Alejandro Flores Monge’s (F’18) Williams-Mystic Story

Alejandro Flores Monge always knew he wanted to be an advocate for the environment. Williams-Mystic’s interdisciplinary curriculum and marine policy class helped him see how he could connect this goal to his other interests.

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.

Since early in his educational career, Alejandro Flores Monge (F’18) has been looking for ways to challenge himself inside and outside of the classroom. Williams-Mystic is just the most recent step in this process.

A sophomore at Williams College, Alejandro plans to double major in environmental studies and art history. He hopes to focus on Latino/Latina studies to complete his degree.

Alejandro was born in Colorado and spent his childhood growing up in Colorado and Mexico. In seventh grade, Alejandro was required to do future education planning on a career preparation website.

“While I was digging through the website, I began to understand the distinction between the educational approaches of liberal arts colleges and larger universities,” Alejandro said. “I enjoyed the liberal arts approach more and eventually wanted to attend a university that was focused on it.”

Alejandro attended United World College in New Mexico for high school. He believes his passion for environmentalism came from this time in his life. His high school education had numerous liberal arts components too.

While searching for a college, he was drawn to Williams College because it paired a liberal arts curriculum with a strong environmental program.

“I was also very satisfied with the curriculum,” Alejandro said. “Another large factor in my decision-making was Williams College’s dedication to sustainability.”

The summer before he started his first year at Williams College, Alejandro visited Mystic with other incoming first-year humanities and social science students. He thought the area was beautiful but did not initially think of incorporating the maritime world into his environmental studies education.

“At the time, I was more focused on urban areas, water resources, and urbanizing arid environments,” Alejandro said.

As he made his way through prerequisites for his major, he heard more about Williams-Mystic from professors and the Williams-Mystic admissions team. By the fall of his sophomore year, he was ready to give it a try.

As a Williams-Mystic student, Alejandro has connected with his professors and believes the program operates under an effective model of interdisciplinary education.

From day one, he has also noticed Williams-Mystic’s commitment to building and strengthening communities — especially on field seminars.

Going into the program, Alejandro expected sailing aboard the SSV Corwith Cramer in the Gulf of Maine to be rough and cold. In fact, F’18’s Offshore Field Seminar was warm and sunny. Learning to sail the Cramer together, Alejandro feels, helped him and his shipmates foster community. He doubts they would be as close to each other without having worked together to sail the Cramer.

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Alejandro, at far right, along with his housemates during F’18’s Pacific Northwest Field Seminar.

Back in Mystic, Alejandro collaborates with his classmates on numerous projects. He finds his policy project particularly invigorating.

Before his semester began, Alejandro assumed Marine Policy would be much like the political science classes he’d already taken at Williams. He quickly found out that nothing is quite comparable to the Williams-Mystic policy class experience — especially when it comes to the policy research project.

Traditionally, Williams-Mystic students have completed an individual research project on a marine policy issue of their choice, writing a paper that delves into all sides of the issue and presents a policy recommendation. This semester, students have been collaborating as part of the Williams-Mystic Marine and Coastal Policy Research Group. In the group, students work on small teams to complete an environmental issue research project for a client. The client may be looking for a solution, or simply for more information.

Alejandro’s marine policy team is working on shellfish aquaculture in the Gulf of Maine with Jonathan Labaree (S’84) through the Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI). GMRI seeks to improve shellfish aquaculture while minimizing harm to coastal ecosystems. This involves finding solutions that are sustainable not just for the ecosystems in question but also for the people who rely on coastal ecosystems to make a living.

Alejandro’s team is helping the group by evaluating a variety of ecosystem models to help determine the point at which shellfish farms start to have significant impacts on riverine ecosystems.

“We are looking into which models are the best to use,” Alejandro said. “Our team has looked at the biological, economic and social models.” The team has also looked into mathematical models to determine the carrying capacities of the ecosystems they’re studying.

