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Meher Babbar ’18 selected as Charter Day student speaker

  • Student speaker:
    Student speaker:  Meher Babbar '18 will share her reflections on W&M's royal charter during the university's Charter Day ceremony on Feb. 9.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
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In her final months at the university, Meher Babbar ’18 is taking time to reflect on what William & Mary means to its students and what students mean to William & Mary. As a history major in the St Andrews William & Mary Joint Degree Programme, Babbar feels compelled to share her unique perspective on the university’s significance as the student speaker for the university’s 2018 Charter Day ceremony. On Feb. 9, she, along with university faculty, staff, alumni and students, will gather to celebrate the 325th anniversary of William & Mary’s “birth,” the issuance of its royal charter.

Born in India and raised primarily in the United Kingdom before moving to Pittsburgh,Pennsylania, Babbar said that her global background influenced her decision to engage in the St Andrews William & Mary Joint Degree Programme. As a student of two universities, Babbar explained that she attended William & Mary only during her first and last years of college, rendering the university a space of immense transformation in her life.

“For me, William & Mary has been the bookends of my college experience. It’s the first place where I learned how to be independent, and now it’s the place that I’m finding myself before adulthood,” she said. “William & Mary has been the perfect place to receive all the different parts of me.”

As a freshman at the university, Babbar described her eagerness to audition for the Charter Day speech. Making it to the final selection stages, she was advised to audition again when she was older and had experienced, firsthand, what the university means. Promising she’d audition again her senior year, Babbar engaged in her college experience with an enduring appreciation for William & Mary’s charter and a mindset geared toward further understanding its significance. Over time, Babbar explained, her comprehension of the university has adapted and developed.

“I think I understand William & Mary more acutely now after being abroad,” she said. “At a distance, I can understand what William & Mary is by knowing what it isn’t.”

During her time at William & Mary and St Andrews, Babbar has come to grasp the distinct values that it inspires in its students.

“One of the biggest things I’ve learned is the ability to contain multitudes,” she said. “My freshman year, I had this idea in my head that in college, I had to figure out exactly who I wanted to be. It took going through freshman year and going abroad to learn that life doesn’t have to be so concrete. You can be a lot of things. William & Mary encourages that.”

Babbar revealed that her interest in William & Mary’s charter comes from its unique and symbolic background. She was intrigued to find out that the original copy of the royal charter was lost in the American Revolution. Despite this loss, Babbar emphasizes that the charter lives on.

“We don’t really need it. Our students embody the meaning of that Charter. We are the physical manifestations,” she said. “Being away from William & Mary, I was away from the College physically, but it also lived in me, just like it lives in all of us.”

With her speech, Babbar wishes to convey the rare importance of William & Mary’s students to the university’s character.

“I hope students thank themselves for what the give the College every single day. They are an integral part of the Charter and keeping it alive,” she said.

As Babbar concludes her undergraduate experience and prepares to attend Northwestern Pritzker School of Law next year, she described a sense of fulfillment as she reflects on her years at William & Mary.

“The wonderful thing about this college is even when it’s over, it doesn’t go away. It’ll still be a part of us.”