Marlene, Noah Sandstrom to direct WEPO

In an all-campus e-mail on August 15, President Falk announced that Associate Professor of Psychology and Chair of the Neuroscience Program Noah Sandstrom and Professor of Psychology Marlene Sandstrom will become directors of the Williams-Exeter Programme at Oxford on July 1. The Sandstroms will succeed Katie Kent, professor of English, who has directed the program since July of 2012 from Exeter in Oxford.

In addition to being a professor of psychology, Marlene Sandstrom is a clinical psychologist, a previous chair of the Honor and Discipline Committee, member of the Committee on Undergraduate Life and member of the Committee on Academic Standing. Noah Sandstrom is a neuroscientist and previous co-director of the Faculty Affiliate Program in Athletics; he has also chaired the Athletics Committee as well as the neuroscience program.

“As directors, they’ll be the primary academic and personal advisors for the 26 juniors in the program each year,” Falk wrote in his e-mail. “They’ll each hold the title of tutor for visiting students at Exeter College and will work with Exeter fellows and other Oxford instructors to arrange our students’ tutorials. They’ll live with their family in the director’s residence, which is adjacent to Ephraim Williams House, where the students live.”

Approaching this new position, Marlene Sandstrom said she is excited to work so extensively with students inside and outside of the classroom. It gives her the chance “to explore all of the ways that residential, academic and extracurricular life work together to shape students’ college experiences.” The Sandstroms’ experiences on campus will serve them well as they take on the new challenges of directing the Williams-Exeter Programme.

Many aspects of the Williams-Exeter Programme drew the professors to their new position. Marlene Sandstrom is particularly excited about the form of instruction at Oxford, where classes are held strictly in a tutorial format. She thinks this “gives students incredibly close and direct access to their faculty” and provides them with the perfect environment to “learn to communicate about initially unfamiliar ideas and to explore dissenting opinions by jumping directly into the fray each week.” Noah Sandstrom is particularly impressed by the academic rigor of the program, and the fact that at the same time the program “allows for the wonderful cultural and social exploration that is so central to a study abroad experience.” The history of Oxford also interested Marlene Sandstrom. She said, that using the same “stairwells that faculty and students have been traversing for 700 years,” is an experience that is impossible to find at an American college or university.

Collaboratively, the Sandstroms have already set some goals for their tenure as directors of the program. “Perhaps the most critical [priority] involves matching our students’ interests with Exeter fellows and other Oxford instructors who will serve as their tutors,” Noah Sandstrom said of their plans for leading the program. They also want to strengthen the relationship that the College has with Exeter. They intend to work to “create a strong Eph community in Oxford.” Marlene Sandstrom says they “will work hard to offer the students a secure home base, while also encouraging them to stretch themselves by seeking out their own personal adventures.” The new directors are intent on fostering community as well as academic learning for students to get the most out of their experience.

In the Exeter Program, instead of traveling in small groups or individually like other study abroad programs, Williams students travel to Exeter as a group of 26. Thus, while geographically the students are far from the College, there is still an opportunity for them to be part of a Williams community. To encourage the development of this community, the Sandstroms plan to host group dinners and cultural excursions. Noah Sandstrom in particular will miss the basketball games at Chandler Gym, so he hopes to gather the students and even the alumni in  in the area to stream the games online.