One in 2000: Marissa Thiel ’13

My long and abiding love for Marissa Thiel ’13 was ignited by a confluence of two great things. We first met when she trained me as a member of the Rape and Sexual Assault Network (RASAN), of which she is now co-coordinator. I then discovered that not only was she an entrymate of one of my Junior Advisors (JAs) – I’m convinced that their entry, Pratt 4, was the best of the Class of 2013. We recently decided that it would be a good idea to green-card marry each other, so that I, an American who has lived half his life in Canada, could get her citizenship, and she, a Canadian who plans to work in the U.S. when she graduates this spring, could get mine. I thought interviewing Marissa for “One in 2000” would be a good opportunity to ferret out any potential deal breakers. Fortunately, there were none.

So, you’re an English major, but you went to a French-speaking high school in Toronto, Ontario right?

I did. I wrote in-class commentaries in English, but my first real essay [in English] was my application essay to Williams.

Wild. But your family speaks English at home?

We speak English at home. My dad speaks German, French and English. My mom speaks English and French in a terrible way.

Learned later in life?

Yeah, she passed the bar in French, which is pretty badass, but it’s not ideal for conversation purposes.

And what about your dad? He speaks German natively?

His first language is either English or German. His parents were immigrants from Germany/Austria. They immigrated to Quebec, so that’s why he speaks French. He sent us to French school because he was like, “I’m from Quebec. You’re speaking French. You best be bilingual; it’s Canada.”

I lived in Canada for half of my life, and I’m not really bilingual.

My dad would be ashamed of you.

Deservedly. And you said your mom passed the bar, so she’s a lawyer, right?

She was a lawyer, and now she does things for my dad’s winery because he’s a winemaker.

So your dad owns a vineyard.

Fine, yes, he owns a vineyard.

And he also makes cheese, right?

Yeah, he’s like a stereotype. We have a small cheese operation near the winery, which is in the small wine country near Niagara Falls. He kind of commutes to it, but he loves his grapes. It’s the middle of winter right now, and he can’t come visit me because there’s always something with the grapes, and they’re not even growing.

But hey, wine and cheese! Okay, so you’re on the alpine ski team, tell me about that.

I first skied when I was two years old.

Is there a mountain close to Toronto, or did you guys take a lot of ski trips?

Collingwood is about two hours from Toronto. It’s smaller than Jiminy [Peak], but it produces really good racers, so everyone just races. That’s how I got into skiing.

Would you say you have been pretty injury prone through all of that racing?

I was always told I’d have to be bubble-wrapped because I was so accident prone. Not usually bones; I tear things a lot. I’ve broken a finger, a couple of toes and cracked some ribs, though.

All of this skiing?

I broke my finger not skiing! I fell on a stair and broke my finger on the staircase. But I was on a ski trip. My mom had to forego skiing to hang out with the bratty kid in the village.

That’s so traumatic for your mom. What about your relationship with Dean Bolton? You’ve gotten to know her through your work with RASAN, and as far as I can tell, you’re basically total bros at this point.

I have an obsession with Dean Bolton, and I’m not ashamed of it. It’s good to know that there are other people who feel the same way. She’s awesome. We get to hug. We’re at the hugging point now. Not every time, but most times we’ll get a little hug in. We bond because she’s tall and awkward, and I’m tall and awkward, and she’s somehow overcome her awkward to be nicknamed Queen Bolton at Williams, so she’s kind of winning right now. That’s like our main connection.

That and, like, combatting rape and sexual assault.

Yeah, but it’s not like we strap on swords and shields and do battle. We have meetings together in her office. I give her potted plants. It’s pretty casual.

Potted plants?

We had a really rough set of weeks last year, and she and some of the ladies from the Health Center were just so helpful that Abbi [Davies ’13] (one of the other RASAN co-coordinators) and I were like ‘Plants? Plants, the only way to say thanks?’ We couldn’t get her, like, a puppy. She already babysits the entire campus. She doesn’t need a new pet that’s not potty trained. So we gave her this long-growing fern that flowered last year, and it hasn’t flowered since. It looks like it’s either dead or on its last legs. I think she just pities us and keeps it in her office, but it looks so bad.

Alright, last topic. JA decisions came out yesterday so I feel like now’s a good time for the campus to hear from a former JA about good JA date ideas.

I didn’t know a lot of guy JAs, because a lot of them were from Frosh Quad, so I was like, “Marissa, you’ve gotta have really cool JA dates to draw people out.” I organized most of my first round dates. I went on a bowling JA double date with my eventual co, Thomas [Daubert ’13]. I went on Schow roof and told so many people how to do the same that by the time I tried to go on Schow roof for a second date, the roof was already tapped out with three pairs already there. I organized one date right after Take Back the Night where we were going to go splatter painting and it was going to be cathartic and beautiful. We used oil paint, though, and at the end of it, we realized we ruined our outfits. I ruined my pants. I ruined so many pants during JA dating! I ripped all my jeans. I fell on Schow roof, and my pants got caught on a tile and ripped. I ripped another pair hopping a fence to go down to the Green River.

Wow, you sacrificed all those pants for your community.

If you ended a week with no sleep and no pants, you wouldn’t be happy either.