On Sept. 8, President Adam Falk announced the recent appointment of Professor of History Gretchen Long as director of the Williams-Exeter Programme at Oxford (WEPO).
A member of the history department since 2003, Long has an extensive resumé of leadership roles throughout the Williams community, including as chair of the Africana Studies program and director of the Summer Humanities and Social Sciences Program, as well as membership in both the Faculty Steering Committee and the Honor and Discipline Committee.
Starting in the fall of 2016, as director, Long will be the primary academic and personal advisor for the 26 juniors who attend the program, Falk wrote in a campus-wide email. She will serve in the position for two years.
In this role, she will also be responsible for working out the logistics of scheduling tutorials for students in the program. “There is no stereotypical day for the director,” Professor of Psychology Noah Sandstrom, one of the current co-directors of the program, said. “Some days I might be looking for tutors for our students; these could range from experts in history of art to computer science, and everything in between. Other days I might be coordinating field trips, arranging guest speakers or planning events. Other days may involve working with individual students to help them negotiate the labyrinth that is the University system.”
Long is also looking forward to the more personal interactions. “We have group dinners every Thursday night where we invite people to give talks and just really introduce Williams students right off the bat to some of the intellectual culture there because it’s really just an amazing university. So much going on, so many talks to go to, seminars and interesting things. Everyone should be out and about, reading or listening to something at all times,” Long said.
The year-long WEPO is divided into three terms and consists of an array of courses taught in Oxford-style tutorials. This is a marked difference from the 4-1-4 calendar at the College.
“I’m very interested in seeing how Williams students adapt to a different kind of organized education. Exeter students take exams their whole last week of their third term as an evaluation for their whole academic year … I can see the pros and cons of that and I think that at first brush it seems crazy and anxiety producing, but I think the process leading up to it sounds really kind of pure,” Long said.
Since accepting the position, Long has devised her own personal goals for the upcoming year.
“I am really hoping that all the students that go are open to telling the rest of the Williams community what they are learning and what they are doing and how the tutorial is different than a tutorial at Williams or maybe about a great book that they read,” Long said.
Long has also talked with Exeter College’s Rector, Sir Rick Trainor, about possible ideas for the program.
“I asked Sir Rick, when he was here visiting, what his goals were for the upcoming year and he said that he was really interested in getting some Exeter students to visit here … but it’s that the calendar is so different, there’s no semester for them that they could come for, but we have to find a way. We cannot be held hostage to the calendar,” Long said.
When Long begins her tenure at Oxford, Noah Sandstrom and Professor of Psychology Marlene Sandstrom, the current directors of WEPO, will return to the College.
“It’s been an incredible joy and privilege to work so closely with the WEPO students here in Oxford. I will definitely miss the sense of community and adventure that we built here. There is an intensity and vitality about this place that I have loved. At the same time, I am really excited to return to Williams next year. I miss my colleagues and students, and Williamstown is definitely home for us,” Marlene Sandstorm said.
“I’m excited to return to Chandler Gym for basketball games.” Noah Sandstorm said. “Watching them on the iPad at two in the morning just isn’t quite the same.”