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.”

 

 

Telling the Williams-Mystic Story One Alum at a Time: Audra DeLaney (S’18) on Being a Williams-Mystic Student and Intern

Hi, I’m Audra. I am a born-and-raised Ohioan with a passion for handwritten letters and philanthropic initiatives. Currently, I am a rising senior at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio studying public relations and political science and hope to work in public affairs somewhere on the East Coast. It has been an honor and a privilege to write blog posts about the lives and experiences of numerous Williams-Mystic alumni over the last seven months.

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I am an alumna of the spring 2018 Williams-Mystic class. In March 2017, I mentioned to an economics professor about how I had space in my junior year to do a study away/study aboard program and I wasn’t sure how I wanted to fill that time. She told me about Williams-Mystic and the rest is history.

Once I was accepted, I had almost a year to wait until it was my turn to be a student in the program. I read every blog, looked at every Facebook post, and watched every youtube video I could find to learn more about Williams-Mystic. I grew up going to Lake Erie every summer, so I knew a little bit about boats, enjoyed science, and was intrigued by policy pertaining to the ocean. I thought I would do okay.

I thought my Williams-Mystic experience would be purely academic. I would learn some pretty amazing facts in some pretty amazing places and head back to Ohio feeling accomplished.

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Williams-Mystic was a challenge-filled, transformative, and emotional semester for me. As far as academics are concerned, I was pushed to my limits and completed work I am very proud of, but there is more to this program than hours spent working on projects and papers.

Going forward, I will remember my oceanography professor telling me it was okay to get seasick on the ship. I will remember standing over the leeward rail and my ecology professor telling me to be kinder to myself when I was, in fact, seasick and frustrated that I couldn’t help my shipmates complete our tasks. I will remember walking to the second floor of Labaree House to talk to my policy professor for the first time and being too excited about the fact that her door was covered with postcards. I will remember my literature professor’s passion for Herman Melville’s masterpiece, Moby-Dick. I will remember walking with my history professor through the Redwood Forest talking about the state of our country and how we could make it better. I will remember all the times my shipmates made me laugh, gave me a hug, or overcame a challenge with flying colors. I will remember jumping in the Pacific Ocean in March, singing at the top of my lungs in a car full of people I care so much about, learning from individuals facing unimaginable challenges, and seeing how a group of human beings can truly just be people, together.

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Williams-Mystic was 17-weeks of being vulnerable and intentional. You only have so much time to get everything done, so you have to be smart about how you spend your time. I spent my time calling stakeholders about a controversial lock and dam project in Illinois, researching women, the sea, and the Cult of True Womanhood in the Victorian Era, kayaking for a science project centered around runoff in the Mystic River Estuary, and examining the different ways an author’s experiences affected how that person wrote about oceans and coasts. I also spent my time making as many memories as possible with my shipmates and working as a social media intern.

Interning for Williams-Mystic during the semester and this summer has deepened my appreciation for the program. I have been able to work on projects that matter to me and hopefully will help the program continue to positively affect the lives of undergraduate students. As well, I cannot begin to describe how awesome it has been to learn the stories of so many dynamic, driven, passionate, and kind fellow alumni. Every single person I have interviewed has given me a new perspective on how Williams-Mystic can change a student’s life and/or perspective, which has been crucial in explaining the program to prospective students.

In closing, I would like to thank all of the alumni, faculty, and staff who have supported me, listened to me, challenged me, and trusted me since January. I would also like to thank each and every one of my shipmates. I am so thankful for all the times we spent eating White Cheddar Cheetos and talking about topics that matter to each of us. I will always be thankful for the semester I took a break from studying the media to study the oceans and coasts of the United States.

Here is my advice to prospective students: jump in with both feet. Like everything else in life, you will get out of Williams-Mystic what you put into it. Hug your shipmates, go talk to your faculty members, and take time to pause and reflect on your walk (more like a timed sprint) through the program.

I will continue to write my alumni series from Ohio. If you would like to tell me your Williams-Mystic story or know someone who would, please reach out to me via email at audra.delaney@gmail.com. Fair winds! 

Katie Clark’s Life Changing 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.

It’s August 2008. An American studies major with marine science and policy minors has chosen to leave Smith College to participate in a semester-long investigation of America’s oceans and coasts.

The experiences Katie Clark had during her semester at Williams-Mystic changed the trajectory of her life and her way of thinking.

