Behind the uniform: Nancy Macauley

Last Tuesday, Campus Safety and Security (CSS) hosted a dinner honoring those celebrating their five, 10 and 20 year anniversaries working at the College. Among those honored was Nancy Macauley, a dispatcher for CSS who has already established a lasting legacy for herself through her continued work in the Williamstown community beyond her 5-year tenure working for CSS.

A graduate of Mt. Greylock Regional High School and the University of Massachusetts – Amherst, Macauley has spent much of her life in Berkshire County. She spent 15 years as an adolescent social worker in Pittsfield and Salem until 1997, when she became a juvenile probation officer for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. She retired from this position last June but still works at the College.

While Macauley began working for CSS five years ago, her involvement with the College actually began years earlier. “Eight years ago a student, Alexa Lutchen [’11], came to me and wanted to do a program with Williams because she was really concerned about kids who are on probation that weren’t doing well in school,” Macauley said. Macauley explained that Lutchen discovered this during a Winter Study she did with a juvenile court judge. From there, Learning Interventions for Teens (LIFT) was born. “The program continues on and it’s been great, and it probably will always continue because it’s run by Williams students.”

LIFT empowers teens that have been involved in the juvenile court system. “A probation officer … identifies kids who could benefit from an intense mentoring experiece during January. They meet with a Williams student two or three times a week and work on something that they’re interested in,” Macauley said. The student then brings their mentee around campus and does activities with them based on their interests. “One of the girls last time really loved fashion, so her mentor brought her over to the theater and introduced her to the seamstress … and she really got a good experience.”

The program’s beneficiaries are twofold: the teens involved get to work on a college campus and pursue their passion and the students at the College gain from the experience as well. “It’s a great way for the Williams student, who comes already very much involved in their education … to be with a student who struggles,” Macauley said. LIFT also provides an opportunity for teens and college student to collaborate. “At the end [of Winter Study], the Williams student and the youth present their work together in front of family, friends, judges, people in the political arena, everyone comes to Griffin for the presentations … It’s a really great program.”

Macauley stated that the long-term goal for the youths on probation is for them to “have a positive relationship with someone that is excited about education and someone that’s not like them, and to get a look into what the possibilities could be … and also to give the Williams students an opportunity to step out of their comfort zones and to establish a relationship with someone who comes from a place where they might not ever have known about.”

Marissa Shapiro ’18 was involved in LIFT her freshman year, and has helped coordinate the program the last two years. “Working and learning from Nancy has been one of the highlights of my experience working on Learning Interventions for Teens,” Shapiro said. “Nancy has an incredible talent for working with kids, brings never-ending energy to the program, and has taught me so much about working as a mentor and educator.”

After dedicating her career to juvenile justice, Macauley emphasized the need for more alternative sentencing in the in the juvenile justice system. “I don’t believe that kids benefit from lockup. You have to look at the resources within your community and try to create programming so that you can address the issue differently,” Macauley said. “Especially with kids, it can’t all be about concrete. You have to find the one thing, or a few things, that could maybe change a path.”

Her experience in juvenile justice has not only impacted the community but the way she views her job as a CSS dispatcher. “I also have a 23-year-old daughter who just graduated from Trinity two years ago, so I am aware of the … whole college scene,” Macauley said. “This [job] was  a perfect fit. I love the students, I believe that I understand them, and I believe that I bring something to the table for them … I’m not naive, and I feel like being here really is a good thing because I get that it’s all about growth.”

As a student at the College, it may be difficult to see CSS dispatchers in a non-punitive light, but Macauley reiterated her top priority: “Although some might not think so, we spend a lot of time trying to keep you guys safe and [from] making bad choices. And if you do, to try to correct yourselves, because this is a time where you want to make sure that you don’t do something that’s going to affect the rest of your life.”

Despite her serious commitment to her work, I was also curious about what Macauley likes to do for fun. Her answer did not disappoint. “I travel, I love the beach, I love theater. I look forward to the Williamstown Theatre Festival in the summer; I try to see three plays,” she elaborated. But Macauley mostly finds enjoyment in her job with CSS since retiring from her career as a juvenile probation officer. “This is retirement … It has its difficulties, but it’s my fun job. This is where I like to be.”