William & Mary Information Technology is comprised of intelligent and hardworking individuals who exemplify the university’s core values of belonging and respect. Our “Did You Know?” series gives us the opportunity to shine a spotlight on members of our team and introduce others to their work, as well as the unique things that make them tick.
Samantha Bell is W&M IT’s Administrative & Fiscal Coordinator, among so many other things. She is also a business owner, wife to her high school sweetheart, survivor of a tumultuous childhood and the current Mrs. Williamsburg. On June 10, she will travel to Lynchburg, VA to compete in the Mrs. Virginia America pageant, where she hopes to win the crown and put the projects and initiatives she holds near and dear to her heart into action.
Born the youngest of five girls in Brooklyn, New York, Samantha’s childhood was anything but easy. Her early years were plagued by trauma, and she eventually ended up in the foster care system and was then adopted by her grandparents. She quickly realized the meaning of flexibility when she moved to a small town in North Carolina.
As a young girl growing up in the South, Samantha overcame a speech impairment and found an escape in sports and playing the clarinet. A self-professed tomboy, Samantha always kept herself busy to escape the instability in her home life. She played basketball, softball, volleyball and was secretary of her class for all four years of high school. When she was 14 years old, she entered the Eastern Star cotillion, a rite of passage for young women growing up in the South where they are introduced to society, learn proper dances and present them with proper etiquette techniques. This earned her a college scholarship despite only being in 8th grade.
The Mrs. Virginia America pageant will be Samantha’s first pageant in 25 years. She was named Mrs. Williamsburg in July 2022, and has been training and working towards the state-wide pageant ever since.
Samantha’s work in the business office helps everyone in IT accomplish their business goals, whether that be working with HR to hire for a new position or planning, coordinating and managing the budget for the team’s All Hands meetings and other events. Working directly with Chief Information Officer Ed Aractingi, Samantha provides invaluable administrative support and tackles the challenge of managing the CIO’s calendar with ease and grace. “Working in IT makes me feel accomplished and confident,” said Samantha. “I feel heard and seen, and I know I have a voice here. I want to make sure people see who I am, and I credit Ed for giving me the opportunity to be seen and for motivating me to do better and be better.”
For a little girl who was brought up being told that she would never amount to anything, Samantha has overcome adversity and risen to the challenges she set for herself to be a positive voice for other children in the foster care system. She also focuses her time volunteering with the United Methodist Family Services Foster Care System, with plans of hosting donation drives to provide youth with essential goods.
Should she win the title of Mrs. Virginia America, Samantha’s goal is to create a safe space for individuals to have conversations about mental health, traumas, self-esteem and identity. Her dream is to uplift those in foster care and those who still feel the effects of the system. “I want all those who felt neglected, dismissed and overlooked to know they are seen,” she said. “It is imperative to help others find courage and confidence to walk with their heads held high.”