“I read poems about the Mississippi River while sitting on a levee looking at the brown waters of that very same river. I compared the sea stars and crabs that lived on the east and west coasts by touching and holding them in my hands,” Katie said. “I read about what it was like to sail a ship while I grew calluses on my hands from hauling on lines to raise a sail.  And the most beautiful part of that kind of life is that the connections are endless– both academically and with the special group of people you share those experiences with.”

Katie grew up in Texas and in Colorado, and at one time was obsessed with becoming a dolphin trainer.

“I got to Smith and loved being by the water and realized I could chase that dream again. Someone must have told me to talk to past Williams-Mystic Alumna who lived in my house at Smith. I looked at Williams-Mystic and at Sea Education Association (SEA) and decided that Williams-Mystic would be a better fit for me and it fulfilled my marine science certificate requirements.”

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During Williams-Mystic, Katie was able to soak up different lessons and ways of life.

“Williams-Mystic shows you what happens when you study one concept from as many perspectives as possible. There is beauty in reading Moby-Dick on the boat while you are studying the chemistry of the water while also learning what luffing sails means,” Katie said. “It also taught me to take on the different perspectives. There is something really unique about the way you learn at Williams-Mystic and it enhanced why you need to talk to people about how they are experiencing the things they are experiencing.”

Another highlight of Katie’s Williams-Mystic experience was a character you might remember from Sesame Street: Grover.

Yes, Grover. Mallory House, one of the five Williams-Mystic student houses, has a stuffed animal version of Grover and the Fall 2008 class sure did give him a run for his money.

“Grover has a very special place in my heart.  I took his care very seriously. Once another house stole Grover from us when we were at home and gave us a treasure map to try to find him,” Katie said. “What we found was Grover in a paper bag, in a plastic bag, in a ziplock bag, tied by a rope to a brick, tied to a buoy in the middle of the Mystic River! He survived mostly unharmed but it enhanced and elevated the pranks going on between houses.”

Grover, like all Williams-Mystic students when they travel offshore, is fully equipped with foulies and a harness. Katie is the one that put his outfit together aboard the SSV Corwith Cramer on her offshore voyage. She thinks her and her classmates hooked him onto themselves so he could go aloft too!

After her Williams-Mystic experience and graduation from Smith College, Katie was a Trustee and New Graduate Director for the Alumni Association of Smith College.  She worked in admissions at Williams-Mystic for three years and then returned to graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania, where she earned a Master of Education (M.S.Ed.) in Higher Education Administration.  Katie worked with Advancing Women in Engineering at Penn to support women engineers in all aspects of their experiences in the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

“I not only spent a semester as a student at Williams-Mystic but I was fortunate enough to spend three years there as a staff member.  I began my professional career in student affairs in Admissions at Williams-Mystic and realized that working with students was what I wanted to do with my life.”

Working at Williams-Mystic helped her learn that she wanted to work in Higher Education and how students change. The things that took place from opening dinner of a semester to closing dinner helped her see all the change that can happen in one semester.

Katie is the Founder and Director of the Center for Innovation and Leadership at Swarthmore College. She helps college students develop their leadership skills by bringing innovative speakers to campus, running workshops on topics like professionalism and group dynamics, and matches students with alumni mentors to help further their goals.

“We also go to places in San Francisco and visit tech companies. My students get to see what it is like to be a liberal arts student in tech startups. They are able to also see the value in being in the place you have learned about / are learning about.”

Katie in ball pit

Professionally and personally, Katie sees Williams-Mystic in everything she does.

“I use skills from my Williams-Mystic semester every day – trying to help students think about their ideas from new perspectives and to draw inspiration from unlikely places.”

She also has this to say about the program as a whole:

“If you want to learn how to change the world, Williams-Mystic is an incredible place to start.  My time there taught me that if I wanted to make a change or solve a large problem that it could not be done in one sector.  While we studied the oceans for 17 weeks, we were really studying how the world functions. Politics, science, literature, art, history, craftsmanship, and law are all a small slice of the puzzle that we need to understand the full scope of an issue or challenge.  I left Williams-Mystic knowing that while I might not have all the answers; I know the approaches to take to find the solutions.”

Williams College Experience Enhanced: Jaelon Moaney (S’18) Looks Back On His Semester Away From Williamstown

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.

As a political science student concentrating on leadership studies and Africana studies at Williams College, Jaelon Moaney has made connections with his peers and faculty members since the day he arrived in Williamstown. As a result of his ability to reach out, he found out about the Williams-Mystic Maritime Studies Program during an office hours visit.

