The Search for More: Susan Funk’s (F’77) Williams-Mystic Story

Throughout her semester and at moments after it ended, Susan realized how much the accessibility of the Williams-Mystic professors adds to each student’s experience in the program.

“They’re not just there to grade you. They’re there to be your partner in learning,” Susan said.

This post was written by S’18 alumna Audra DeLaney. Audra enjoys visiting the ocean, going on adventures, and telling the unique stories of the people and places around her. 

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Susan Funk (Photo Credit: Mystic Seaport Museum)

You’re looking for more out of your college experience. More challenges. More questions. More big-picture thinking. More solutions. You’ve chosen to change your major from science to American history and you enjoy learning about how people interact with different environments. Your junior year, your advisor tells you about a program he believes pulls together all of your interests.

Welcome to the Williams-Mystic story of Executive Vice President and COO of Mystic Seaport Museum, Susan Funk.

When Susan’s advisor told her about the program, then recruiting students for its very first semester, he assured her that participating would be worth the risk.

“He said any program run by [Williams-Mystic founder and historian] Ben Labaree would be of the highest quality. There was a flier about the program but that’s all we knew about it because it didn’t exist yet. It was a concept rather than something you could go and observe and talk to other people about,” Susan said. She decided to take the risk and apply to the program.

Susan remembers why she chose to come in the program’s very first semester, the fall of 1977, rather than in the spring of 1978: She wanted to sail off Georges Bank in Massachusetts.

“I thought: Well, there’s a good chance that in my life I’ll have other opportunities to sail down in the Caribbean, but I don’t know that going on the fishing grounds is something that I’ll ever get to do again,” Susan said. “We also sailed into Nantucket, coming in on a traditional schooner into that old port. That was really memorable.”

Throughout her semester and at moments after it ended, Susan realized how much the accessibility of the Williams-Mystic professors adds to each student’s experience in the program.

“They’re not just there to grade you. They’re there to be your partner in learning,” Susan said.

The collaborative approach of Williams-Mystic, Susan believes, influences how students approach the world — not only as they return to their home campuses but also as they shape their careers. Right after college, Susan spent time working different jobs to figure out where and how she wanted to build her career.

Susan followed in the footsteps of one of her Williams-Mystic classmates who had gone to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland to be an observer for the Law of the Sea Conference discussions and negotiations.

She spent eight weeks living in Geneva, going to strategy sessions with the American team and listening to all of the discussions about the law of the sea. During her time at Williams-Mystic, Ben Labaree had made sure that the F’77 class learned from professionals about topics as diverse as manganese nodules, whaling, shipping lanes and more. Now, in Geneva, these very topics were being discussed and Susan had a chance to apply her knowledge from the program.

After finishing her time in Geneva, she took a job on demonstration squad at Mystic Seaport Museum for the summer.

Susan remembers one of her first days aloft on the Charles W. Morgan as part of the demonstration squad.

“I arrived a day early for training, and the supervisor suggested that I seek out the riggers to see if I could be of help in their work on the Morgan. The riggers said that if I was willing to work aloft, they had some simple tasks I could do.  Of course, I said yes!  It was amazing.  A beautiful, sunny day, the chanteyman was singing down on the wharf, and I was at the end of the yard mouthing sister hooks.  This was the right place for me to spend a summer.  And although I knew I had learned a lot from Williams-Mystic, working as an interpreter taught me so much more,” Susan said.

Susan’s work on the demonstration squad led to several different positions in the Mystic Seaport Museum’s Interpretation Department. Early in her career, she also spent time working in admissions for Williams-Mystic. Susan gained insight into other nonprofit organizations through serving on the Boards of Trustees for the New England Museum Association, the Pine Point School, and the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center. Each opportunity, Susan said, has helped her learn more, take on responsibility, and grow as a professional. A highlight of her Mystic Seaport Museum career is the 2014 Charles W. Morgan 38th voyage. Particularly, she remembers being on Stellwagen Bank and seeing numerous humpback whales, including a mother and calf. From handling sail underway to rowing in the whaleboat this experience reflected the importance of interdisciplinary thinking as we explore the past, present, and future.

