Professor Bud Wobus has taught geology for 50 of the 200 years Williams has offered the course of study


From Solid Earth to the Universe

In June, the college will commemorate the 200th anniversary of the first geology class ever taught at Williams. Bud Wobus, the Edna McConnell Clark Professor of Geology, has been here for 50 of those 200 years. With these milestones in mind, Williams Magazine talked with Wobus, who received the National Association of Geosciences Teachers Neil Minor Award for 2016, about the discipline’s place in the liberal arts and how the program has evolved in what has been—in geologic terms—the blink of an eye.

Williams Magazine: What brought you to Williams?

Bud Wobus: I came in 1966. I finished my Ph.D. at Stanford in the spring, and I was here in the fall. I wanted to try teaching in a small, liberal arts college. I went to Washington University, Harvard, Stanford—all big universities, so I’d never experienced the small college tradition. And yet my closest friends at Stanford mostly came from small colleges. They could speak and think clearly about so many topics.

Williams: What changes have you seen over the course of 50 years in the discipline?

Wobus: The department was small when I arrived—just four men. And, of course, all the students were men. The best thing the college ever did, after divesting itself of fraternities, was to go co-ed. In those days, we taught what was basically “solid earth” geology. Students who focused on hard rock geology—igneous and metamorphic rock like granite—would go into mining. Students who studied soft rock or sedimentary geology went into oil exploration. Today, of the nine faculty members in the department, four are women. The curriculum has expanded to include the fluid envelopes around the earth—the oceans, the atmosphere. Climate studies are a major focus. Most students go into environmental consulting firms, several of which are run by our own alumni. We even do planetary geology. Our chair Ronadh Cox has had students go to graduate school for astronomy and planetary studies. So we’ve expanded from the solid earth to the universe, practically.

Williams: How has technology changed field studies in the discipline?

Wobus: That’s been a big change. When I came on board, we used aerial photographs, topographic maps, a little barometer to tell you what the elevation might be—which you had to set several times a day—and a little geological compass. Now people go out with laptops, everything is digitized, and they can download immediately the topography of the area. They can overlay that with what had been studied earlier, geologically, and GPS tells you exactly where you are. You don’t need that barometer anymore. So we now go out with a whole armament of digital equipment that makes field work much more reliable.

Williams: What do you see for the geosciences as you look ahead?

Wobus: Like so many things now, it’s almost unpredictable what the needs are going to be. I think that’s why a liberal arts background is as good as anything you can get. You can’t possibly take all the courses that might be relevant for what you might be doing five years from now, which might be very different from what you might be doing 10 years from now. You’ve really got to be flexible, and that’s what liberal arts colleges are supposed to be and have been. That’s why our students are so much in demand.

–Interview by Shannon O’Brien

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In the Carrying Stones Project, Katie Sawyer Rose ’96 explores the “double burden” of women’s work inside and outside the home—and how little time women have left for themselves


Woman’s Work

In The Carrying Stones Project, Katie Sawyer Rose ’96 explores the “double burden” of women’s work inside and outside the home—and how little time women have left for themselves.

Katie Sawyer Rose ’96 aims to make the invisible visible with her artwork. Her multimedia sculptures represent the work women do both inside and outside the home—something economists struggle to measure—and reveal that data can be surprisingly beautiful. “We are inundated with statistics,” Rose says. “Sometimes it’s easier to understand the data if someone draws you a picture.”

In January, Rose was a resident with Assets for Artists, a program administered by MASS MoCA that provides support services and financial training for creative entrepreneurs. She spent two weeks in a studio on the museum’s North Adams campus, planning and building prototypes of the sculptures she’ll make for her new project, “Force of Nature.”

“Ties That Bind” represents 1,000 work hours completed by 47 women. Artist Katie Sawyer Rose ’96 defines work as anything a woman is doing for others and not for herself.

Rose plans to interview roughly 50 women from all over the country who represent different ages, racial and ethnic backgrounds, and working lives. From the interviews, she’ll create a sculpture to represent each woman’s work, starting with her college roommate, Tracy (Weir) Marek ’96, an attorney living in Newburgh, N.Y.

