For young alumni staff, fifth year is the charm

For most students of the College, graduation marks a moment of release into the world – the beginning of a life of taking all our lessons from the purple bubble and attempting to apply them in the real world. Some students, however, elect to remain at the College after graduation to begin their professional careers. Imagine returning to the College only several months after graduating, not as a returning student, but as an administrator. How would your interactions with former fellow students change? Would you go to that hopping party at 66 Hoxsey only to find that the kid you ran into on Saturday night is the same kid that you have your 9 a.m. career counseling appointment with? I sat down with three alums, Sergio Marte ’08, Admission intern, Sulgi Lim ’06, assistant director of Admission and Amanda Santiago ’08, an intern at the Office of Career Counseling (OCC), and asked for the scoop on life post-graduation in the Purple Valley.

Returning as administrators, the three recent alums were forced to rediscover Williamstown. Unbeknownst to most students, there exists a single, hip and fabulous adult social scene right here in Williamstown, and it’s mostly due to Arif Smith, assistant director to Multicultural Center, who has made an earnest effort to connect the young professional community working in the Berkshires. Smith has even made a listserve for young adults in North Adams and Williamstown to organize events like themed dance parties and various get-togethers at the Red Herring and Mezze.

Lim views the young alumni group on campus as a close-knit group. “We are like a clique,” she said. According to the alumni, their close relationship provides them an opportunity to see life at Williams through a new lens while exploring a new social relationship with the community.

Santiago described her fifth year at Williams as a hybrid time. “I can weave in and out of the student community and then weave back into the young adult community.”

This social flexibility requires some finesse though, for awkward encounters can be looming around the corner, as Lim definitely knows. When she first came back to Williams, she went to a party in a senior’s room. A few weeks later, one first-year that she had chatted with at the party wandered into her office for an interview. Ever since then Lim has been much more careful in deciding which parties to attend.

Similarly, Marte managed to attend a Sankofa party at Spencer earlier this year, which showed him that “going to the party shows that some things never change.” Apparently being an alumnus doesn’t make nightlife at the College that much more exciting as Williams parties are pretty much the same year after year for graduates.

Santiago and Lim have both been in a few awkward situations with underage alcohol. While postering for Williams Reads in Frosh Quad earlier this year, Lim was faced with a sticky situation: a first-year party that involved alcohol. She had to make the conflicting decision of whether to embrace her role as an administrator and stick to the rules or turn a blind eye.

It would appear that these difficult situations are pretty entwined with the job, though. Last semester, while attending a party at Dodd, Santiago may have been faced with the worse case scenario. Someone who she knew was under 21 brought alcohol to the party. “Last year as a senior, I never thought twice about it. But now I have to. I’ve tried to be more observant of who is drinking and who is 21,” she said.
However, serving as an administrator does come with some advantages. Santiago is now the boss of her younger sister, Alicia Santiago ’09, who also works at the OCC. However, the two have still been able to distinguish the personal from the professional. “Sometimes I have to say, I am your sister but in this two-hour interim I am your superior.” Although Santiago often found her power over her younger sister difficult, it sounded to me like every older sister’s dream.

When I sat down with the three young alumnae, I was expecting them to dish about past hook-ups, awkward run-ins and drunk weekends. Yummy, juicy alumnae gossip! However, as true young professionals, they remained, well, quite professional. They took the interview seriously and discussed the current problems facing the College. They had all come back to Williams not just to relive the good old days but because they wanted to improve upon a community that they loved. And what better way to show their adoration for the College than staying within the confines of the purple bubble for a few more years.