These experiences reaffirmed for Susan just how unique Mystic Seaport Museum and Williams-Mystic are — particularly in transforming students’ paths long after they leave campus. She stays in contact with her classmates. “We agree that we are incredibly fortunate to be members of the first class and to continue our close friendships and ever-evolving discussions,” Susan said.

When Science and Art Come Together: Ann Prince’s (S’78) Williams-Mystic Story

“I feel like it was yesterday that I studied at Willams-Mystic. Time goes by so fast. Williams-Mystic was the absolute best thing I could have done.”

This post was written by S’18 alumna Audra DeLaney. Audra enjoys visiting the ocean, going on adventures, and telling the unique stories of the people and places around her. 

In the late 1970s, Ann Prince was a student at Bates College. The dean of her college was good friends with a man named Ben Labaree, a history professor at Williams College. Ben, as it happened, was in the process of starting the Williams-Mystic Maritime Studies Program. Ann saw posters up on campus, talked to the dean at Bates, and decided to apply.

After receiving admission to the program, Ann never looked back.

Her semester began soon after the infamous Blizzard of ’78. Ann recalls staring out the windows of her train car, with snow piled high beside the tracks, on her way to begin the spring semester.

Then entering the second semester of her sophomore year, she wondered how Williams-Mystic was going to affect her educational experience and her life. Williams-Mystic went on to deeply influence her college experience. And the connections she formed there remain strong to this day.

Ann was studying art and biology at Bates, and wanted to work in the environmental field. Williams-Mystic was a perfect match for her — not just academically but also based on her childhood growing up near the water.

“I grew up in Maryland and my parents had a little yacht that we would sail on the Chesapeake,” Ann said. “My father was the skipper and my mother was first mate on The Katydid.

“I loved being at Mystic so much. I loved marine ecology and my favorite class was maritime literature. I read all of Moby-Dick and other Melville books. I even read other books because it was fun,” Ann said. “I took boat building as a maritime skill and grew very fond of the environment in the beautiful coastal town. I would wake up at 6 a.m. to go on an hour-long run along the waterfront and then have breakfast before going to our 8 a.m. class.”

During Ann’s semester, Ben Labaree and his wife Linda were wonderful supporters of all the Williams-Mystic students.

“Ben took on teaching the maritime history and marine policy course. He was awesome. When you are a kid you do not realize that the sacrifices people make. He brought his two young boys and his wife and moved from Williamstown to Mystic. What a nice man and so good to all of us,” Ann said.

Ann said Linda cared about each and every student even after they completed the project. For 30 years, after she completed her MST in environmental studies, Ann was a writer and editor for the Massachusetts Audubon Society. Linda and Ben continued to support her endeavors.

“When I worked at Audubon for all those years and wrote articles for Sanctuary magazine, Linda would sometimes write me a note or give me a call to say that she liked it,” Ann said. “It really meant a lot.”

After finishing her career with Massachusetts Audubon, Ann began to teach reading and literacy to young children in Brockton, Massachusetts. She continues to work as a freelance editor.

Ann has also begun exploring a new genre of writing: song lyrics. She had not touched an instrument in many years when she began picking up the guitar again, as well as playing some piano. Then, she decided to try her hand at songwriting.

“One of my new songs is called ‘Over the Ocean,’” Ann said. “From the surface, you might not know it is a commentary on the politics of the time.”

Some of the music Ann creates is connected to her experience as a Williams-Mystic student. Her class has kept in touch over the years.

“I feel like it was yesterday that I studied at Willams-Mystic. Time goes by so fast,” Ann reflected. “So profound was the influence of that semester that I will never regret choosing Mystic instead of going for a year abroad. It was the absolute best thing I could have done.”

Click play below to listen to Ann’s song titled “Over the Ocean,” which was inspired in part by her time at Williams-Mystic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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. Audra enjoys visiting the ocean, going on adventures, and telling the unique stories of the people and places around her. 

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.”