The project demands that Alejandro and his team work together to tackle complex questions: How many aquaculture farms will riparian landowners tolerate? At what point might the success of commercial fishermen be compromised? How will aquaculture initiatives, even environmentally sustainable ones, impact locals’ ability to swim and fish for leisure? Questions like these rarely have a single, simple answer. The project also requires that the team draw on knowledge gained in their other Williams-Mystic classes.

For Alejandro, the policy class, and his team’s project in particular, has helped him realize that there are a variety of ways to advocate for the environment. Like many alumni before him, Alejandro finds the prospect of working in law especially exciting.

Most of all, Marine Policy — and Williams-Mystic in general — has made it even more apparent to Alejandro that language matters. Alejandro is fluent in five languages and believes multilingualism is vital to a prosperous society.

“Language helps you understand the stories of individual people,” Alejandro said. “Law and policy add a tangible and physical reality to the idea that language dictates reality. What you say and what you write down has  the power to determine what you are and are not capable of doing.”

Drive Comes From Within: How Experiential Learning Deeply Affected Rob Leary (F’81)

“When you meet someone from another Williams-Mystic class it is like they already understand where you are coming from and the passion you exude.”

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.

One conversation changes everything about undergrad: It’s a story that links many Williams-Mystic alumni. It’s also the story of Rob Leary (F’81), who first learned about the program from an alumnus.

“He talked about it so passionately and enthusiastically,” Rob said. “He made it sound like the best experience he had ever had and I was so intrigued.”

At the time, Rob was a sophomore studying political science at Union College in upstate New York. He was wondering what to do next in his college experience.

After speaking to the Union College Williams-Mystic alumnus, Rob was interested in the program but was not entirely sold on applying. While Rob was trying to make his decision, Dr. Ben Labaree, founding director of Williams-Mystic, came to Union College and led a compelling discussion about what Williams-Mystic could offer undergraduate students.

After listening intently to Ben Labaree, Rob chose to apply to the program and eventually went to Mystic for an interview. Upon visiting Mystic, he knew the program was the place for him.

“I visited Mystic Seaport Museum as a young child and connecting with it in this new way was exciting for me,” Rob said.

Rob said he had a wonderful time with his classmates.

“I was in a fantastic class. Everyone was so close. We did our sailing on Westward [a now-retired Sea Education Association sailing school vessel] in the North Atlantic and visited Nova Scotia,” Rob said. “Back in Mystic, we stayed close to one another and we sailed small sailboats.”

While in Mystic, Rob and his classmates also visited the U.S. Naval War College, the Coast Guard Academy, and a number of other sites across southern New England. Rob wrote his marine policy paper on the Coast Guard’s role in the war on drugs.

Rob’s classmates came from more than 10 different colleges. He enjoyed being in charge of his studies and making meals with his friends.

“I think we all felt a little bit of healthy competitiveness because we wanted to do well academically as well as have a lot of fun,” Rob said. 

Williams-Mystic deepened Rob’s passion for law and policy. He was interested in admiralty law and planned to build his career in that field. Indeed, Rob attended Fordham Law School after finishing his undergraduate degree. He went on to practice law at White & Case in New York City and Saudi Arabia.

While practicing law, though, Rob realized he also had a passion for finance. He participated in the finance training program of J.P. Morgan & Co., subsequently working for American International Group (AIG). Eventually, Rob became the CEO of three entities in succession: ING Investment Management, TIAA Global Asset Management, and Nuveen. In March 2017, he was named CEO of The Olayan Group; he now leads its global operations from Athens, Greece.

Throughout his career, Rob continued to stay connected with Williams-Mystic. He served on the Williams-Mystic alumni council in the late 1990s and early 2000s. In 1999, he became the first Williams-Mystic alumnus to join the Mystic Seaport Museum Board of Trustees.

As a Board member for many years, Rob worked to form connections among the program, its alumni, Williams College, and the Mystic Seaport Museum. He recruited other Williams-Mystic alumni to join the Board, including Rob Rohn (F’81) and Steve Campbell (S’87). With the help of Williams College and Mystic Seaport Museum, funding was secured to build the James T. Carlton Marine Science Center (CMSC). Opened in 2007, the CMSC contains 8,000 square feet of lab and classroom space and continues to serve as a study space, a science classroom, and a lab for research conducted by Williams-Mystic students and faculty. 

