Williams-Mystic as a Vehicle for Finding Your Passion: The Story of Derek Langhauser (F’82)

“I remember leaving my interview and thinking that I never wanted to do anything as much in my life as I wanted to do Williams-Mystic. Fortunately, I was given the opportunity to participate in the program. It was the best educational experience I ever had.”

This post was written by S’18 alumna  Audra DeLaney. She is studying public relations and political science at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio. Audra enjoys visiting the ocean, going on adventures, and telling the unique stories of the people and places around her. If you have any questions about our program, you can email her at audra.delaney@gmail.com.

You’re a senior in high school. You’ve recently decided that Bates College is the place you are going to spend four of the most formative years of your life. Your friend, who is a few years older than you and attends Hamilton College, starts telling you about experiences to keep on your radar during your undergraduate career — including the Williams-Mystic Maritime Studies Program.

Unbeknownst to you, you’ve just learned about a program that will add more to your life than words will ever be able to describe.

This is the beginning of  Derek Langhauser’s (F’82) Williams-Mystic story. To alumni, including myself, who attended Williams-Mystic after Fall 2006, Derek may look familiar. He is the man who came walking into the Kenner Room on a sunny, April afternoon before it was my class’s turn to participate in one of the biggest events of our marine policy class: Moot Court. One Friday every semester, Derek serves as Williams-Mystic’s own appellate court judge, presiding over our classroom-turned-courtroom as students sum up a week’s worth of studying and strategizing in three hours of carefully crafted legal arguments.

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Derek Langhauser, third from right in the back row, with his Williams-Mystic classmates in Fall 1982.

Before the story unfolds of how Derek became Williams-Mystic’s appellate court judge, we have to finish the story of his Williams-Mystic experience in the fall of 1982.

After Derek was told about Williams-Mystic during his senior year of high school, he kept the idea of participating in the program in the back of his head. During his sophomore year, he decided to apply.

“I interviewed with Ben Labaree, the founder and executive director of the program,” Derek said. “I remember leaving the interview and thinking that I never wanted to do anything as much in my life as I wanted to do Williams-Mystic. Fortunately, I was given the opportunity to participate in the program. It was the best educational experience I ever had.”

To this day, Derek’s best friends are connections he made through Williams-Mystic. At the time of our conversation, he had just gotten off the phone with one of his closest Williams-Mystic friends, who resides in Athens, Greece. Later that day, he was going to be calling another Williams-Mystic friend, who lives in Washington, D.C.

Derek said that being surrounded by these people and being part of this program was the first time he enjoyed learning and looked forward to going to class.

“The interdisciplinary aspect of Williams-Mystic is a vehicle for finding your passion,” Derek said. 

Following his semester at Williams-Mystic, Derek graduated from Bates College and attended the University of Maine School of Law. For his first job out of law school, he worked as a law clerk for two justices on the Maine Supreme Court. Over subsequent years, he served as chief counsel for the Maine governor’s office; went into private practice, where he represented iron-works shipbuilding; worked as special counsel for Senator Olympia Snowe; and worked as legal counsel for Maine Maritime Academy. Now, after serving as their general counsel for more than 20 years, Derek is the president of the Maine Community College System.

So, where does Williams-Mystic’s Moot Court come into play? Twelve years ago, the case Williams-Mystic students now devote a week of their lives to — Bell v. Town of Wells — was the topic of a significant policy issue in Maine. At the Williams-Mystic alumni reunion that year, Williams-Mystic policy professor Katy Robinson Hall (S’84) was discussing the policy class and later, Derek sent her the story of the case. Based off Derek’s recommendation, they decided to turn this case into the Moot Court experience.

Bell v. Town of Wells, known colloquially as the Moody Beach case, is a landmark beach access case that continues to be relevant today. Even still, Derek and Katy often make changes to the moot court packet students receive at the beginning of Moot Court Week. Two recent additions: An executive order and a citizen’s initiative, both created to help students reflect on the constitutional, balance-of-power themes underlying current events.

Derek said Moot Court helps educate undergraduate students on the importance of the separation of powers in the United States Constitution — and specifically, regarding the powers that are at play around the President under Article II of the document.

“Moot Court is not just about constitutional law or public beach access,” Derek said. “It is about what it means to make laws and what happens when individuals in charge of making laws go in different directions.”

 

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Derek presides over Moot Court in Fall 2017.