“With a wide range of flexibility outside of my major I was fortunate enough to have room to explore educationally,” Jaelon said. “Marine Policy was cross-listed as both an Environmental Science and Political Science course which satisfies my Political Science major requirements.”

Williams-Mystic added to Jaelon’s experience at Williams College. Sharing the same overall subject matter with vastly different faculty and shipmates brought to life what he went to Williams to find.

“Williams-Mystic exhibited the merits of applying the interdisciplinary approach to real-world challenges. As an undergraduate at a liberal arts institution, I certainly value the incorporation of all relevant material and stakeholders in decision-making,” Jaelon said. “However, my development of this skill had been hindered by minimal opportunities to practice in an academic setting until I got to Mystic.”

If you are someone who reads our blogs often, you know that many alumni recall their experience during our Gulf Coast field seminar. For Jaelon, this experience deeply affected him.

“Every meal, dance, recap of history and environmental challenge was compatible with a face. Being able to attach real, human lives to the each of the disciplines added another layer of significance that still resonates with me today,” Jaelon said.

The emphasis on the community at Williams-Mystic stood out to Jaelon.

“Williams-Mystic is a small, tight-knit community. This dynamic requires each member to selflessly contribute their individual merits for the sake of the whole. The “Ship, Shipmate, Self” mentality became infectious offshore and laid the foundation for former strangers to develop into an interwoven family,” Jaelon said. “Ultimately, this family was not subject to just the semester and year it occurred in but is immersed in the network of alumni produced by each successive year of the program.”

Jaelon was shocked by how quickly he developed bonds with faculty, staff, and his shipmates.

I would have never imagined the invaluable conversations, moments of laughter and collaborative efforts pictured in the program’s marketing coming to life on a daily basis during my own experience. Each interaction was unique, genuine and thought-provoking,” Jaelon said.

Faculty members spent so much time with the students outside of the classroom.

“Every professor took on the role of being a fellow shipmate of every student in the program. Sharing their sense of humor, wisdom, career trajectory and multi-faceted personalities was an investment of time that I respected and benefited from,” Jaelon said.

As a result of being a Williams-Mystic student, Jaelon no longer envisions bodies of water as merely fundamental support for modes of transportation.

“In fact, what covers three-quarters of our planet can be more accurately characterized as a vector of culture, economy, ideology, food, and in many ways life,” Jaelon said. “As a lifelong resident of the Maryland Eastern Shore I have always thought little could rival the Chesapeake Bay. This newfound perspective has not only deepened my love for the Bay but also opened my passion up to understanding the complex intimacy humans share with marine environments.”

When the spring semester ended, Jaelon interned in Washington, D.C. for Congressmen John P. Sarbanes from Maryland’s Third Congressional District. His Williams-Mystic experience helped him have productive and meaningful conversations with a variety of engaged citizens and stakeholders.

When he is back on Williams’ campus this fall, he plans to continue to give back to the Williamstown community.

“Through the leadership of seven student organizations, I have been securing equitable pathways to success for historically disadvantaged demographics: the youth of color throughout the Berkshires, students of color at predominantly white institutions, and political minorities,” Jaelon said. “For example, #DIGDEEP, a young adult literacy initiative I founded three years ago, joined forces with the NAACP and Pittsfield (MA) Public School System to expose students of color to the historical intricacies of their identity and engage in discussions of importance that rest beyond the framework of a traditional public school curriculum.”

A driven public servant, Jaelon hopes to one day faithfully serve the citizens of the state of Maryland in elected office.

“Over the course of my life in the Old Line State I have been enveloped in an unparalleled membrane of history, culture, principles and, most importantly, people,” Jaelon said. “In my opinion, the only way to pay back the debt I owe is to devote my life to ensuring the utmost quality of life for Marylanders of all generations.”

Based off of advice from a past Albion House member, Jaelon has this to say to prospective Williams-Mystic students:

“Try it. Be willing to expose yourself and let go of any perceived notations. Fully immerse yourself in the program.” 

Curiosity About Environmental Issues Brought Christian Petrangelo (F’04) To Williams-Mystic

Christian Petrangelo (F’04) entered Williams-Mystic unsure whether he wanted to stay in the environmental side of science. He left ready to jump into a career in environmental law and policy.

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.

