Leading Lives of Consequence Tracey Thornblade Belmont '92 and Posi Oluwakuyide ’24 compare their W&L experiences.
This is the second installment in a six-part series where alumni and current students have candid discussions about the similarities and differences of their time at Washington and Lee.
Why did you want to attend W&L?
Belmont: When I first learned about W&L I was a high school freshman, and W&L was still an all-male institution. I loved reading about the honor code, the speaking tradition, the beautiful campus in the Shenandoah Valley and the giant party called Fancy Dress but realized it wouldn’t be an option for me. To my surprise, I received a brochure in the mail during my junior year and learned that W&L had recently begun admitting women. After visiting the campus and learning more about the small class sizes and the close relationship of students with their professors, I knew it was the place for me. The icing on the cake was that W&L had the oldest journalism school in the country, and that was the major I was interested in pursuing.
Oluwakuyide: I attended W&L because it was the most affordable option, and I knew I would get the best education possible here. It was also an opportunity to go completely out of my comfort zone and open myself to new experiences things since I was moving out of state from New Jersey to Virginia.
What was one of your most memorable experiences at W&L?
Belmont: It’s hard to pick just one memorable experience from my time at W&L. Some of my favorite memories are simply spending time with my friends, all-night study sessions in the library, and working at WLUR and the GHQ. Three especially memorable occasions were late-night astronomy labs, meeting President Carter and reporting on Mock Convention with my journalism classmates.
Oluwakuyide: My most memorable experience so far at W&L was Washington Term, because it gave me an opportunity to explore several different aspects of policymaking, from working at a lobbying organization to interviewing nonprofits and Hill staffers for my final paper. I gained many invaluable experiences because of Washington Term, inside and outside of the classroom, and I will be forever grateful for that.
What professor made a lasting impression and why?
Belmont: I loved almost all of my professors at W&L. I specifically respected and admired everyone on the journalism faculty — especially Professors Ham Smith and Bob de Maria; Professor Gordon Spice in the music department and Professor Art Goldsmith in the C-School.
Oluwakuyide: Many professors here have made a lasting impression on me, particularly within the Shepherd Program where my poverty studies minor is housed. They have contributed to my growth and development as a student and a leader in so many ways. With that being said, I want to specifically call out Professor Brian Alexander because of his unwavering confidence in me — prior to, during and after Washington Term — to be a student that can and will make a change in the world. He has encouraged me to pursue opportunities I am passionate about, even when I feel like I’m not qualified for them. I always know that if I need anything, especially when it comes to career advice, I can go to Professor Alexander.
How did W&L prepare you for your career and/or life?
Belmont: I have made so many lasting friendships and networking connections through my association with W&L. I found my first job in book publishing thanks to a W&L alumnus. I have met wonderful W&L alumni everywhere I have lived, and I enjoy renewing old acquaintances and forging new friendships at W&L events and reunions.
Oluwakuyide: W&L is preparing me for life after college in so many ways. My freshman internship was through the Shepherd Program and introduced me to nonprofit work and research. I secured my second internship after various rounds of preparation with Dean John Jensen at CPD (Career and Professional Development), and Washington Term gave me the opportunity to explore my interest in public policy. Not to mention that I have gained invaluable life skills by just being involved in organizations on campus, and I have learned so much in the classroom as well.
What would you tell someone who is thinking about attending W&L?
Belmont: I would tell anyone interested in learning more about W&L to visit Lexington, and take time to visit with current students, faculty and admissions counselors. Even though W&L is small, everyone can find their unique place in the community. And your W&L experience doesn’t end upon graduation. W&L does an excellent job staying engaged with its graduates and warmly welcomes everyone who wants to stay involved.
Oluwakuyide: W&L is a good place to explore academic and extracurricular opportunities if you’re not sure where your life will take you after four years. Coming to a small liberal arts school allows you to have an interdisciplinary understanding of almost every subject, and that’s so important in an ever-evolving, ever-changing world. Not to mention that being a part of a small class gives you such personal access to faculty and staff that you would never have going to a big school. At W&L, there will be so many opportunities to try new things and be exposed to new experiences inside and outside of the classroom — just be willing and open to learn.
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