You do not have to pursue a career in a maritime field to gain useful experience from this maritime program.

“The way this program goes about education is extraordinary,” Derek said. “What is so special about it is that it has a special focus that is a forum for skill and learning development. This is an aspect of a liberal arts education, and Williams-Mystic is uniquely better at it.”

 

 

Recent Graduate Nickie Mitch (S’17) on Sustainability, the Environment, and his Williams-Mystic Semester

This post was written by S’18 alumna  Audra DeLaney. She is studying public relations and political science at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio. Audra enjoys visiting the ocean, going on adventures, and telling the unique stories of the people and places around her. If you have any questions about our program, you can email her at audra.delaney@gmail.com.

States represented in recent Williams-Mystic classes include California, Alaska, Georgia, Indiana, and Ohio. During the spring 2017 semester, Indiana native Nickie Mitch experienced Williams-Mystic through the lens of a Bowdoin College student looking for something to add to his educational experience.

Nickie found out about Williams-Mystic the summer following his first year of college.

“I worked at a land trust, Damariscotta River Association, on the coast of Maine after my first year of college,” Nickie said. “The executive director of that organization had done Williams-Mystic while he was a student at Williams College and encouraged me to take a look at it.”

Nickie truly enjoyed his time at Bowdoin. His time at Williams-Mystic built on the skills he developed there.

“I had a great experience at Bowdoin that helped me discover my passions related to the ocean, so for me, Williams-Mystic really built on that as a chance to explore these topics I’m passionate about in a hands-on way,” Nickie said.

Sailing offshore was the highlight of Nickie’s Williams-Mystic experience.

Without a doubt, the offshore field seminar was my favorite. So many parts of it felt surreal, from watching a pod of dolphins swim alongside the Corwith Cramer at sunrise to standing at the helm during the middle of the night on dawn watch,” Nickie said. “It’s an experience that really pushed me outside of my comfort zone in a supportive way, and I think about it all the time.”

Nickie is the third member of the spring 2017 class that I have interviewed. Like Bridget Hall and Sarah Patulak, he enjoyed living in Albion House.

“Although we got to do a lot of very cool things during the semester, my favorite part was actually just living in Albion House with Paul, Bridget, and Sarah,” Nickie said. “We always made an effort to sit down for dinner together every day, among other things we did together, and it really felt like a little home.”

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Ship, shipmate, self is a motto of Williams-Mystic. Nickie experienced his shipmates’ compassion at different times during the semester.

“Before the PNW road trip, I was trying to decide if I was going to take the outer shell of my winter coat as my only raincoat,” Nickie said. “I decided the day before we left that I needed to have a real raincoat and Bridget and I drove around all afternoon until I found one.”

Nickie studied government and environmental studies while at Bowdoin. During his time in Mystic, he really enjoyed Literature of the Sea with Mary K Bercaw Edwards.

“Mary K is awesome and her passion is infectious,” Nickie said. “The class gave me an appreciation for books I may not have ever been able to have an appreciation for.”

Nickie also appreciated the Maritime History class, specifically working on his project on the Greenland Patrol during World War II.

“That class had a lot of topics to cover. It really all came together well and painted this really impactful picture,” Nickie said. “When I went back to Bowdoin it helped me make so many connections in my studies.”

Nickie graduated from Bowdoin this spring. This fall, he will begin a job doing advocacy and engagement work related to the Hudson River as the FAO Schwarz Fellow at Riverkeeper in New York.

“In the long term, I hope to be an urban/environmental planner and I am specifically interested in working to build resilient, sustainable communities that are ready for sea level rise,” Nickie said.

Nickie has this to say about what he took away from the program:

“Williams-Mystic affirmed for me that working collaboratively to protect marine and estuarine ecosystems is the best way to for me to help build a more sustainable, equitable world and is something worth devoting my life to,” Nickie said. 

And the Voyage begins!

Namastey! I’m Charu, the student blogger for Fall’11 Class of Williams-Mystic. I’m originally from Mumbai, India, and am a sophomore at Mount Holyoke College.

This semester, we have a diverse group of 17 students representing 13 colleges, 11 states and 2 foreign countries, and we have grown to be a very strong community already.

