Williams students, staff and faculty,
Welcome to second semester! As I do every term, I’d like to pause on this first day of classes to update you on various initiatives.
It was wonderful to see the campus re-engage in Winter Study after the 2021 hiatus, and despite some Covid disruptions. Thanks to all the instructors, students and staff who adjusted to the challenges and helped restore this defining Williams program. Looking to the future, the Faculty Steering Committee recently charged an ad hoc committee with trying to make Winter Study even more rewarding for students, faculty and guest instructors. We want to ensure its excellence for a long time to come! Please contribute when the group calls for input. My thanks to the FSC and the committee members (including faculty, staff and students) who will develop new recommendations.
The Winter Study initiative is just one of many that have evolved out of the college’s strategic planning process. Here are a few others:
- We have begun working to create a center for teaching that will support Williams faculty in realizing their most creative and effective pedagogical ideas. Dean of Faculty Safa Zaki has invited nominations for an inaugural faculty director for the center.
- In the area of building and campus planning, we have launched a Williams College Museum of Art design committee; the Davis Center initiative; and a study with outside partners Sasaki that will lead to a campus plan for guiding long-term capital investments and projects. Please attend the February 11 Log Lunch if you are interested in learning more about this latter effort as it relates to sustainability (lunch will not be served due to Covid restrictions, but to-go cookies will be provided courtesy of the Log Lunch student organizers).
- The Diversity Action Research Team recently confirmed a new diversity statement for the college—an important contribution to more clearly defining our fundamental concepts and commitments.
Of course, plenty of other good work was going on before the strategic plan and continues today. Here, for example, are a few of the Williams faculty who have received recognition for their research and teaching in just the last six months or so. Please join me in congratulating them, along with the many other members of our community who have earned recognition for the wonderful work that they do.
- Several faculty members were awarded grants by the National Science Foundation in support of their research, including Assistant Professor of Computer Science Sam McCauley (“New Approaches for Space-Efficient Similarity Search”); Assistant Professor of Physics Kate Jensen (“Hydropowered Plants: How Primitive Land Plants Reproduce by Harnessing Mechanical Energy from Water”); and Assistant Professor of Biology Ron Bassar (“The Evolution of Fluctuation-Dependent Species Coexistence”).
- Associate Professor of Mathematics Pamela Harris, who is also serving as Faculty Fellow in the Davis Center and Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, has been named to the 2022 Class of Fellows of the Association for Women in Mathematics in support of her work advancing women and underrepresented groups in the mathematical sciences.
- Associate Professor of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Greg Mitchell was awarded a Bellagio Fellowship by the Rockefeller Foundation. The Fellowships are awarded to scholars “whose work aligns with the Foundation’s efforts to promote the well-being of humanity, particularly through issues that have a direct impact on the lives of poor and vulnerable populations around the world.”
- Professor of Art C. Ondine Chavoya received an Arts Writers Grant from the Andy Warhol Foundation for work on his book, Asco: Disgust and Creative Resistance in L.A.
- Kimberly A. ’96 and Robert R. ’62 Henry Professor of Economics Lara Shore-Sheppard was recently named a Russell Sage Foundation Visiting Scholar for the 2022-23 academic year to support her research on multigenerational or skipped-generation living arrangements.
- Head Swim Coach and Assistant Professor of Physical Education Steve Kuster was named to the College Swimming and Diving Coaches Association of America’s list of the best 100 coaches in 100 years.
- Last month, the Board approved tenure for eight members of faculty. It is my pleasure to publicly congratulate them on passing this milestone in their lives as scholars and teachers!
In closing, I also want to invite you to two upcoming programs that capture something special about Williams:
The first is tomorrow’s Claiming Williams, on the theme, “Breaking Cycles: Where Do We Go From Here?” Please attend some of the many virtual events being offered. My thanks go out to the program co-chairs, Director of Pathways for Inclusive Excellence Clinton Williams and Professor Pam Harris, as well as the whole Claiming Williams committee for planning this year’s sessions.
The second is our commemoration of half a century of women at Williams. The college’s shift to co-education was an important moment in itself and a notable step in our ongoing work for diversity and inclusion. I have asked the College Relations team to plan a series of events over the next two years to celebrate the anniversary and the experiences of five decades of Williams women. The schedule will include a Women’s Conference, May 19-21, 2023. If you are interested in contributing to the planning effort, please contact our OCR colleagues at [email protected].
There is so much more going on than I can capture in one email, but this gives you a sense of the tremendous dynamism of our community, even as we work through the challenges of the pandemic. Williams is a remarkable and resilient place. I send you all good wishes for the new semester!