Williams people aren’t always at ease talking about themselves; they’re far more comfortable singing the praises of others at Williams—their professors, fellow students and staff members. So as graduation neared and we asked seniors about their plans for the future, they were happy to talk about members of the campus community who had played some role in those plans and in their lives at Williams. For Emmanuel Whyte ’13, a studio art and psychology major who’s headed overseas on a Watson Fellowship to paint portraits and explore his identity as a black, American man, that person was his art professor, Mike Glier ’75, whose own work painting landscapes has taken him around the globe. Carrie Tribble ’13, a biology and environmental studies major who will be studying medicinal plant populations in rural Peru on a Fulbright grant, says Lili Rodriguez ’01, director of the college’s Davis Center, was a role model for her own activism on campus. And twin brothers and history majors Hill Hamrick ’13, newly commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps, and Ladd Hamrick ’13, who has a job on Wall Street with J.P. Morgan, each cited the other as a significant influence on his life. We listened in on conversations between each pair, excerpts of which we share on the following pages.
Three Conversations from 2013
Seeing and Being Seen: Mike Glier ’75 and Emmanuel Whyte ’13
Mike: Did you get any interesting feedback from your senior exhibition at WCMA (the Williams College Museum of Art)? What did people say to you about the drawings?
Emmanuel: This is what my mother told me, because her husband was going around listening to people and taking pictures. They said, “Everyone really likes your hand.” My hand, my style, becomes a thing, and what I create with my hand—it becomes recognizable, you know? It was good feedback, and it made me realize that I’m actually doing something worthwhile.
Mike: Yeah, I understand. As an artist, when you’re doing a portrait you feel obliged to represent the person and make it look like them. But you also have to leave something of yourself there, right? Sometimes I’m in a place that’s so beautiful and special, and I feel I have to render the landscape exactly, with respect and awe for the thing. But then I have to loosen up and become more abstract and put my own mark on it.
Emmanuel: One thing that was especially hard for me was the subject matter of my portraits. I’m trying to represent black men—me, the guys who sat for me. I’m stripping them of their agency to place them in a particular way. I feel like it goes against what I’m trying to accomplish. The more control I have as an artist, the more I’m reinforcing these things that I’m trying to examine in terms of black male identity.
Mike: Which is something you’ll continue looking at during your Watson fellowship. You’ll be traveling—
Emmanuel: I’m going to France, Italy, Ghana and Japan for a year to situate myself in the art communities and be surrounded by artists. I’m going to be doing a lot of portraits and also see how I’m viewed as a black male within these environments. France is very complex in terms of race. Ghana—that’s going to be the first place that I’ve ever been that’s predominantly black, so I want to see what happens when my skin color is erased and I’m in a place where the only way I’ll be recognized as being different is my walk, the way I talk, the way I dress. In Japan, I’m going to be black. Big.
Mike: You and I have this traveling/drawing project thing in common. I’ve traveled to many locations around the globe doing landscapes, and I started a blog to keep in touch with family and friends. I found it to be such a great way to integrate language and image for an artist, and then the blog took off and wound up having a life of its own and became a book. Maybe you should think about starting a blog. For me it was a way to deal with loneliness I felt when I was traveling.
Emmanuel: I’m not worried so much about loneliness. I’m inviting it. Here at Williams, I’ve never been challenged socially to go out and make friends, because even when you’re hiding, people know where you are. I don’t want to thrive on loneliness; I just want to see how I respond to it. My Watson project’s about being seen; in situating myself in places where I’ll be seen, whether it’s drawing in public or going to an artist’s workshop, I’m going to meet a lot of people who are either interested in my work or are artists themselves.
Mike: You’re going to have such a great time! Our lives overlap in another way. I was also a psych major and an art studio major at Williams. What about you as a psychologist?
