One in Two Thousand: Cara Sturdevant ’25

Justin Zen

(Nicky Wu/The Williams Record)

Each week, we randomly select a unix from a list of all current students at the College for our One in Two Thousand feature. As long as the owner of a selected unix is willing to be interviewed and is not a member of the Record board, that person becomes the subject of our interview. This week, the computer (using a script in R) chose Cara Sturdevant ’25, who talked about the Navy, her life as a mother, and Winter Study. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Justin Zen (JZ): So, I know that you’re 29, and you have a 2-year-old child. How are you balancing that with your academics?

Cara Sturdevant (CS): I live and die by my Google calendar. And that’s something that I have just found that works really well for me. I’m all into it. I color-code it. I have different tags and labels and everything. That just really helps me stay focused and stay organized and shows me any upcoming events so that I know, “OK, I can’t chit-chat right now — I need to do my reading for my class.”

JZ: Yeah, I’m a big fan of the Apple calendar. I think I’ve really bought into the whole ecosystem. But I’ve heard good things about Google Calendar because it syncs with your Gmail, so it sends reminders. Apple calendars don’t do that. So, I think if someone made a case to me, I’d probably switch over.

CS: You can get your Apple calendar to link to your Gmail so that when you put it on your Apple calendar, it does go over to your Gmail. 

JZ: Oh, no way! I’ll definitely check it out now. So, how’d you get [to Williams]? You’re considered a non-traditional student, right? 

CS: I am. I am non-traditional. I think that applies to everybody who’s not just straight out of high school and comes here, which obviously would be me. So I was in the military — I was in the Navy. And then, after that, I got my EMT certification. I moved up to Washington State, and I went to community college for about a year and a half and then applied to Williams. I did actually decide to relinquish all my credits and start here as a freshman so I could get the full Williams experience and meet all of you wonderful people who are just brilliant.

JZ: How does it feel being in classes with [students] who are 10 years younger than you?

CS: That’s a completely valid question and a concern that I had coming here. I am really lucky because Williams is known for its strong alumni force. I actually reached out to a bunch of people with that same concern. I was like, “Hey, am I just gonna be like the old person sitting in the back of the classroom?” And they [were] like, “No, no, it’s really not like that.” And all the alumni talked about the maturity that a Williams student comes with… I think the caliber of Williams students made it really easy to transition into the class. Because you guys are here to learn. I’m here to learn, and I think that’s a really strong and common ground.

JZ: So I know that you live off campus, but you spend most of your time in Paresky. Do you do all your work there? 

CS: [Laughs.] Yeah. Again, I live and die by my Google Calendar. I find that it’s more efficient and productive for me to do work outside of my home. That way, when I do go home, I can rest. I can relax. It’s just a different hat that I wear. When I’m at home, I’m just Cara, and I can do whatever I want. But when I’m in Paresky, or when I’m on campus, I’m like, “OK, I’m a student. I’m here to learn.” 

JZ: What’s your favorite place in Paresky to work? 

CS: Oh, I can’t tell you. Everybody would know about it. 

JZ: Yeah, I feel that. My favorite place is the tables on the second floor. And it’s pretty convenient because the Record office is on the same floor. Do you have any midterms coming up this week? 

CS: I do. I actually just did one. I did a math midterm, and then I have an econ midterm coming up. 

JZ: You’re in ECON 110, right? 

CS: I am! 

JZ: I’m also in ECON 110 with [Associate Professor of Economics Susan] Godlonton. 

CS: What section are you in? 

JZ: I’m in the section after you, I think. 

CS: OK, so you’re with my husband.

JZ: Oh! Am I? 

CS: Yeah. Zach [Sturdevant ’25], the guy who sits at the very front, right? Tall white guy? 

JZ: Yeah! No way. I thought he was our age. Do you know what you’re going to major in? 

CS: I came here thinking I would major in econ until something else caught my eye. I was at community college, so I’ve done bio, I’ve done chem, [and] I’ve done English. You know, a little bit of everything. Now, I think I’m leaning more towards psychology with a neuroscience concentration because I’ve always been fascinated with the mind and development, even before I had a kid. And my favorite class that I’ve taken to date has actually been at my community college, and it was the anatomy and physiology class. It was so fascinating to learn how the human body goes together and why it does what it does. So I have a very slight baseline on how we work physically, but any time we were talking about the brain and development, I was always finding myself being like, “No, I want to know more about this,” and, “Tell me more.” Obviously, you’re at a basic level, [so] you don’t have time for that. That’s what I’m really interested in pursuing now. I actually signed up for a psych class next semester, and we’ll see if I get it. It’s highly over-enrolled — almost double, if not triple. So we’ll see what happens with that. 

JZ: Did you always know that you wanted to go to college after serving in the Navy?

CS: I’d say yes. So, I actually was looking at applying to Williams in 2018. And then, for life reasons, you know, one thing or another, I postponed my applications and then did a different life for a couple years. And now, I’m circling back and getting to be here.

JZ: What extracurriculars do you do on campus? 

CS: So, I am a veteran and transfer student ambassador. I help out with virtual transfer fairs. I’m also part of the Winter Study program committee, which has just been fantastic. I’ve only been here for a couple of months, but I think Winter Study is such a wonderful program that we have here at Williams in that it can really allow a student to do something that is more fun. It’s not like, you will take bio, you will take chem, you will do the labs, you will study hard and get good grades. It allows for a natural progression of learning in a less [stressful] environment. Honestly, I think you can learn more when you’re not stressed.

JZ: What are you planning on doing for Winter Study? 

CS: I am so excited about this question. I signed up, and I might not get it, but that’s OK — I signed up for BioEyes [Teaching 3rd Grade about Zebrafish]. It’s like “laboratory research” with zebrafish, but we do it in a third-grade classroom. So every week, you go to a different classroom, and you just get to learn about these zebrafish. I don’t actually know too much about them, but I know that it has biology, and it has kids and learning. And I’ve always loved teaching. I was actually an instructor for part of my time in the Navy. I’ve always just found that so fulfilling and rewarding as a person. It’s just so fantastic.