During our conversation, I could hear in Rob’s voice the admiration he has for Williams-Mystic.

“I had a deep and abiding love for the sea before the program, and I came to understand that the sea impacts art, literature, policy, and everything else. It also had a spiritual impact on me,” Rob said. “I have brought that perspective into my personal and professional life.” 

Rob has met other Williams-Mystic alumni who have become close friends of his, including Williams-Mystic’s moot court appellate judge, Derek Langhauser (F’82). Derek was instrumental in Rob and others becoming members of the Mystic Seaport Museum Board of Trustees.

“When you meet someone from another Williams-Mystic class it is like they already understand where you are coming from and the passion you exude,” Rob said. “I am a big believer in the experiential learning we had at Williams-Mystic: Being out there doing things that were hands-on and experiencing them with people who were involved in the things you were learning about.” 

Rob believes he is most purposeful when he focuses on the environment and education. It’s a purpose he found thanks to Williams-Mystic.

“I felt so passionately about the program. And when you feel that, it is a guide for you to use to follow through on the things you are driven towards and passionate about,” Rob said. “The drive comes from within, comes from your heart, comes from your soul.” 

*Information on Rob’s career came from Rob himself and an article from The Olayan Group.

41st Reunion in Review

“Life changes, but Williams-Mystic is something that will always bring us together.”

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

Every college program deserves a homecoming of sorts: an opportunity for people to reflect on their experiences and learn from fellow alumni. Williams-Mystic’s homecoming is the annual alumni reunion that takes place right where it all started: Mystic, Connecticut.

The 41st Williams-Mystic Reunion took place September 21-23 under the direction of Lyndsey Pryke-Fairchild (F’03), Katy Robinson Hall (S’84), and countless other alumni and faculty and staff members.

For maritime historian Alicia Maggard, this was her first time experiencing a Williams-Mystic reunion.

Alicia fully enjoyed her time speaking to alumni of various ages. Each conversation taught her something different about what it means to be a Williams-Mystic alumnus.

“I was struck by the robustness of the community. I believe that speaks to the impact the program has on the lives of each and every student,” Alicia said. “Knowing that brings about great responsibility, but also such great joy.”

As a faculty member, Alicia worked behind the scenes to help make sure the events on each day went smoothly. While doing so, she was able to connect alumni with current F’18 students.

“Connecting current students with alumni was exciting because those students could learn how Williams-Mystic could affect different aspects of their lives, both personally and professionally.”

Alicia thoroughly enjoyed meeting alumni who have dedicated their lives to the maritime industry as well as those who are working in different career fields.

For example, Alicia mentioned an S’88 alum who spoke to how many of his classmates chose to work in the maritime industry or remain passionate about maritime topics — and also how Williams-Mystic teaches students how to approach issues in a way that can be useful whatever career you pursue.

Matt Novosad, an F’17 alumnus, commented on the live auction portion of the reunion.

“There was a pretty good bidding war between two groups on a stay in Johnston House,” an item only available to recent alumni, Matt said. “Seeing Katy [Robinson Hall (S’84)] take on the role of being an auctioneer was so memorable and hilarious.”

Alicia also enjoyed the live auction.

“It was so zany, so exciting!” Alicia said. “I enjoyed seeing fellow faculty members, [Executive Director] Tom, and alumni getting super into the bidding.”

Another highlight for both Alicia and Matt: Josiah Gardner (alias Glenn Gordinier, Williams-Mystic’s just-retired maritime historian) made an appearance.

“Going to the reunion this year was a great chance for me to catch up with my classmates, one of whom flew in from Minnesota,” Matt said. “Life changes, but Williams-Mystic is something that will always bring us together.

THANK YOU to all those who helped with the Reunion this year. Your dedication to Williams-Mystic is evident. See you next year! 

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.”