Emmanuel: Right now I’m thinking about art history, as strange as that sounds. You know where I came from—as public as a school can get, and a lot was against me. I learned how to ask questions here. And what I want to do in the future is be an educator and make things more accessible. I’m talking about children in under-resourced environments not being able to have art training or never thinking that art is something that can take them far or be a means to express themselves—which I think is probably the most important thing I got out of Williams.
Mike: I love the idea of you being a teacher. Really good teachers have emotional intelligence, and I’ve always thought that about you. You’ll run a dynamic classroom, but you’ll have that kind of sensitivity to individuals that really makes the difference.
Emmanuel: When I took your class “Creating Bodies” four years ago, it took so much for me to speak in front of the class the first time. I was just shaking, holding that paper and reading it aloud. Teaching other black children like me, or kids who come from poor backgrounds, is something that’s very, very special. I want to teach them to ask questions, to be curious and constantly scrutinize their environment and their place and these power dynamics. They don’t have to do anything crazy but just ask questions and don’t be oblivious.
Emmanuel Whyte ’13 of Bennington, Vt., graduated with honors in art and psychology. He is a member of the scientific research society Sigma Xi and a Thomas J. Watson Fellow. Mike Glier ’75 has taught at Williams for 25 years and is the recipient of a National Endowment grant for drawing and a Guggenheim Fellowship for painting. Information about his blogs, books and art work is available at www.mikeglier.net.[top]
Asking Life’s Questions: Lili Rodriguez ’01 and Carrie Tribble ’13
Lili: What was it like transitioning to Williams from Hawaii as a first-year student?
Carrie: My entry was a great support system. I also had the support of the Queer Student Union (QSU). I went to meetings regularly my first semester and at the end of the semester ended up moving into Hardy House—
Lili: That’s right! Was the takeover of Hardy House the first activist movement you participated in at Williams? (QSU members occupied Hardy in 2009 in response to homophobic graffiti found in a residence hall.)
Carrie: Absolutely. It allowed me to really get to know people in the QSU and feel as if that was our space; we belonged there and had a support system and knew the administration wanted to make things better. That was a really good first-semester introduction to Williams.
Lili: So you were initiated.
Carrie: It was all a big initiation rite into the Williams activist culture.
Lili: Science majors here at Williams don’t usually become heavy student activists. Part of that has to do with time—with so many lab requirements. How do you manage?
Carrie: Especially this year, trying to figure out how to divvy up my time between two very prominent projects that I care about deeply was very, very difficult. I had my biology thesis (on the effect of climate change on a population of arctic plants in Lake Superior), and I was co-chair of the Minority Coalition.
Lili: Do you feel your courses gave you perspective on social issues that scientists need to engage in?
Carrie: I took biology classes that were focused on populations and the relationships between populations, which lends itself to a type of thinking that’s more in line with the work I’ve done with community building.
Lili: And you’re fascinated by cultures. Your study abroad experience with the School for International Training in Peru was clearly transformative.
Carrie: One of the memories that stands out is when I was working on my final research project for the program and went to live with a community in a very remote part of Peru—a 700-person town at 4,000 meters elevation. My host family, except for my host father, spoke entirely Quechua. I was fluent in Spanish, but Quechua was definitely something I had to work on. I was only there for 10 days, and I remember the first couple of days feeling so isolated, not being able to communicate with anyone, not being able to talk. Then I developed a connection with my host mother and was able to sit down with her in the field while we were grazing the animals and point to a plant and say the plant’s name in Quechua. And she’d say yes and then point to another plant and say its name and half mime, half talk in Quechua the medicinal uses of that plant. I felt as if I had broken through a communication barrier and was able to really relate to her and to the family.
