speaks to her children and her children’s children, it’s the same thing. It’s you know, you come from powerful, powerful people. People who have survived terrible, horrible atrocities, and racism is a disease, but it’s not your disease.
Carmen: So, you don’t carry that. You carry the power of the generations before you, and again, that’s not verbatim, but I think that gets to the gist. And chills every time I hear it, right, because that’s so powerful, and that’s so empowering.
Carmen: That that’s the narrative being passed down.
Michele: Yeah, yeah.
Carmen: So, that definitely adds.
Michele: Look at you –
Carmen: That adds, that stood out in conversations I’ve had. I mentioned that this idea of not coming back, and that William and Mary serving as a like a space – space is so important, right? It’s so important to communities and families, and why has that not been the case?
2:02:01.7 That’s one of the questions we’re trying to uncover, and I think you’ve helped get at that a little bit, and in 50 years, will it, will there be roots in the ground at William and Mary that make individuals want to come back.
Michele: Yeah, yeah.
Carmen: That’s a big, big piece of it. One thing we’ve been trying to uncover is how the socio-political environment of the United States and the World, at any given point, how that’s been seen to play out on campus. So, the things that were going on in the world during the time you were there, how you saw or how – you know how did that play out on campus? Or did it?
Michele: Yes. So, you just jogged for me –
Michele: When I was at campus, that was the OJ trial.
Michele: And I remember – I remember what I was wearing, and I was in – I was at Adair Gym in the afternoon.
2:02:58.2 I think, I can’t remember what class it was, I could – if I really thought about it I will remember, but when the verdict came out.
Michele: I was in class when the verdict came out, but I remember going to, not the caf, one of the places. And people were just – I remember, the Black students felt like, we won, and this notion of our white peers feeling some other kind of way about the verdict. I remember being – I don’t remember what month – I thought it was in the fall. But I remember being in conversations with our teammates in a van, going to college, to a game or something, you know, talking about it. Just a difference of perspective, and you know thought on guilt, not guilt.
2:03:57.9 And it, you know, the notion of dating outside your race being acceptable, not acceptable, and I feel like I remember like, asking the question like, as a white girl, could you date a black person? Like would that be okay? And would your parents be okay with that? And for the most part, not. It not being okay. But you know, I think they thought they were free, and they could do whatever they want in college, and what their parents know, won’t hurt them. I think it was kind of that thing, but they knew they couldn’t marry, you know, a person of color. That was not going to happen. They knew that.
So, thinking back, that was big during ’92 to ’96. There was another – we can look back – there was another – I think it was one of these . . . it was a white woman in the South who did something to her kids.
2:05:03.2 I think, I remember the woman who drove her kids into the lake. I feel like it was one of those type of things. And I remember like, she accused – I think she accused some African Americans of having done it, but then they found out that she actually did it. I remember like those kind of conversations, and challenging, what if this happened to you, type things? But in terms of the world, and what’s going on around us, it is – it’s the million dollar, you know, thought question, and how – I know for us, in our work, like this notion of student activism, you know, on Friday, we have yet another gun shooting on a school campus, and it’s really, really terrifying. Like, I’m numb to it at this point.
2:05:59.2 Like, I was looking forward to a royal wedding, and I told – I didn’t even engage with it. The fact that ten kids who went to high school on Friday are no longer here. Like, how do we grapple with that? That is a – he’s a 19-year-old kid. That is their peer group on these college campuses. Like, you know that kid. You know that kid. He was in your class. What did you do? How did you – what did you do? What didn’t you do? Right? How do you own that, as an experience and not? You’ve got to – you know this notion of, I don’t own anything negative history – the racism or some – because you’ve got to be – stay focused. Like how do we balance, with all of the – mind your own manifest destiny, but your own journey of being a part of a community, and your role and responsibility.
2:07:05.8 And shaping that. And this notion of – recently thinking about this. If you see something, say something. Like when something doesn’t feel right, what do you do? Right? It was something like – really quickly, that this woman, she’s one of my – a teacher in the charter school networks. She was in the CVS, and saw a young person steal something, like a Red Bull. What would you do? And a lot of the comments were like, you don’t say anything. You don’t get involved. You just let that be their problem and their response. And I wrote, I would pay for the Red Bull, and I would just alert them that this person has come in and stole this, and maybe you should just be on alert, so that the next time they come in, you say, you can offer to them – somebody paid for the Red Bull that you stole the last time.
2:08:06.9 It may not be a good decision for you to steal the next time, right? But give him the opportunity to make a good decision. I’m not going to call the cops, and get them arrested, because then they’re going to be in the system. That’s not going to help them. But what do you do when you see something that’s not right or good. And what’s your role and responsibility in doing that. So, that’s what I’m thinking about today.
Anything else I want to say?
Carmen: Now’s your chance. Any crazy, embarrassing stories about the college you want to add for the record?
Michele: Besides wonderful times in Barrett Hall with my very dear close friends, who I’m still in touch with, besides thanking Bobby and Patty Dwyer, besides the good/not so good athletic experience, I am just really grateful and humbled and thankful that you’ve given me the opportunity to tell this story today. I think everything happens for a reason, to be able to reflect and appreciate and this has brought out a lot of things that I had not thought about in a long time. But, I hope that it adds to the richness and the care and the thought. The good, the bad, the ugly. I know my parents are proud, and I hope that the story and impact and my life and story, in years to come that my William and Mary experience is told through this. So, I appreciate the opportunity.
Carmen: Of course, and thank you so much for just being willing to talk to me and tell your story, and I have no doubt that it will be very impactful down the line. So, thanks again.
Michele: Yeah, yeah.
2:10:23.4 [End of recording]
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