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.

F82.jpg
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.”

 

IMG_1449
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.”

 

 

Five Reasons Why You Should Apply to Williams-Mystic

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.

Why should you choose to apply to participate in a maritime studies program? What can this program provide you that you cannot get at your home institution?

Aside from increasing your knowledge on everything from whale lifespans to flags of convenience, Williams-Mystic can offer you experiences that change the way you look at the world’s problems — maritime and otherwise. Here are five such experiences:

1) Research opportunities

SciencePres1

During your undergraduate career, it is very rare to have the chance to produce one in-depth research project on a topic of your choosing, let alone four. As a student in the Williams-Mystic Maritime Studies Program, you will choose what you focus your literature, history, policy, and science research projects on as it pertains to our oceans and coasts.

You could create your projects based off one central theme; you could also choose to study totally different aspects of the sea in each of your four courses. Whether you investigate offshore drilling, Asian carp infiltration in the Great Lakes, the effects of climate change on coastal communities, women at sea, the philosophy of Moby-Dick, or a combination of all of these topics, you are bound to leave the program confident about your ability to break down complex issues of all kinds.

2) Travel across the United States

SanFranBridge

The regions and people of our country are vastly different. Take a moment to think about where you grew up. What makes your home unique? For example, I’m from the Midwest. We are known for our lack of an accent and slight obsession with ranch dressing. In a two-month span, you will see the Northeast, West Coast, Gulf Coast, and open ocean, and you’ll meet the people who call those places home. Some of them will be classmates of yours — others will be individuals, from professional mariners and scientists to ordinary people, who choose to share their stories with Williams-Mystic students each semester.

3) Classmates who become family

IMG_3915.JPG

Want to build bonds with 17–24 people quickly? Sail on a tall ship with them for 10 days. You spend that time helping, encouraging, supporting, and celebrating each other as you experience a completely new environment — and developing a new appreciation for the strength of the ocean. Those 10 days will set the tone for the rest of your semester.

Let’s not forget the culture of living in the historic Mystic Seaport Museum houses. Williams-Mystic alumni argue over whether Mallory, Kemble, Albion, Johnston or Carr is the best one of them all. The rivalry is good during and after your semester ends. Walking through all of the challenges Williams-Mystic throws at you with the same people creates friendships built to withstand the test of time.

4) Professors who become mentors

KatywithStudents

How many professors do you know who encourage you to call them at 10:30 p.m. when you don’t understand how to make a graph for a project? At Williams-Mystic, this is the norm. All of the professors choose to be Williams-Mystic faculty members because they want to see their students succeed in the program and once their semester comes to an end. They work together to create connections among their classes, and to connect their class material to real-world issues. If you are in search of an accomplished professional to challenge you, look no further than Williams-Mystic.

5) Time in Southeastern New England

WMRegatta2-19

Living in Mystic, Connecticut for 17 weeks gives you the chance to hike, swim, bike, and immerse yourself in a town filled with history. According to a good portion of S’18, Sift Bake Shop is as much of a reason as any to apply to be a Williams-Mystic student. There are other wonderful places to visit in Mystic including Mystic Pizza, Pizzetta Pizza, Bartleby’s Cafe, Mystic Soup Company, Drawbridge Ice Cream, and Green Marble. Each class always picks its favorite places to hang out — and sometimes, those places are as simple as the dining room table in the historic house you’ll call home.

I’ll leave you with this: your experiences will be heard, valued, and understood on Greenmanville Avenue. No matter your major or career aspirations, you can find a place among those at Williams-Mystic.