Being your true self: Devon Parfait’s (F’18) Williams-Mystic Story

“Williams-Mystic has taught me how to be a better academic and about the value of real connections. It is so exciting to see so many intelligent and young minds care about so many different issues.”

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.

Devon Parfait (F’18) first encountered Williams-Mystic at a geosciences conference in fall 2017. Little did he realize the type of educational experience that would await him less than a year later.

At the conference, Devon met two geoscientists connected to the program: Ronadh Cox, a professor of geology and mineralogy at Williams College, and Lisa Gilbert (S’96), Williams-Mystic’s oceanography professor.

Devon was at the conference in his capacity as the future chief of the Grand Caillou/Dulac Band of Biloxi-Chitimatcha-Choctaw Indians in Southern Louisiana. Ronadh Cox connected Williams-Mystic with Tribal Chief Shirell Parfait-Dardar in 2014. Now, every time the program travels to Louisiana, Williams-Mystic students meet with Chief Shirell and other community leaders to discuss the effects of climate change on her community.

For Devon, taking on the role of chief is a major responsibility. He believes that his experience at Williams-Mystic will help equip him to assume the role.

Williams-Mystic also changed Devon’s perception of the world and of himself. Sailing on the SSV Corwith Cramer was a catalyst for this change in his life.

“I was able to be my true self,” Devon said. “I had a feeling of pure joy and happiness that I never could have gotten anywhere else.”

Devon said being disconnected from the world outside while on the ship made him feel as though he was truly living in the moment.

z1

Devon also enjoyed traveling to the West and Gulf Coasts.

“All of the field seminars were absolutely incredible, and I felt so safe and comfortable traveling with Williams-Mystic,” Devon said. “Being in the vans was fun and I was impressed by the ways the staff and faculty did their jobs.”

In the Pacific Northwest, Devon did not feel the need to worry about food and traveling; he felt like he could enjoy the experience with his classmates. Devon has a vivid memory of being on Agate Beach, Oregon with Lisa Gilbert and talking to her about school and how she decided to pursue her Ph.D.

The Gulf Coast Field Seminar, meanwhile, was a trip home for Devon.

“It was really cool to be in Louisiana with Williams-Mystic and it was really nice for my classmates and professors to have me as their personal connection,” Devon said. “They were then connected to me and Louisiana. It was a great way for them to see who I really was and where I came from.”

For his classmates and faculty, Devon said, the field seminar was an opportunity to see Louisiana through his eyes. For Devon, meanwhile, the field seminar was an opportunity to see his home through the lens of Williams-Mystic.

“It was incredible to be [from] where I was from and see all the negative impacts on the environment and how that affects the community,” Devon said. “It was valuable and there were things that I learned about my community and state I would not have known otherwise.”

Travel is a large component of the Williams-Mystic experience, but so is research. Williams-Mystic makes it possible for students to utilize their curiosity to complete research projects that matter to them.

In Devon’s maritime history class, he researched the changing role of doctors from the 1700s through the modern era and looked at how these changes affected medical practices at sea.

In his literature class, Devon chose to focus his Moby-Dick research paper on cannibalism, savagery, and sharks.

“The whole book is meant to change the readers’ perceptions and has so many different hidden meanings throughout,” Devon said. “I wrote about how these perceptions change the way in which we view who were the real savages during this time.”

Devon credits Williams-Mystic with creating the supportive environment that helped him write and organize his paper.

“For the Moby-Dick paper, I definitely tried to organize it too much at the beginning,” Devon said. “Random quotes and summaries of the chapters filled the boards in Carlton [the James T. Carlton Marine Science Center].”

Many of the summaries and quotes did not make it into his final paper. However, he learned more from this in-depth research than he would have had he not tackled the novel in this way.

The same can be said for Devon’s Oceanographic Processes project. The opportunity to take this class was one of the main reasons he wanted to attend Williams-Mystic. Devon chose to research coastal erosion at the Barn Island salt marshes and in the Mystic River Estuary. In fact, his research was one of the first Williams-Mystic student projects to compare the two locations. He studied mussels and Spartina, a common marsh grass, while also looking at biodiversity and erosion.

Finally, in marine policy, Devon worked alongside five other students to complete a research project on environmental justice and the leasing of land in the San Francisco Bay area.

“The goal was to help create policy recommendations that would allow lessees to better define the environmental justice communities they work with using a combination of tools that are available,” Devon said.

Aside from the research projects, participating in nineteenth-century maritime skills classes is another component of Williams-Mystic’s educational model. Devon chose to take shipsmithing — a nineteenth-century style blacksmithing class.

“Shipsmithing gives you the opportunity to have something tangible to bring home from each lesson,” Devon said. “You can go in and relax and work and have a good time.”

All told, Devon credits Williams-Mystic for challenging him in ways he never could have imagined — and changing his life for the better.

“I would never exchange this experience for anything else in the world,” Devon said. “It has taught me how to be a better academic and about the value of real connections. It is so exciting to see so many intelligent and young minds care about so many different issues.”

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.

43237921_10210493614771534_6680981672294350848_o.jpg
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.

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.”

 

 

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! 

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.

aud2.jpg

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.

WM-S18-California-668

 

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.

Top30-WM-S18-Offshore-32 (1)

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.”

kaite on mtn

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.”