To the Williams Community,
On this first day of this new semester, I’m reflecting on the meaning of community, both the one here at Williams and the many communities, local and national, that we’re a part of. Recent events are testing that sense of community—of cohesiveness and mutual collegiality. Especially now, when faced with such challenges, we need to renew our commitment to the values that make us who we are.
We’ll start that work tomorrow, when, as we do every year at this time, we’ll devote the day to Claiming Williams and our efforts to make Williams a more inclusive community. This is one of my very favorite days of the year, and this year’s program on the theme of “Moral Courage” couldn’t be more timely. I urge you all to attend, listen, learn, and commit to making this campus the kind of community we want it to be. And that the world needs us to be.
Successful communities reflect on and live their values, and our year of inquiry, Confronting Climate Change, is a wonderful opportunity to consider more deeply our commitments to the sustainability of the way we humans live on Earth. Thanks to great work by the C3 committee and the Center for Environmental Sciences, we’ve got an impressive roster of events and speakers this spring. It includes visits by two leading figures: Columbia professor Jim Hansen, the scientist and former NASA Director who risked his government career by giving frank testimony to Congress about climate change; and writer and activist Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org and author of The End of Nature—considered the book that introduced the idea of climate change to a general audience. I hope we’ll all participate in this and other Confronting Climate Change programming. This is the only planet we have to call home, and we must all learn to care for it.
Our community is always growing and changing, and it’s a special pleasure to welcome two recent arrivals: Shawna Patterson-Stephens, director of the Davis Center; and Wendy Adam, director of Psychological Counseling Services. Given how important holistic diversity and support for mental health are to a flourishing Williams community, I’m thrilled that we’ve attracted to Williamstown such wonderful leaders as Shawna and Wendy.
Continuing with happy news, we’re celebrating the award of tenure to four members of the faculty: Rashida Braggs in Africana studies, Nick Howe in environmental studies, Tim Lebestky in biology, and Kate Stroud in psychology. All four are committed teachers and scholars with a talent for introducing students to interdisciplinary ways of thinking, and we’re fortunate that they’ll enrich our community for many years to come.
We’re also continuing to see an outpouring of support from our alumni and friends for the Teach It Forward campaign. Focused on the college’s most important core priorities—students and faculty—the campaign speaks to enduring Williams values that continue to resonate deeply with those who know and love the college. Financial aid, of course, is the most important priority of Teach It Forward; and to cite just one example of the impact of enhancing our financial aid endowment, last week Williams was featured on the PBS NewsHour website for our national leadership in building and supporting socioeconomic diversity in our student body.
Finally, the board of trustees held their annual winter meeting in late January, and we’ll post a summary report on the revamped Board website shortly. The highlight of their weekend was an open reception for students, held Friday evening at the Faculty House. The trustees were grateful that so many students took time on a Friday evening to get to know them and share their thoughts on Williams. Our trustees are college and national leaders who’ve successfully applied their Williams education to their lives, careers, and causes, and they’re a rich source of advice and ideas. We’re looking forward to making this reception, as well as the open meeting held in October, an annual event.
I hope you’re all energized and ready, as I am, for a new semester. Let’s get off to a strong start with Claiming Williams. I’ll see you there tomorrow.