For Justine DeYoung ’02 of Nashville, the chance to return for a day to a bustling city was a welcome diversion from the slow pace of life in the Berkshires. As evidenced by the great success of a new program called “Branching Out,” many students, faculty and staff share her sentiment. The program, which is run through the Dean’s office, provides trips to nearby metropolises, shopping districts, and athletic contests.
DeYoung, who went to Boston this past Saturday, said she enjoyed getting back into the city, despite the rainy weather. “I liked to sort of escape Williamstown for a while,” said DeYoung. “It was nice to be around tons of people.” She said she would like to return, though, on a nicer day to see all the sights that she missed while running from shelter to shelter in the rain.
Other students shared De Young’s positive review of the service. Elizabeth Pulbratek ’01, who went to New York City, appreciated the opportunity to see new things which would be unavailable outside of a large city. “We went to the Cloisters [the medieval collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art],” she said. “I had never been before, so that was really cool.”
The new trips come in response to student input about how to better student life. “This is a result of the Dean’s office listening to students,” said Assistant Dean of the College Wanda Lee.
This program and its purpose sprang out of focus group talks that were held last spring between Lee and students. Lee asked students “how they were finding their on-campus experience especially focusing around social issues.”
Lee said the overwhelming response that kept coming out of these talks was that students wanted to be able to get out of Williamstown. She added that the Dean’s office had never considered this before and was glad that students voiced their opinion.
The Dean’s Office found the student request completely feasible. Last June, Lee looked at the master calendar and scheduled dates and reserved buses for the current fall semester.
A certain percentage of the Dean’s Office budget has helped reduce the cost of these trips so that it is cheaper for the Williams community.
In past years, students have also tried to organize trips, but they were unsuccessful because people wouldn’t show up and the price of the trips would then be too high. This Dean’s Office subsidized program has reduced the price for the trips into the city to $10.
Students have been very pleased with the reasonable price. “Considering it got us into the city and brought us back all in one day, it was good,” said Dan Elsea ’02.
Lee reported that the program is “going extremely well.” The first trip offered went to Holyoke on September 2. Three buses of students and parents who were on campus early made the shopping rounds in Holyoke and ate at Hu ke lau, a Polynesian restaurant.
For the next trip, on September 19, students went to New York City. Forty-two students and two faculty/staff rode into New York for a day of shopping, sightseeing and a show. The bus left campus at 10 a.m. and arrived in New York at 1 p.m.
Coordinators were concerned that seven hours in the city might be too much time, but the time frame turned out to be perfect. This past Saturday, students traveled into Boston for the day with the same time schedule.
Going all the way into the city and back all in one day does necessitate a great deal of travel time. “The bus trips were a bit much,” said John Phillips ’02. “But it was nice to get out of Williamstown. . .to get back to civilization.”
So far, the trips have seen an overwhelming amount of interest. A waiting list has been made for every trip run so far. “I wanted to go to New York but it filled up too fast,” said Alison Hess ’01.
The turnout for the trips has consisted mainly of sophomores and juniors with little interest from freshmen so far. The program is hoping to appeal to many students from the Midwest and the West coast that want to go into the city for the day and explore and not have to spend tons of money to do so. “I’d go if I got to drive the bus; I have a van license,” said Caitlin Carr ’01.
Students are happily surprised by the amount of freedom offered by the service. Many expected a school field trip sort of atmosphere. “Do we have to use the buddy system?” asked Tanu Kumar ’01. In fact, students are set free and are on their own when they arrive at the destination.
Students can purchase tickets through the Events Planning Office, located off of Baxter Lounge, which has volunteered to sell tickets for the Dean’s Office. The next trip available is to the Williams vs. Amherst football game on November 14 for $3.
“Branching Out” is giving students an inexpensive outlet to explore beyond the Williams campus. This program is currently only planned to run through first semester, but if interest continues, the trips could also be run in the spring.
“First semester is an experiment,” said Lee. If high student interest continues, “Branching Out” will continue to offer students transportation to off-campus locations.