Soon being introduced to Mystic Seaport, Williams-Mystic campus and classes and settling in our respective houses, we sailed on SSV Corwith Cramer in the Atlantic Ocean for 10 days, conducting top-notch oceanographic research, learning sailing from the some of the best in the field and bonding over sea-sickness. On our return to WM campus, we explored the gorgeous town of Mystic and some of the most memorable trips were those to the Taste of Mystic food festival, Mystic Aquarium, Mystic Pizza and Drawbridge Ice-Cream. Soon, the classes gained momentum and we got busy with our readings and developing our research proposals.

 

Though, the thrill still continues. After all, this is Williams Mystic! We have had field trips to various museum exhibits at the Seaport for History class and the Weekapaug Rocky Intertidal Zone, Sabino boat trip, Barn Island Marsh, Napatree Beach and Mystic River estuary for Marine Ecology and Oceanography labs. Every house brings a ‘policy snack’ every Friday for Policy class, and last Friday, Carr House, which is my house, baked a spice cake of deliciousness and frosted it themed on a private vs public ownership issue.

This week, we began our student jobs and skills. I am assigned the Demonstration squad & Shanteys skill, and I am privileged to have the opportunity to work as a Marine Geoscience Research Assistant with Dr. Lisa Gilbert, our Oceanography professor. My friends, too, are enjoying making harpoons, woodcarving and taking sailing lessons for skills as well as their respective jobs. We are, now, looking forward to this Sunday because Glenn, our History professor, is taking us on a surfing trip! He is extremely passionate about surfing and has authored a book pertaining to the same, which will be out in the market very soon.

Last weekend was the fun-filled alumni weekend that is held every Fall semester, and we are thankful to the staff and the alumni for making it a success. We had an extremely successful auction and the money raised goes towards scholarships for future students. The highlight of the weekend, at least for me, was the Banana dance that the S’11 class left us dancing to.

An alum told me, “This will be the best time of your life if you let it be” and with every sunrise, I grow to believe in it more and more. I feel extremely grateful to be a part of the WM family this semester. These past few weeks have been fantastic and there is certainly much more to unfold!

Cheers,

Charu Sharma

A ship on the horizon

Position:  44.0 N x 068.9 W, near Vinylhaven, Maine

Heading:  N

Speed: 2 Knots

Weather: cloudy, light winds

 

Thursday, September 08, 2011

 

Good morning!  We’re heading towards Rockland Harbor, enjoying views of Vinylhaven to starboard, and dodging lobster pots.  C watch has the deck. Most of the other students are grabbing a few more winks after an invigorating night of sailing in 4 foot swells and 15-20 kt winds.   It’s quiet down below, except for the occasional opening and closing of the engine room door.

Yesterday we awoke to more whales, this time a group of 6 pilot whales only a few feet off our port quarter.  Later in the morning, students had one final chance to climb aloft underway.  Then, all hands gathered for a poster session. Students presented the results of our data collection over our 600+ mile cruise track, including our brief time in warmer Gulf Stream waters.

We’ll soon begin cleaning the ship in preparation for a swizzle to celebrate our last night aboard.  Then, it’s back to Connecticut for the Williams-Mystic F11 class, where we’ll enjoy the last few weeks of summer before heading to California for our second field seminar.  We are grateful to Capt. Beth, the mates, the assistant scientists, the stewards, and the engineer for helping to make this a great experience.

Until next time,

Lisa Gilbert

 

Svati (Dartmouth) and Greg (Brown) presenting their poster on seafloor sediment composition.

Labor Day on the Corwith Cramer!

Position:  43.1 N x 070.5 W, near Platts Bank, Gulf of Maine

Heading:  NW

Speed: 5 Knots

Weather: SSE winds, 15 knots

 

Williams-Mystic F11 enjoys Labor Day!

It’s Monday afternoon and we’re making great speed with the wind on our starboard quarter.  Everyone has their sea legs now and the Williams-Mystic F11 students not on watch are enjoying some time to draw, read, sing, and socialize.

For the past two days we have been sailing north.  Today we passed through Stellwagen National Marine Sanctuary and continued into the Gulf of Maine with finback whales at our side.

Every afternoon we have formal classes on deck.  Thus far, class topics have included maritime language, geologic formation of the Gulf of Maine, right of way at sea, and marlinspike seamanship.  Today we discussed territorial seas, marine sanctuaries, and had a line chase, where students showed their knowledge of the dozens of lines we use to adjust the sails from the deck.

