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Windows on Williams II

Welcome! We’re spending the week covering Windows on Williams. Today, I’ll be bringing you through the parts of WOW that stuck out to me as memorable:

Welcome Dinner and Introductions

Quite interesting! At the other fly-ins I went to, for the first night, you were handed a meal ticket and pretty much left to shift for yourself at one of the cafeterias. Williams, however, has a whole separate banquet type thing, with catered food and huge tanks of iced apple cider, where student interns in the admissions office mull around and answer any questions that visiting students might have.

I like this quite a bit. It gives the student hosts a break, it gives our visiting students more time in front of admissions office staff, and, it makes for a good venue to conduct introductions from.

Jamboree: Student Performance Showcase

Wretched. Awful. Needs to die, both at Williams and as a convention of the fly-in generally. For one, they almost always schedule the student performances on the first night — when everyone is jet-lagged, and cranky, and really not in the mood to watch a step routine. (And, might I add that attendance is usually mandatory.)

Any charms of the format wear thin by one’s second fly-in, usually. Mostly because there’s no variety between colleges. I visited three schools, hundreds of miles apart, in different athletic conferences and with radically different alleged styles of education; all of them subjected me to three acapela groups, two dance troupes, and some really maudlin, weirdly metered poetry.

Jamboree: Bad, Bad Trivia

What gave me the most hope for student showcase at Williams — the promise of trivia — ended up being the most disappointing. Here are the three of the questions they asked at my WOW: “What war did Col. Ephraim Williams fight in?” ; “Who is the director of admissions at Williams?” and “Williams is the second oldest college in the state of Massachusetts, what school is the oldest?”

Seriously? We, purport to, and in fact have, a very rich trivial tradition at Williams. And this is the best we can do?  I don’t want to put too fine a point on this (because WOW as a whole is great and my specific critiques should be read as footnotes to mountains of praise) but how fun is it to ask students to recall the name of an admissions director they’ve just met? And why the last question? Why are we bothering, even indirectly like this, to compare Williams to Harvard? It seems a slimy way to rub some of the Harvard prestige off on Williams. Why not ask a question about Pres. Garfield, or Leehom Wang? It might teach the youth something.

 Mountain Day

My WOW, the October session, ended up falling on Mountain Day. I couldn’t imagine a better time to be on campus; the idyllic, sexed-up Williams that we ought to be showing prefrosh comes out on Mountain Day. Can we bring future WOW classes to campus during Mountain Day without spoiling the surprise? It’s my hope we can.

Sample Classes

Very good! Surprisingly good, actually. I was worried that, at fifty students apiece, the sample classes would be overcrowded, but, evidently there exist members of the Williams faculty that can teach fifty student seminars. Prof. Leyla Rouhi, in particular, had a sort of rockstar quality; there was a line of people waiting to speak to her after she finished teaching.

Divisions Dinner

I won’t say much about it, because unqualified praise doesn’t need the space. Interestingly, two Ephblog favorites, Prof. Joe Cruz ’91 and Prof. Steven Miller, were both in attendance at the October WOW. Prof. Miller even gave the whole room a neat little demonstration of Benford’s Law.

That concludes our post today! Tomorrow, we return to the usual Ephblog listicle format as well as to reasonable standards of length.

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#1 Comment By simplicio On June 28, 2016 @ 6:07 pm

I applaud your contributions here, Eph ’20. This is information the Ephblog community can appreciate—and enjoy reading. Was there a survey of those WOW students who have since chosen to attend Williams? My guess is that a numerical survey would appeal to administrators these days, but observations such as yours could be much more valuable to those hoping to “sell” the college through WOW.

#2 Comment By Eph ’20 On June 28, 2016 @ 7:08 pm

Thank you! It’s great to be able to add a little something to what I’ve appreciated so long as a reader here on Ephblog.

Sadly, no survey. If there was, I’d post up a scan/screenshot of it to try and save it from the dustbin.

But, yes: very anecdote heavy post. It’s not what the whole series — yesterday, plus two to come — will consist of, but, I thought I owed a little something to current high schoolers who might be looking for information on WOW. (Fittingly enough, around this time last year, surfing around the internet for information on WOW is what lead me to Ephblog.)

#3 Comment By John C. Drew, Ph.D. On June 28, 2016 @ 9:18 pm

I looked up Leyla Rouhi on Rate My Professors. She has three reviews and a perfect 5.0 rating.

See, http://www.ratemyprofessors.com/ShowRatings.jsp?tid=698439

It makes sense to me that a student would see the sample classes one of the most significant aspects of their WOW visit.

Rouhi was chosen by The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) as the 2010 Massachusetts Professor of the Year. She was one of 38 state winners selected from more than 300 top professors in the United States.

See, http://iranian.com/main/2010/nov/leyla-rouhi.html

She has a B.A. from Oxford and a Ph.D. from Harvard. While she was a grad student at Harvard, she was the six-time winner of a Certificate for Excellence in Teaching.

You can see her publishing history here, http://spanish.williams.edu/profile/lrouhi/

#4 Comment By David Dudley Field ’25 On June 29, 2016 @ 6:28 am

> I applaud your contributions here, Eph ’20

Me too! This is great stuff.

One request: Would you mind copy/pasting the various correspondences with Williams with regard to WoW (with you name redacted, of course) into one of these threads? Future historians will thank you! None of these documents are public and all of us would be interested to see how Williams communicates with potential students.