The age-old question of “what are you going to major in?” is something every person going to college has to answer at some point. Christian Petrangelo (F’04) started his freshman year at Middlebury College thinking he was going to major, and eventually work, in environmental science. Over the next four years, his plans evolved.

“By the end of my freshman year, I didn’t know if I wanted to stay in the environmental field or do something else,” Christian said. “During my sophomore year, I retreated from the environmental side of things a little bit.”

That same year, Christian saw a brochure for Williams-Mystic and was intrigued.

“It was an 8-and-a-half by 11, full-page brochure that was floating around Middlebury,” Christian said. “I went through it thoroughly and knew other students at Middlebury had done the program before but didn’t get the chance to talk to anyone who had done it.”  

In August 2004, Christian embarked on his Williams-Mystic journey.

“I wanted the interdisciplinary approach, not just the science. Williams-Mystic intrigued me because of the push on the social sciences. During the program, I took a lot away from policy and history,” Christian said. “Going to Mystic kept me on the path of going into an environmental career by allowing me to explore other options than environmental science, like environmental law.”

Christian enjoyed many things about life in Mystic and on the road.

“There were so many pranks during our semester,” Christian said. “I was in the program when Mallory House was down on Greenmanville [Ave.] We played so many practical jokes, all in good spirit and good taste. It was still early enough that we had landlines and those were used a lot during our pranks.”

As someone raised on the East Coast, Christian recalls the West Coast Field Seminar fondly because of how much it opened his eyes to the vast geographic differences among America’s coasts.

“I fell in love with California on that trip, but I truly enjoyed all of the field seminars,” Christian said.

Christian recalled sailing the Gulf of Maine aboard the SSV Corwith Cramer with lots of laughter.

“Sailing on the Cramer was my first tall ship experience. I grew up sailing small craft boats and thought I would not be affected by seasickness,” Christian said. “I did get seasick. I remember being in the lab on the ship and looking at a photo of Kramer from Seinfeld that was in there. I felt what was coming and ran out of the lab to throw up over the side. My roommate was also from the East Coast and he never got seasick.”

Exploring the Gulf Coast opened Christian’s eyes to thoughts, opinions, and lifestyles different from his own.

“When we were in Louisiana, we went out on a boat towards an oil platform. Listening to the lectures about it made me see a whole different perspective on the marine environment,” Christian said. “Our class got exposed to that industry whether we agreed with it or not. Being exposed to people and industries that I was not exposed to in New England was good for me.”

Regarding his entire Williams-Mystic experience, Christian was pleasantly surprised by the close relationships he built with his classmates and faculty members.

“For me, the change of environment and getting back on the East Coast gave me freedom. Going in, I did not know what to expect from the people and was shocked how tight the group was during the semester,” Christian said. “Also, I thoroughly appreciate the joy I got from experiential learning. I wasn’t just in front of a computer or in one location and that created an exciting experience for me.”

After his time at Williams-Mystic, Christian graduated from Middlebury College with a degree in history, worked as a paralegal for a few years, and then attended the London School of Economics, where he received a Master of Science in Environmental Policy. After he completed that program, he spent three years at Vermont Law School, where he received a Juris Doctorate in Environmental Law.

“At Vermont Law School, I didn’t do any semesters off campus but I did spend a summer interning in the Vermont Attorney General’s office and another summer with the Department of the Interior working on issues in the environmental and labor law fields,” Christian said. “I also did Vermont Law Review and that gave me more fulfilling professional experiences.”

Participating in Moot Court, an exercise that is part of the policy class curriculum at Williams-Mystic, benefited Christian in law school.

“It was one of the first times I was exposed to oral argument preparation. It helped me and so many of my classmates face and tackle the anxieties that come with having questions fired at you in front of other people,” Christian said. “Finishing it showed me that I could prepare and succeed, not spiral down and fail. It put me on a path towards law school because of how much I liked the engagement and intellectual rigor.”

Christian looks back at Williams-Mystic as his happiest semester in college.

“I really clicked with the people in my class. I had finally met people who were passionate about the ocean and marine studies just like me,” Christian said. “It was great to be in an environment where everyone was intrigued by the same thing.”

Christian has this to say to young Williams-Mystic alumni and Williams-Mystic students to come: keep an open mind about where you could go professionally. You might have one idea about what you want to do with your life and you may come out of school or another kind of experience wanting to do something else. There are a lot of pathways life could take you down, so trust your instincts.