Former CC Presidents discuss life after Williams

As part of our ongoing Alumni interview series, the Record presents an interview with last year’s College Council Co-presidents Mac Harman ’98 and Amanda Cowley ’98.

Record: Are there things over the past 6 months that you’ve heard about that you either had a really positive reaction about or negative reaction about, or just general things?

Mac: I’m glad to see things like the basketball court (behind Mission) being built, because that’s something that we were both involved with and it’s nice to see that up and running and we can talk more about this later, I’m obviously interested to follow Goodrich and how that plays out.

Amanda: I was a big fan of Dean Murphy while I was here. From what I’ve heard, it sounds like he’s also done a really good job this year. I didn’t realize how critical his role was and the way that he works with student government and student leaders because it provides this incredible stability and continuity while allowing every year people with new ideas to come in and say, “I really want to try this.” So he facilitates that while at the same time making sure nothing veers and tilts and falls radically off course. So every time I’ve gotten a call or talked to someone at Williams or something catastrophic seems to be going on I’ll call two weeks later and it’s all been sorted out and everything’s fine and I was all prepared to start some crazy letter-writing campaign because they were going to abolish the JAs or something extreme and it’s never that. So that’s heartening to hear. I think Williams is dealing with a lot right now in terms of the party policy and things like that. It’s struggling with a lot of things.

Record: Why don’t we talk about Goodrich now?

Mac: My perspective on Goodrich – its going exactly how its supposed to. The big picture perspective on Goodrich is that its designed as a student center, that’s a lesson to students. You know, heres a space, heres some money, have fun. It’s a great way to learn. From day one of planning this, we knew there would be different things along the journey. The coffee bar is the in thing now, but when Starbucks goes under and diners come back, it can be turned into a diner. It was designed with that type of flexibility. I worked a lot with Dean Murphy setting this up, and we talked after the manager resigned, and this was exactly what we expected. I think that the Record article on Ryan Mayhew stepping down was very telling because every single person in that article was completely positive. I still don’t think people have a sense of all the work that Ryan. . . That building wouldn’t be half operational if it weren’t for all the work Ryan put into it. I think it was a great move on his part to step down for all the reasons he had to do that, and I think going forward its going to change throughout the years with the way that it’s run. I think it’s a great two and a half million dollar toy. That’s what a lot of Williams people go on to do after this, so it’s a great opportunity. In terms of the near future of Goodrich, I’m really glad to hear that Janet is going to run that. When I talked to some people in the fall, I knew that Janet would be a great person. . .

In a recent Record I read a suggestion to have Dining Services run the coffee bar. . . A large portion of why Goodrich Hall exists is so that students have a space which is not run by Dining Services. Students today probably don’t realize it, but if you scheduled an event in Baxter before there was Goodrich available there was a lot of work to do it because you had to meet Dining Services regulations because they run Baxter. The thought that I have had all along is that they should hire someone who is retiring from Dining Services, some great person that everyone loves and everyone says hello to when they check in, someone like that could step over and help students run the coffee bar.

Record: In our editorial too we had it proposed like a back-stage person, like a Scott Lewis, because it is too much for one person to do and carry on a full course load. I was wondering if that either one, sounds appealing now to you or two, was ever kind of in the thinking.

Mac: I think that there’s always been talk about this student activities intern and what’s now become the activities resource center, but that idea of having sort of a Scott Lewis, an outing club coordinator, for the whole campus for student groups came up with Goodrich, another student center which students get to run. I think there’s an interplay between those two positions. I think it will take time for that position to work out and I think that in the future if the current position is a temporary one I think that person will play a role in helping students run Goodrich Hall. Students should make the decisions, but this person could guide them, just like the Outing Club runs.

Mac: Just kind of talk about the transition, it’s very fresh in your mind, from having four classes a semester and three dining hall meals a day to living in an appartement in a big or little city. Your experiences are similar, but just how that transition worked.

Mac: I think it’s a really different experience for everyone. It is a big change, but I’m doing a lot of things I was doing at Williams. The biggest difference for me is that I was paying thirty thousand dollars to do what I now get paid to do.

Record: How so?

Mac: At Williams I spent a lot of time learning, solving problems. In my classes I learned how to think better, how to structure things, extra-curricular activities, leadership positions. You know I spent a lot of time working with different people, leading groups. . . Williams prepared me very well for what I’m doing. In terms of day to day, it’s a very minor transition. It surprises me as to how similar what I’m doing now relates to what I would do in my classes and what I did in my extra-curricular activities. . . Williams prepares people for life outside of Williams. I mean, we all are in a bubble when we are in Williamstown, but the great things about Williams is all the opporunities to interact with high quality people . . . If you take the opportunity while you’re at Williams, those are the same things in the world, no matter what you do, that will be important, you know relate to people and communication skills and life skills.

Record: I’m wondering on your take as to why so many people are going into consulting or investment banking. Now clearly you felt that it was a decent transition from Williams. Is it a question of that or is it that there is a lot of recruiting or is it a question of that is what the OCC is best facilitating at or is it a combination of all these?

Mac: I think that everyone blames the OCC for being this I-banking, consulting, trading ground. It’s the Office of Career Counseling, it just happens that those companies come here because they see a value at coming to Williams. You can get information from the OCC, counseling on just about anything. For me it wasn’t it being a small transition that attracted me. The attraction to me for consulting is that consulting opens many doors and it doesn’t really close any.

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