“Her world is very ordered,” Rose says of Marek. “She likes it to run like clockwork—and yet she is also deeply grounded. Her sculpture will include geometric shapes and yet be composed of earth materials, like rock.”

Another sculpture Rose began developing at MASS MoCA will portray a lesbian couple. One of the women commutes to a job in Washington, D.C., from San Francisco every week, while her wife is a stay-at-home mom. “Their sculptures will somehow be intertwined,” Rose says. “I want to portray how much these two working women depend on one another.”

Once all the sculptures are complete—a project Rose thinks will occupy most of the next two years—she’ll photograph each woman carrying or wearing her sculpture, “literally shouldering her load,” she says. She also plans to publish a book documenting the sculptures and the portraits as a way of telling the women’s stories.

“Force of Nature” is the second part of a larger project Rose calls The Carrying Stones Project. She first heard the expression “carrying stones” during a trip to Brazil with her two young children. “I had a baby under each arm and was running around doing this and that,” she says. “My host said, ‘Stop carrying stones and sit down.’

“The expression can be traced to the Portuguese, and it’s common in Brazil today,” Rose says. “When women are grumbling about their work life, they say, ‘If I’m not working, I’m carrying stones.’ It means: ‘I work all day for my family to make money, and then I work all night for my family to hold this house together.’” This idea is at the heart of Rose’s project.

Rose, who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and is a full-time working artist, exhibited the first installation of The Carrying Stones Project in September 2016 at Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture in San Francisco. Called “Ties That Bind,” the installation featured a 20-foot sculpture made of tiles representing 1,000 work hours completed by 47 women around the country, including those holding multiple paid jobs, stay-at-home moms and white-collar professionals. “I aimed to represent as many demographics as possible,” Rose says.

In order to collect the data the sculpture is based on, Rose developed a mobile phone app that participants used to track their time. For each hour they were awake, the women logged whether they were completing paid labor, unpaid labor or other activities. Based on the participants’ data, Rose crafted different types of tiles—each roughly 4 by 6 inches in size—to represent different types of work. The tiles are tied together to form a three-dimensional tapestry that resembles a woman’s body.

In the sculpture, paid labor is represented by tiles made from silver solder and copper. “The metalwork tiles look a bit like coins,” Rose says. “For some women, money means status; for others, survival.”

Unpaid labor is represented by tiles onto which Rose sewed fabric resembling a dishcloth. “There are a lot of dishcloths in my life,” she says with a laugh. “It’s symbolic of all the work we do at home.”

The few blank spaces scattered throughout the sculpture represent the hours women logged as “leisure/other.”

Rose defines “leisure/other” as anything that isn’t work—activities ranging from a facial to a dentist appointment. She defines work as anything a woman would be doing for others and not for herself. “I worked with an artist who didn’t know how to categorize her time spent sketching projects, because the sketches would not result directly in payment,” Rose says. “We decided that if what she was doing was in furtherance of paid work, it should be counted as paid labor. In other words, I went with intent.”

Williams economics professor Lucie Schmidt, who teaches a course on Gender and Economics, uses a similar rubric for defining work and leisure. But that rubric can be subjective, she says. Some people categorize an activity—say, baking with one’s child—as leisure, while others consider it home production or unpaid labor. “I show my class the American Time Use Survey and ask students to decide which activities they think are home production and which leisure,” Schmidt says. “It’s harder than you might think.”

Rose says that no matter how you separate work and leisure, “What you can see so clearly in ‘Ties That Bind’ is that most of our time is spent working, either in the home or outside of it. Only 15 percent of the space on the sculpture is blank, for non-work activity.”

Schmidt, who says those numbers are largely consistent with American Time Use Survey data, puts the question of men’s and women’s labor in a different context. “Feminist economist Nancy Folbre has compared the careers of men and women to a race,” she says.
“The only difference is that the men get to run unhindered, and women run while carrying all the family responsibility on their back.”

