The Joke's on Us: Welcome

Meet Mike
Hi friends! Mike Rodriguez ‘17 here. I use he/him/his pronouns. Originally from Hartford, CT, I came to Williams in 2013 and have stuck around for a little while now. Typical Williams fun facts: I was a Geosciences and Psychology double major, JA, Mission was my favorite dining hall, and Mountain Day was my favorite day of the year. After graduating, I spent a little bit of time working at Bennington College and have been in the Alumni Relations Office as the Program Specialist for 3.5 years now (shout out to the current version of Juan’s intern position and future folks to take the role). My personal hobbies include video games, playing bass, hiking, puns, nature photography, movies, watching Bob Ross, and learning about sloths (there’s a species of moth that only grows on sloth fur!). I’m excited to be travelling around, seeing new places, making new friends, and annoying Juan with dry sarcasm that goes over his head. Here’s to many miles, smiles, and hopefully only a few trials on the road!

Mike with his mother, Darline.
Mike with his mother, Darline.
a photo of Juan with his mother, Maria.
Juan with his mother, Maria.

Meet Juan
Hola mi gente. Juan Baena ’06/’07 here, hailing from Colombia, via Queens/Hartsdale NY, eventually calling North Adams, MA, my home. I use he/him/his pronouns. I started working at Alumni Relations as the young alumni intern immediately after graduation (shout out to all past interns) and eventually transitioned to help in technology and digital engagement. Fun fact: I had the pleasure to work in the snack bar at Mission during my year off from Williams. A fellow classmate helped my mother and I drive a small U-Haul up from NYC on October 2004 and we have called the Berkshires our home ever since (she started working at Dodd House dining hall). Documenting people and places has become a hobby and passion over the years, rooted in my work-study job at the Multicultural Center (now Davis Center) alongside Marcela Villada Peacock. She believed in the power of preserving history through the memories encapsulated in a photo. I find tranquility in landscape photography and look forward to capturing the humanity of Williams alumni out in their communities. The Toy Story movie franchise brings the inner child out while you may find me belting out some car sing-alongs to Kirk Franklin as I hark back to my Williams gospel choir days. Go tenors!

January 2020

We got the bright idea for this project after spending a week traveling across the country on an Amtrak train from Portland, OR to Albany, NY after an off-site Executive Committee meeting in January 2020. With stops in Sacramento, Grand Junction, CO (including a visit to Arches National Park), Chicago, and finally Albany, we got to see many different geographies, talk to new people, and share their enjoyment of nature and photography. We joked about their own wants to do long road trips to explore other places. The joke was on us apparently.

two people posing side by side with the background of a train station tower with text that reads as Union Station
photo of a fall foliage scene with mountains and blue sky

October 2020
Fast forward 8 months and the middle of a pandemic later, we participated in a modified Mountain Day and happened to bring up the idea of road tripping. The conversation went a bit like this: 

Juan: Michael, hear me out. After our cross-country journey from Portland, OR to Albany, NY, I've been pondering the idea of the two of us getting on an RV (plenty of cow spots on it, of course) and exploring the geography of our country, documenting the stories and encounters with Ephs in their local communities, and sharing our journey on digital channels as the country opens back up and we celebrate the Bicentennial of our alumni family. What do you think?

Michael: There is no way in hell this thing would get approved. Ask anyway.

Much to our surprise, the project was met with great enthusiasm and was eventually approved!

Then commenced months of planning, starting with getting to the heart of our project. From the beginning, we have valued the idea of highlighting people and places; there is something deeply meaningful in capturing people in their own spaces and sharing their narratives. Additionally, we have wanted to find alumni with unique narratives to chat with and share their story. Unfortunately, there are so many amazing people and places out there we can’t see everyone and everything! We do hope this will inspire you to find people you can connect with and spaces that make you truly feel connected. This project goes well beyond our route and people. Williams is everywhere and you all show up in your communities in your own meaningful ways.

a photo with a field of crocuses in the foreground and Chapin Hall in the background in the early spring
graphic of a Google Map with outline of route marked with RV icons

After this vision came the route, which required some creativity and understanding that we are humans who can’t actually drive everywhere always and keep our sanity (let alone not want to strangle one another). We share with you the route outline; regional stops will be announced in advance in the coming weeks. We apologize to the places we will miss, but we'll look for ways to engage with alumni virtually from the RV. Take the opportunity to connect with other local Ephs via the Alumni Directory or reach out to a classmate using the mad-lib card in your Williams calendar.

Ephs on the Mooove drew inspiration from the original Expeditions from the Alumni Relations office in 2009, 2010, and 2011 and these iterations in 2014 and 2015. For the Bicentennial, we decided to bring the trip back on a bigger scale. We’ve upgraded from a van to an RV (Juan’s idea), and are hoping to travel around 8500 miles, share photos, videos, audio, dash cam footage and who knows what else. Join us here for blog posts and on Eph Alum social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn). To follow us closely (and partake on our daily banter) follow us on Instagram (@EphsOnTheMooove)! 

photo of an RV parked next to a field with a lamp post on the left

5 comments on The Joke's on Us: Welcome

  1. It was a real pleasure to greet the “MOOOOving van” in Boston near the end of its odyssey, and to meet Michael and chat a while with Juan before I had to leave for a lunch meeting. I’m certain the trip was expensive on a per-interaction basis, but its informal, unscripted nature, staffed by alums of different ages – though both much closer to their graduation dates than I – made it a special encounter, and one of the pleasantest off-campus ones I can remember. This truly felt like the Alumni Relations Office thinking outside the box instead of merely checking the box. Thanks to all involved.

  2. Buenas tarde Miguel y Juancho como les va en ese importante reto cuéntenme donde van y que aventuras han tenido , asi que quedo atento saludes y cuidesen mucho.carrique

  3. I graduated in ‘84 and live in San Luis Obispo, CA which is halfway between LA and SF. When do you think you will pass through? I can buy you lunch or dinner if I am in town (I am in Ecuador July 17 – 26). I can offer a place to stay (you can park the RV on the street?) — one bed, one air mattress.

  4. Felicitaciones Juan y Michael en llevar acabo un sueno, buen viento buena Mar desde Florencia Caqueta estaremos atentos al desarrollo del viaje.Exitos y cuidesen mucho. para adelanmte carrique

  5. Hola Michael y Juan,
    I am a retired exploration geologist from the Williams class of 1974. My wife Loretta and I live in the center of Utah with a back yard spot to park your camper and relax if you end up wanting a night mid-way between your Wendover and Grand Junction sites. Our town of Manti, population ~3,000, is along route 89 and we are only one block off that route which you could traverse in lieu of the route your map shows via Price, UT. Too tight a schedule for a BBQ and a night? Well then, luncheon and visit? Your welcome and we look forward to meeting you both.
    Suerte y disfruta su viaje, Don y Loretta

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *