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No Stupid Questions

Patrick Williams, A16

On Wednesday nights when most of Medford is sleeping, the Meyer Campus Center study room is wide awake. Fat cartons of lo mein are passed around to hungry undergrads whose ties to each other began well before matriculation. They’re pursuing all kinds of majors; they hail from hometowns across the country; and they aren’t afraid to ask “stupid questions.”

“It’s a cliché, but there are no stupid questions,” says Patrick Williams. He’s been part of the Bridge to Liberal Arts Success at Tufts (BLAST) academic program since before his first semester began and now offers advice to younger students. “You’re making decisions that could affect the rest of your life. And we’ve got your back.”

Modern lit or Mandarin? “What’s your end goal?” he’ll reply. Yiddish history or graphic design? “You love both. Does either count as a requirement?” he’ll ask. The night and conversation grow from there.

Wednesday is Patrick’s day. It starts with his WMFO radio show, “Pat and JR in the AM,” a blend of rap and hip-hop, politics and call-in polls. It continues with classes like European History with David Proctor. “One night he stayed up until 4 a.m. grading our papers and only took a break to paint the cannon with us. He cares so much, it makes me care,” Patrick says with a smile. The day ends with Chinese food and his BLAST meet-up.

Patrick came from the woods of South Carolina to Tufts as a first-generation college student. “I can’t even tell you how different this is from home.” Through BLAST, he took two core requirements the summer before freshman year and began the fall semester with two credits under his belt—as well as close friends and advisors. “Within the big Tufts family, we have our own little BLAST family.”

Sophomore year, he and a friend petitioned to mentor the next cohort; he’s now mentoring just about everywhere he goes. “I’m not a shy guy, so taking on a leadership role came pretty naturally,” he says. From helping incoming football teammates balance academics and athletics to advising peers on public speaking, from coaching underclassmen on social entrepreneurship to connecting his friends with alumni, Patrick encourages. “Even when I get discouraged, I try to always be positive when someone asks for help.”

Because he knows that without his BLAST family, his coaches, deans, and peers, and alumni like the one at Morgan Stanley who meets him for coffee to talk about wealth management (the arena he hopes to enter after Tufts), he wouldn’t be where he is today. That support includes financial aid. “To everyone out there who supports my time at Tufts, I thank you for every day I have on this campus. I’m giving back every way I know how to show my gratitude.”

Questions? Contact the Tufts Fund at  617.627.4930 | tuftsfund@tufts.edu