Schmidt, who has asked Rose to video-conference in the next time she teaches Gender and Economics, says there’s value in making art that demonstrates data. “What makes this project so special is that it makes visible something that is unseen,” Schmidt says. “Women’s home production is invisible to most people and invisible in most of our data. It doesn’t show up in employment statistics or GDP, and only in recent years has the U.S. collected nationally representative time-use data that allows us to measure it.”

Making the invisible visible was one of Rose’s goals. “I want to give voice to women who are not given voice, who are not encouraged to take up space,” she says. “I want these women’s stories to take up as much space and to make as much noise as possible.”

Julia Munemo is a writer based in Williamstown, Mass.

Visualizing the Invisible

While in residence at MASS MoCA working on “Force of Nature,” artist Katie Sawyer Rose ’96 talked with Williams economics professor Lucie Schmidt about how their work overlaps.

Katie Sawyer Rose ’96: Usually my projects start out when I get a bee in my bonnet about something, and then I go all nerdy and start mining for information. Only after I have the data can I start asking how I’m going to convey that to other people, how I’m going to draw them a picture.

Lucie Schmidt: In my Gender and Economics class, the students write family histories. They do a work family tree, tracing everyone as far as they can and exploring what they did for paid work. Then they write papers putting their family experience in the context of broader trends. One important outcome is that students recognize that their mothers were economic actors who had all sorts of options. Whether they chose to stay full time in the labor force or to stay home, what they did at home was sometimes invisible until the students started to analyze it academically.

Rose: Yes, now they can quantify it in a different way. I explained to my husband recently that if you measured women’s domestic work it would make up 25 percent of the GDP (gross domestic product). He had this moment of clarity. Whereas for me, it’s a visceral life experience, to him it only makes sense when he thinks of it in terms of money.

Schmidt: In economics, we have measured estimates of how GDP has changed over time. There’s definitely an overestimate of GDP growth in part because, over the last 40 years, a lot of the work that women used to do for free at home is now being added to the market.

Rose: It would be impossible for me to be a working artist without the woman who takes care of my children. In my own sculpture for “Force of Nature,” I plan to include her—and make sure she’s in the photograph with me, helping me to shoulder my load.

Schmidt: We have this idea in economics of public goods. It asks: If children are public goods to society, and if I raise my children well, then what are the benefits to the rest of the world?

Rose: They could grow up to be the doctor that cures cancer.

Schmidt: But we treat individual women’s choices on child rearing as individual decisions. So we’re spending too little time on caring labor from society’s point of view. Add to that the fact that for me to hire someone to take care of my kids while I work requires some level of income inequality.

Rose: For you to make more and her to make less.

Schmidt: You could imagine a future exhibit where there was some way of representing visually a carrying of the load by others, a way of sharing the load societally.

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College Admits 1,253 Students to Class of 2021


Williams College Admits 1,253 Students to Class of 2021

Media contact:  Noelle Lemoine, communications assistant; tele: (413) 597-4277; email: [email protected]

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., March 23, 2017—Williams College has extended offers of admission to 1,253 applicants for the Class of 2021. They were selected from a total applicant pool of 8,593.

“This year’s applicant pool was the largest and strongest in the college’s history, which made rendering decisions particularly challenging,” said Richard Nesbitt, director of admission. “We anticipate yielding a terrific and diverse class of powerful academics, curious problem-solvers, and engaged community members.”

Of the admitted students, 95 are international students representing 47 different nationalities. Among American students, 50 percent identify as students of color: 220 students are Asian American, 214 are black, 175 Latino, and 17 Native American. Thirty-seven percent identify as white and five percent opted not to identify. A total of 274, or 22 percent, are first-generation college students, and seven percent (86) have a parent who attended Williams. A total of 593 identify as men, 573 as women, five identify as trans or transgender, three as non-binary, one as agender, one as gender non-conforming, one as gender fluid, and one as questioning. Seventy-five students did not respond to an optional question about gender identity (but did answer a required binary question that appears on the application).

Admitted students living in the U.S. represent the following geographic regions: 30 percent hail from the Mid-Atlantic; 24 percent from the West; 17 percent from the Northeast; 15 percent from the South; eight percent from the Midwest; and six percent from the Southwest. Four students come from Puerto Rico, and two students are from the U.S. Virgin Islands. Nine percent (110) are currently living overseas.

The admitted students represent 916 high schools, and their academic profile is exceptional. Applicants had the option to submit standardized test scores for the ACT, the redesigned SAT, or the old SAT. Average scores on the old SAT are 736 in critical reading, 737 in math, and 732 in writing. Average scores on the redesigned SAT are 722 in evidence based reading and writing and 721 in math. The average super-scored ACT is a 33. Ninety-three percent of the students who submitted high school rank are projected to graduate in the top 10 percent of their class.

The students possess a wide diversity of academic and nonacademic interests. The admitted class includes highly accomplished visual and performing artists, athletes, debaters, community servants and activists, and one U.S. Marine.

The college has long been committed to admitting the most qualified and compelling students without regard for their ability to pay. Among those admitted to the Class of 2021, nearly 30 percent are affiliated with a community-based organization focused on college access. Of that group, 230 students are affiliated with QuestBridge, an organization with which Williams has partnered since 2006 to identify talented, high-achieving high school students from low-income backgrounds. Additionally, 129 students admitted to the Class of 2021 participated in Windows on Williams, a college-sponsored program that provides high-achieving high school seniors from low-income backgrounds the opportunity to visit the Williams campus during the fall of their senior year.

Williams’ strong financial aid program is critically important in encouraging outstanding students to apply. Sixty-eight percent of admitted students applied for financial aid. Admissions decisions are need-blind for U.S. students, and the college provides grants and other assistance to meet 100 percent of the demonstrated financial need of every student. Williams students graduate with debt levels that are among the lowest in the country.

Students who choose to come to Williams say they were attracted by its academic reputation, size, academic facilities, and the attractiveness of the campus, in addition to the personal attention and extracurricular opportunities it offers.

The target size for the Class of 2021 is 550 students, as it was last year. 257 applicants were admitted to the class through early decision, 16 through the QuestBridge Match program, and another 13 will join the class after taking a gap year. The remaining admitted students received their acceptances by March 22 and have until May 1 to decide whether to enroll. All accepted students are invited to attend the Williams Previews program April 24-25 to explore the college and meet many of their future classmates.


Founded in 1793, Williams College is the second oldest institution of higher learning in Massachusetts. The college’s 2,000 students are taught by a faculty noted for the quality of their teaching and research, and the achievement of academic goals includes active participation of students with faculty in their research. Students’ educational experience is enriched by the residential campus environment in Williamstown, Mass., which provides a host of opportunities for interaction with one another and with faculty beyond the classroom. Admission decisions on U.S. applicants are made regardless of a student’s financial ability, and the college provides grants and other assistance to meet the demonstrated needs of all who are admitted.


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Two student groups working to address food insecurity locally have won a $5,000 grant from the Campus Kitchens Project


Grant Helps Address Food Insecurity

A photo showing students preparing food in a kitchen on campus. The food would be donated to the local community.Two Williams student groups working collaboratively to address food insecurity in northern Berkshire County have won a $5,000 grant from the Campus Kitchens Project.

Williams Recovery of All Perishable Surplus (WRAPS) has long partnered with Dining Services to gather, prepare and distribute free, healthy meals to area housing communities and organizations. Last year, using Dining Services kitchen space during off-hours, WRAPS delivered 1,409 meals to Mohawk Forest Apartments and Louison House in North Adams.

Under Campus Kitchens, WRAPS will join forces with Moo-Mami, a student cooking group, to organize weekly shift operations to recover food, prepare and deliver meals and do programming and outreach. The grant, sponsored by CoBank, will also be used to purchase supplies for packaging and transporting meals.

“The Campus Kitchens Project is about serving each other through hunger relief and relationship-building,” says Megan Maher ’17, Campus Kitchens coordinator at Williams. “The team at Williams is extremely excited for this opportunity to collaborate with a variety of student and community groups who share these values. Not only will this help us coordinate and strengthen existing efforts, but it will also help us brainstorm new ways to expand our work, build relationships with new people and join a national network of people seeking to serve each other by alleviating hunger.”

