Having your parent as a teacher in high school can have its pros and cons. That experience doesn’t come close, however, to that of Jake Verter ’16, Evi Mahon ’18 and Katie Swoap ’17, who are all children of professors here at the College. I had the opportunity to speak with Jake, Evi and Katie about what it was like for them growing up here, and what it’s like now, going to college where their parents are professors.
One thing that rang true for Evi, Jake and Katie was how much they enjoyed growing up in Williamstown. Evi, whose father is professor of political science James Mahon, explained that, yes, Williamstown is a small community, but within that community is a lot of diversity. “Basically every year, we were a host family to a student from elsewhere,” Evi said, adding that it was great to “meet people from all of these different countries.”
While Evi was getting to know people from all around the world, Jake, whose mother is professor of environmental studies Sarah Gardner, spent a lot of his time “exploring the campus, and checking out all of the buildings.” He particularly enjoyed “playing in the old Sawyer library.” On the other hand, Katie, daughter of professor of biology Steven Swoap, remembers loving College basketball games. In 2003, the men’s team won the Div. III NCAA Championship, and whenever Katie and her next-door neighbor would play basketball, “he’d pretend he was the star of the men’s basketball team,” and Katie would pretend she was the star of the women’s team.
After having varied experiences growing up in Williamstown, Evi, Katie and Jake all arrived at the decision that they would stay here for college in different ways. Evi explained that she thought she was “in love with other schools, but then went to visit and realized they didn’t do things as well as Williams.”
Jake went to the public school in town, but after 10th grade did a semester abroad program at the Island School, after which he enrolled at boarding school. After some time apart from Williamstown, Jake thought he had “might as well come back after being away.”
Katie spent time away from Williamstown as well. Like Jake, Katie had some intial reservations. So to “get some space from Williamstown,” Katie took a gap year after her senior year of high school, and lived in Argentina with a host family.
Now that Evi, Jake and Katie are all College students, they realize how valuable it is to have parents here. For Evi, “the most useful thing is having remote access to a car.” For Jake, he has gone home whenever he was feeling sick or needed to do laundry. Katie and her father “go to Eco [cafe] together sometimes,” which Katie is especially appreciative of now that she’s on the ten-meal plan.
Although Evi does not run into her parents unless she is actively trying to see them, Jake and Katie have run into their parents before. “I recently turned 21, so I’m allowed to say that I go to the bar,” explained Jake, “and I haven’t seen my mom there, but I’ve gone into the bar with friends and then seen people there who were like, ‘oh, your mom was just here!’ So that’s kind of funny.”
“The funniest thing is when I read about my dad on Yik Yak,” Katie added.
Yaks aside, after talking with Evi, Katie and Jake, it became clear that although the College is certainly small, they are all able to reach a happy medium: to feel at home and distance themselves when they feel so inclined.