I first met Joseph when he stayed as a prospective student in my entry. His optimism proved infectious and his positive aura an inspiration to us all. Now that’s he in his second year at the College, I wanted to catch up with Joseph to inquire about growing up in the South, looking out for his six younger siblings and planning for his medical career to come.
You come to the College from the South! You’re part of the few rather than the many.
[Laughs.] I’m from Augusta, Ga., … a nice little town in the South. I love the South; I’m a southern man all the way. I am the oldest of seven kids. That’s a lot of fun. I’m also the second oldest of 30 grandchildren.
You guys must have some fun family parties.
Yes, oh my God! Family reunions and family times are the best things. One of [my cousins] was born just this past weekend, and the oldest is 22. It’s like all my aunts and uncles planned to [have kids] at the same time.
Does your whole family live around each other?
Yeah. My mom’s side is from New Orleans. My dad is from D.C., but was raised in Georgia. After Hurricane Katrina everyone really dispersed, so most of my family is still in the South, but I have some [relatives] in New York and some in Canada that I visited during Reading Period.
What is Augusta like?
I call Augusta the border of the country. It’s a city, but it’s really not. You have to be from there to understand it. We have the Augusta National [golf course]. But I don’t like golf. If people do, though, that’s the place to go. Other than that, it is a real southern town.
Have you tried golf?
No. I mean, I did on the Wii. On the Wii, I’m a boss.
Speaking of being the boss, how is being the head of the seven siblings?
It is a lot of pressure. I am the oldest, so it is my job to set the standard for everyone. So, of course, sometimes you get in trouble for things your younger siblings do, but it’s your job to just keep going on the right path and be a role model for them.
What do you miss most about home?
The food. Southern food is just so comforting. Then I get up here and [I ask], “Where is my food! Where are my seasonings? Where is my sweet tea? Where are my biscuits? Where are my grits?” Each time I go home I say, “Mother, I need you to cook all of this for me over these two weeks,” and she does it for me, and it’s always a lot of fun.
What’s the go-to meal?
It really all depends. A good meal for dinner is beans and rice, baby jambalaya, stuffed bell peppers, gumbo, chicken, baked macaroni and cheese. Baked macaroni and cheese. That’s the favorite.
Have you had the fried chicken and waffles at The Log?
Yeah, it was alright — for the North.
Speaking of up here, what made you want to come to the College?
First, the funny thing was that I told myself I wanted to go to a school in a really big city. Augusta is small, but Williamstown is at least a fourth of the size of my city. It was really the community that drew me to Williams. I felt at home even though I was so far away. I just loved the scenery, just loved the people, just loved that I am able to interact with my professors, students and everyone. It’s so personable, so friendly. I was pleasantly surprised, when I visited Williams, that it felt like home. When I waved, people would wave back, and I was like, “This is the North; this is not supposed to happen.” But it did!
But still, if you’re going up Spring St. you’ll smile at random passersby and might get nothing in return.
That happens all the time! Also, as a southerner, I love to hug people. When I do, [sometimes] I realize, “Oh, you are not a hugger. My bad.”
People are not as into hugging as they should be. For that reason, you must miss your siblings a lot.
I really do. I like to call them as much as I can, and FaceTime them. I love asking them, “How was school? Did you get a green light today? What was for lunch?” I’m just trying to keep up with them at school and everything. It’s a lot of fun.
You’re a busy guy, Joseph.
Yeah, I’m pre-med, and I plan to major in psychology and concentrate in public health, neuroscience and possibly Africana studies. I was at Yale this summer. I like New Haven; I like it a lot. I was there for the summer medical and dental program, which is a six-week program where we really get to be [medical] students. I took classes at the medical school, got to shadow doctors at the hospital and had my meals at the hospital. [It was a] lot of fun. It really exposed me to medicine and made me see … why I love medicine. I was with Brian [Benitez ’18] and Malcolm [Singleton ’18]. It was funny because no one had heard of Williams and everyone was like, “Wow, y’all three are all from Williams?” And we got to go, “Yeah, we’re the best school in the nation.”
New Haven took good care of you?
Yeah, I loved the city because everything is within walking distance. There’s this new ice cream shop called Arethusa [Dairy Farm]. It was really good. The last few weeks, I really had to get my ice cream. And I was always down at the art gallery.
What attracted you to psychology?
So, the funniest thing is that before I came to Williams, I despised psychology. I was going to be a sociology major. I took some classes, but sociology really was not for me. For pre-med, they recommend that you take psychology, so I took it because I had to, and I actually enjoyed the class. Psych is really fun. There’s neuroscience, which I love, developmental psych and social psych. It’s studying how humans do what they do, but without sociology. I like it a lot.
How has pre-med stuff treated you here?
It’s going good. It’s a lot of work, but the science department is the best here. All of my professors are really supportive and able to help me out. I am really blessed to be here.
Speaking of being blessed, you are certainly a man of faith. What has that been like here?
I think the reason I came to Williams was to grow spiritually. Being away from home, it’s time for me to [discover] why I believe what I believe in. Being at Williams — a secular school — [allowed] me to [examine] my belief in God, why I believe in God, how I can express my faith in a way that is right for me and how I can share my faith with others. Being a part of the Gospel Choir is a way to do that, being a part of Black Campus Ministries is a way to do that and the Williams Intervarsity [the Christian fellowship] is also a way of doing that.
You hosted a vigil recently, right?
Yeah, [Black Campus Ministries] had a prayer vigil this past month to pray about police brutality and grieve for the people who have lost their lives to police brutality. [It was] also just [to] realize that Jesus is the hope, and that we still have hope in the midst of this dark world.
What would you say would be your dream job?
I want to be a pediatrician and open up a center that is multi-purpose: an educational facility, medical facility and a church in it or whatever, so that I am taking care of the whole man and not just the medical aspect. The reason some people get sick is because of everything going on around them. So if I can help that person with what is going on around them, I can make sure that they are healthy.
Really taking care of the whole individual. The College has taught you well!
[Laughs.] Yeah, Williams looked at my application holistically, and so is life.
Do you want to go straight into medical school?
Nah, I would like to take some gap years. Maybe one or two gap years just to de-stress, take my MCATs and just explore. I have thought about Teach for America. … I am really open for anything as long as I am making a difference and doing what I love, which is helping people and working with people.