The Campus Kitchens Project is the leading national nonprofit empowering high school and college students to fight hunger and food waste.

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Six months after graduation, most members of the Class of 2016 are employed full time or in grad school—and they’re happy with what they’re doing


At a Glance

Six months after graduation, most members of the Class of 2016 report that they’re employed full time or in graduate school and they’re happy with what they’re doing—and they say Williams helped them get there, according to the Career Center’s first-ever First Destinations Survey. “This speaks directly to the hireability of the Williams liberal arts graduate,” says Don Kjelleren, Career Center director. As of January 2017: 

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Shedding light on Williams’ substantial endowment, how it’s invested, what the money is used for and more


Impact Worthy

Shedding light on the college’s substantial endowment and why it needs to grow even more.

Williams and its peers have come under fire for their large endowments. Ours stands at $2.3 billion—a large sum by any measure. There are calls for the college to spend down the endowment to reduce costs, pressure to divest from fossil fuels and threats from the federal government of penalties and taxation. With the endowment under increasing scrutiny, Williams Magazine brought together President Adam Falk, Provost and Professor of Economics Dukes Love and Chief Investment Officer Collette Chilton for a conversation with Lizzie O’Leary ’98, host of American Public Media’s Marketplace Weekend, about where the endowment comes from, what the money is used for—and why Williams is seeking to raise even more.

Lizzie O’Leary ’98: What do you see as the purpose of the endowment?

Adam Falk: To support the mission of the college, which is to educate young women and men and prepare them to be effective in the world. It’s the most important resource we have to fulfill that mission. It’s what makes possible the faculty, the programs—everything we do.

O’Leary: Walk me through how the endowment figures into the education of current students.

Dukes Love: We spend about $105,000 per student per year. Fifty-nine percent of that goes directly to compensating faculty and staff. Sixteen percent is spent on the annual costs of operating buildings, capital renewal and paying off debt. The remaining 25 percent is for everything that’s not a person or building—chalk boards, chairs, library books, energy, computers, travel.

Falk: The largest source of funding for the college’s $225 million annual operating budget is the endowment, which covers 49 percent. We spend roughly 5 percent of the endowment value every year to run the college. If we didn’t earn money on the endowment, after 20 years it would be gone.

Collette Chilton: One of the most powerful things about Williams is its close-knit community. That’s what the endowment supports. Our student interns tell us what it’s like to work in their professors’ labs, go to their houses for dinner or stay in touch with them after graduation. It’s hard to put a dollar value on that.

Falk: Oh, we can put a dollar value on it. It’s the most expensive thing we invest in, and I’m super proud of it: our student-faculty ratio, seven to one.

Love: A lot of the endowment is also going to support students on financial aid, to make sure that the most talented students from around the world can come here, independent of their families’ financial circumstances. That’s at the heart of what we do.

O’Leary: What percentage of the endowment goes to financial aid?

Falk: In a sense, all of the endowment supports financial aid. Everything we pay for with the endowment we don’t have to collect in tuition. (Tuition covers 36 percent of the cost per student.) Over the past 15 years, the net tuition revenue hasn’t grown faster than inflation, and that’s possible because of the endowment.

Love: It’s important to keep in mind that it’s not a single endowment. We have 1,660 individual endowments. The smallest has a market value of $1,133. The largest is $100.3 million to support faculty and compensation. The endowments all have different restrictions and purposes, but they’re invested as one.

O’Leary: Can you explain the 5 percent benchmark?

Chilton: Five percent is what the college needs in order to cover 49 percent of its operating expenses. Every year we model our portfolio and then structure it to support the college and try to deliver 5 percent real return over the long term. There are some single years where we perform much better than that and others where we perform much worse, like during the financial crisis. What matters, though, is the performance over time.

