Since January, President-elect Falk has been spending one day every week familiarizing himself with the College in preparation for assuming office on April 1. On these weekly visits, Falk has not only met students, alumni, staff and faculty, but also has attended Claiming Williams, looked at College facilities and participated in conversations about College decisions.
“Williams only has one president at a time, and I am very clear that my current role is that of the president-elect,” Falk said, lauding Interim President Wagner’s leadership. “However, the leadership has wanted to include me in those conversations that have long-term importance, and to make sure that I’m comfortable with these difficult choices.” Among these choices, he cited budgetary decisions, including the recent changes to financial aid policy, and the ongoing Neighborhood Review Committee process.
Falk also noted that the College’s mode of decision-making differs from that of Johns Hopkins. “There are many more committees at Williams than at Hopkins,” he said. “At Williams, the whole community involves itself in making very large decisions, with different constituencies getting involved in important conversations. It’s a great strength of the College.”
According to Falk, there are many similarities between students at the College and their counterparts at Johns Hopkins. “Both are very serious about the way they work, but they also really like to have fun,” he said, referring to his experience of Winter Carnival festivities in Paresky on Friday evening.
Falk said that he has also enjoyed interacting with alumni, whether at campus events such as “A Conversation with Steven Sondheim and Frank Rich” or during a trip to California. “I’m getting a much richer feel for the Williams alumni,” he said. “They are an extraordinarily loyal, thoughtful group, with very different views of the College.”
Although Falk will be residing on campus beginning April 1, his wife, Karen, and children, Briauna, David and Alex, will only move to the Purple Valley in mid-June, after the school year ends in Baltimore. “My wife and the kids and I are very excited,” Falk said. “Last weekend four of us were here together, and we had a lot of fun just doing family things like going to the mall and to Bennington. We’ll be figuring out how to live together in the Berkshires.”
In addition, Falk spoke about his transition as a process of learning about the College. “I know I will make some mistakes, and I hope we can use those as opportunities to educate me about the College,” Falk said. “I would very much appreciate if everybody would recognize that I’m new to this, and trust in my good faith as I get used to the College and the College gets used to me.”