Tonight, students begin work on their marine science projects.  Each student is in charge of presenting a subset of the data we have collected during the last week.  In addition to sampling the surface waters every hour, we completed three oceanographic Super Stations: on the continental shelf, the edge of the continental slope, and a submarine canyon. At our most distant station, we were nearly 100 miles offshore and collected water samples from 2000 meters below the surface (1.25 miles).

Dinner smells good!  We’ve been very well fed by our stewards and enjoy healthy, energizing meals through the days and nights.

Until next time from the SSV Corwith Cramer,

Lisa Gilbert, Chief Scientist

Zara (Williams) and Matt (Drexel) completing an oxygen titration in the lab, wearing the requisite funny hats.
B Watch students Gretchen (Smith), Zara (Williams), Charu (Mount Holyoke), Chris (Williams), Becky (Cal Maritime), and Matt (Drexel) learn to splice during class.

The Voyage begins

Position:  Courthouse Pier, Boston Harbor

Heading:  N/A

Speed: 0 Knots

Weather: calm, clear, 68F

 

August 31, 2011.  0600 on the quarterdeck.  The stars are fading from view and students are just waking up after their first night aboard the SSV Corwith Cramer. It’s a calm morning at the dock in Boston Harbor, with light wind out of the southwest and gulls flying overhead.  Yesterday, we  (the Williams-Mystic Fall 2011 class, plus a teaching assistant and oceanography professor), boarded a bus from Mystic, CT to Boston, where we met the ship and joined her crew.

We had a busy first day of safety orientation from Captain Beth and the engineer, mates, stewards, and assistant scientists.  Students are starting to learn their way around and getting accustomed to being on the ship.  They are learning lines, learning the daily routines and procedures, and practicing use of the oceanographic equipment.

As students arrive up on deck from their full night’s sleep, they look rested and excited for the next ten days.  We look forward leaving the dock after lunch and heading south toward the Cape Cod Canal.

-Lisa Gilbert

Chief Scientist aboard the SSV Corwith Cramer and Williams College Assistant Professor of Geosciences & Marine Science

Vera from Williams and Quinn from Middleburry enjoying morning snack on deck while docked in Boston Harbor.

Williams-Mystic goes surfing!

Hey there, readers! It’s certainly been a while since I’ve let you all in on the happenings of Williams-Mystic, but that’s because we’ve all been so busy! While that should come as no surprise, I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that there are only EIGHT DAYS LEFT in the semester. How on Earth did that happen? It seems like only a week ago I was shoveling out from a late January snowstorm, and now I’m working on a flower and vegetable garden for the summer. Where has the time gone?

Last Saturday, a group of my classmates and I had the chance to go surfing in Narragansett, RI with our history professor. After waking up early and going on a much needed coffee run, my housemate Harley and I made our way down to meet with the rest of our surfin’ safari. Forty-five minutes later, we were at the Narragansett Surf & Skate Shop picking out boards and wetsuits. A crash course in surfing safety and technique, then we hit the waves! I was so happy to have a wetsuit – that water was freezing!  Surfing is also a lot more difficult than it looks, which I was expecting. It was still very satisfying to catch a wave at the end of our session and be able to “surf” on my knees. I’m certainly hoping for more opportunities to work on surfing this summer; there’s a real connection between the water and the board, and I want to develop an even deeper respect for it.

On Tuesday evening we had a Community Dinner, which gave everyone the opportunity to come together and have a night off from cooking. While it was nice to have a break from the worry of dinner, cooking has become something I’ve truly found I enjoy. There’s a line in the movie Julie & Julia, in which one of the characters says that no matter how horrible her day has been, she knows that she can put certain ingredients together and they’ll always do the exact same thing. After working most of my Sunday away on an essay for Literature of the Sea, I decided that the only way to recuperate was through cucumber salad and chicken marinated in limejuice, sweet basil, and garlic. So delicious!

I’m trying to find small gifts in each day, so that when the sun has settled below the horizon and the only light is coming from the glow of my laptop as I furiously type my way to a deadline, I can have something happy to think about when I need a break. I’m looking forward to a beautiful Saturday afternoon spent outside with some friends playing Frisbee and laying the groundwork for my garden for the summer. I anticipate one more blog entry to sum up the final moments of the semester and to reflect upon everything that’s happened.

Stay tuned, and Fair Winds!