Falk: We do everything we can to smooth out the ups and downs. Every dollar we spend is precious. As much as it’s a great benefit to Williams to have a large endowment that supports much of what we do, we know that extended periods of growth are often followed by corrections. We take a comprehensive view in the good times and the bad.

Chilton: We’re long-term investors. We make changes at the margin. We might move 1 percent from equities into hedge funds. We have very little exposure to bonds. In the financial crisis, we had much more exposure to debt.

O’Leary: Was that because of returns or because of the volatility you saw in the market?

Chilton: It’s really about the college. Considering how much of the budget we support, we need to be careful about volatility. We don’t want to have high highs and low lows. We want to chug along in the top half of our peer universe, because over long periods of time, that will be very good for us. (View annual investment reports here.)

Falk: As president, I find that very comforting. The idea that we’re not reacting to every perceived change in the economic environment matters a lot to me, because I think of leading the college as a very long-term play. Williams has been here for 200 years. We don’t change things quickly in our educational programs or residential programs. Being supported by an investment office and investment committee that also take a long-range, steady view in their values and approach fits with the philosophy of how we lead the college as a whole. (The investment committee consists of eight alumni volunteers who assume the fiduciary responsibility of investing the college’s assets.)

O’Leary: You’ve seen the study from (Stanford economist) Raj Chetty and his colleagues looking at how colleges shape students’ prospects of upward mobility. Eleven percent of Williams students come from the bottom 40 percent of the income bracket. How do you use the endowment to increase that number? Should you?

Falk: We do use the endowment, and we should. The most important change over the last 15 years at Williams has been the increasing diversity—in particular the socioeconomic diversity—of the student body. The endowment is critical to that because of the amount we’re able to put into our financial aid program, which has grown by a factor of four over the last 15 years. That speaks directly to recruiting students in the bottom 40 percent of the income bracket. We’ve also invested in recruitment. It’s not about whether we are selecting those students once they’re in our application pool. The work is to get those students in our application pool and get them to think about Williams, to think about the liberal arts, to think about coming to a beautiful and yet somewhat hard to get to corner of Massachusetts. Our ability to do that aggressively comes from the endowment. So, too, does our ability to support students when they get here. We make incredibly important investments into academic support, mental health services, the dean of the college’s office. We now have a dean who works with all our first-generation students and one who works with international students. We’re in a position to make those investments because of the endowment. They’re as important as financial aid and recruitment to true access to Williams.

O’Leary: The college is in year two of a $650 million campaign. Why do you need to raise the money?

Falk: Every one of us at the college, whether we’re a student, faculty or staff member, benefits from the philanthropy of those who came before. We are the beneficiaries of the commitment to Williams of past generations. That gives us a moral obligation to take the same responsibility for those who will be here in the next 200 years. We also raise money because we need Williams to become better and evolve in response to a changing world. That requires resources. It’s appropriate to look to those who have benefited from the college to provide the resources that will allow others to benefit in the future.

Love: It’s also a fact that every one of our students, even full-pay students, receives a substantial subsidy from the college—the gap between the sticker price of $65,480 and the actual cost of $105,000. Every single student is receiving value well in excess of what they pay. Also, our students are going to go on to generate an enormous amount of social good in the world. This guides our educational mission, and we want to make this place accessible to more students, independent of family means. This is fundamental to the college and a socially worthwhile purpose of philanthropy.

Falk: As is access to a Williams education. We have an aspiration that, over the generations to come, we should endow our entire financial aid program. Right now, about a third of our financial aid comes from dedicated endowments. With what we’re spending on financial aid today, if we raised another $600 million solely for financial aid, we could endow the entire program. That’s more than we can do in this campaign. But in declaring a goal of $150 million for financial aid, we are conscious that, over the next four campaigns, we can get to a point where the entire program is endowed.

Chilton: The investment office just had its 10-year anniversary, and we did some data mining on the money we’ve sent to the college and the number of students it affected. During those 10 years, 4,000 students received financial aid, and the entire financial aid budget for those 4,000 students was equivalent to the outperformance of the endowment versus the market. People think, “The endowment is so big. Why should I give?” It’s the engine of opportunity for the college. And it’s those 4,000 kids.

O’Leary: Let’s talk about divestment. We just finished the hottest year on record on this planet. Is it hypocritical to invest in products that are harming the world Williams students are going to graduate into?

Falk: If I thought divestment would make any significant difference in this critical, existential crisis facing humanity, I would do it. But I don’t think anyone’s made a remotely compelling case that divestment is a demonstrably effective step toward changing the behavior of corporations in our society.

O’Leary: There’s an argument that, if Williams divests, it sends an important signal to the world, even if it’s symbolic.

Falk: What’s the cost of a statement whose value is in its symbolism? What’s the cost of the ability to support the financial aid program or faculty relative to the impact of that symbolism? It’s an assessment that we are morally obligated to make. The only way to divest fully would be to change fundamentally the way Collette and her team invest the endowment—to give up the outperformance we’ve had over the past decade. As she said, the cost would be the entire financial aid budget over the last 10 years—and over the next 10 years. Choosing to invest in the sustainability of the campus and in the academic program is a more powerful statement about the college’s values. (Read the statement by the board of trustees and President Falk on climate change.)

O’Leary: The holdings in fossil fuels are in commingled funds; they’re not direct investments. What about putting those holdings behind renewables instead?

Chilton: That’s exactly what we’re doing with some of our funds. The investment office spent the last year mapping the market. We changed our policy statement to reflect the fact that we’re going to be doing impact investing. We sent a letter to all our investment managers asking them to keep in mind—to the extent that they can—when they’re investing that the college cares deeply about sustainability. That’s the only time in my 10 years here that we’ve sent a letter to every one of our investment managers on any topic. We recommended our first investment in alternative energy to the investment committee in September, and the committee approved it. Our average period to research and investigate any investment tends to be one year, whether it’s impact investing, venture or anything else. This money is incredibly important. It’s not ours. It belongs to everybody who touches Williams.

O’Leary: The planned investments in sustainability will total about $50 million over the next five years.

Falk: Yes. So that’s not $50 million in endowment. That’s the total investment in buildings, academics, community projects and impact investment.

O’Leary: Is $50 million enough?

Falk: Over the next five years, we believe $50 million is the amount of money we can spend responsibly. At the end of five years, we’re not finished. We’re going to look at the landscape of local renewable energy, at the academic program, at impact investment, at the college’s financial position and make decisions from there. However, I do not want to cut into the financial aid program in order to address sustainability. As important as climate change is, it’s not more important than access to Williams.

O’Leary: What is the biggest miscommunication between the college and its stakeholders when it comes to the endowment?

Falk: It’s the notion that the endowment is a large, static pool of money rather than a dynamic engine for everything we do here that is in our mission. It’s the impression that it’s a savings account—that we’re saving for later. But, in fact, the endowment works every single day to allow Williams to be the institution that it is. If we want to be the same college in 10, 20, 30 or 40 years, we have to earn on the endowment. If we want to do more, we need to grow it. The endowment is like your retirement account, but you never die. It’s the engine of this college, and we are so fortunate that for 200 years people have been contributing to it. It gives us a profound responsibility to steward it and use it to do the good things we do at Williams.

Love: The endowment allows us to bring talented students to campus. It allows us to put them in classrooms and laboratories with professors. It allows us to have tutorials. Everything that is part of our institutional identity is coming from the endowment.

Falk: There’s a question of responsibility—my responsibility—having come to a place that has so much. I don’t believe my responsibility is to give it away, because it was given to the college by people who wanted to support Williams. But the responsibilities are twofold. The first is to make this place as accessible as it can be to people from every corner of society. The second is to educate students in a way that allows them to go off and be effective in the world—to magnify their impact. The number of alumni doing remarkable things is far disproportionate relative to the size of each graduating class. Meaning, the scale of the impact Williams has on the world is not set by just 550 students a year. The scale has to be an impact worthy of a $2.3 billion endowment.

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Teach It Forward

The Campaign for Williams


Teach It Forward

Visit TIF Today to read the latest news about the college’s $650 million comprehensive campaign.

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