Lili: So when you went abroad it all started to come together for you—blending your sense of social activism with your major in biology and concentration in environmental studies. How do you see that continuing, and which—I don’t want to dichotomize it because I think both of them can coexist—but which of those fields are you most compelled by? Carrie: It’s interesting that you use the word “dichotomize,” because I dichotomized the two until senior year, when I started having to think about what I want to prioritize after graduation. I felt really resistant to having to choose one area over the other. I think that’s why the Fulbright was appealing to me. Lili: You just learned today that you were chosen for a Fulbright. You’ll be going back to Peru, right? Carrie: Yes, to study wild medicinal plant populations, looking for effects of climate change. I’m interested in how conservation biology can work alongside indigenous knowledge preservation to protect vulnerable species—part of the larger question of how science can best be used for the good of the people that need it, and how the needs of the people can direct the research that science does. I’ve always thought science should be used for the people. Whether that’s in environmental advocacy work—looking at environmental racism or justice—or I take a public health approach, I’m not sure yet. But I want to continue asking those questions, critically analyzing science and what science can be used for.
Carrie Tribble ’13 of Honolulu, Hawaii, is interning at the Genetic Alliance in Washington, D.C., before beginning her Fulbright-funded research in the fall. A member of Phi Beta Kappa and the scientific research society Sigma Xi, she graduated magna cum laude and with highest honors and several prizes in biology and botany. Lili Rodriguez ’01 served as director of the Davis Center at Williams until July, when she was named associate dean for diversity, inclusion and community development at Swarthmore.[top]
Living Principles: Ladd Hamrick ’13 and Hill Hamrick ’13
Hill: I don’t think it was really until sophomore year that our paths seriously started diverging. I started taking Arabic, and we both made our separate decisions on what we were going to do that summer. I went to Quantico, Va., for Officer Candidate School (OCS) with the Marines for six weeks—
Ladd: And I did an internship in finance, just to see if I liked it. But we were still spending a lot of time together. We ended up living together during fall of junior year, playing football, so it wasn’t until the middle of junior year that I think our relationship changed fundamentally.
Hill: You think our relationship changed fundamentally?
Ladd: I mean that you went abroad for Winter Study our junior year, and by the time you came back from Jordan I’d already left for my semester in Istanbul. Then you were gone to Quantico for your second session of OCS before I got back to New York for the summer, so we spent half a year apart from each other. It was the first time we had been physically separated for a period of time. And I think it changed our relationship. But it gave me confidence that as we moved along our separate career paths—
Hill: You weren’t in my life in such a direct, tangible way then. But I don’t think it changed the way we think about each other or the fundamentals of our relationships as people who spent the past 21 years of our lives together. Though on the surface we look very similar, do similar activities, we’ve maintained our independence. Our close friends and family would say we have very distinct personalities.
Ladd: But our paths are diverging now, and we laid the groundwork for that when I accepted my internship at J.P. Morgan (doing investment banking) and you graduated from OCS. There haven’t been many people who have come out of Williams and gone into the Marine Corps. And nobody in our family has joined the military and served for a significant period of time.
Hill: We’ve both been very fortunate in our lives to be given tons of opportunities—academic, athletic, extracurricular. And I’ve always felt, and I know you feel the same way, a desire to serve and to give back to community, to society, to an institution that has given us so much. The Marine Corps offered me—we’ve talked about this—the most challenging, productive initial path right out of college to pursue. I mean, it’s hard to find a more demanding job for a 22-year-old than serving as a Marine Corps second lieutenant, responsible for up to 40 Marines’ lives and actions.
Ladd: Talk about how your study of history and Arabic influenced your decision to join the Marines.
Hill: Well, my interest in the military was first inspired by our involvement with Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade. That’s how I got interested in the Middle East, as well, because I saw our supposedly all-powerful military getting bogged down in two countries that I didn’t know much about. So I started doing more intensive reading on both wars and the regions and the history, and it became more fascinating, complex and more interesting to me. That’s why I pursued history at Williams as a major and the Middle East as a concentration, which helped me focus on a wider range of topics, including Arabic language, not just the military. The social, economic, political and cultural factors play a large role in military operations in the region. And if we’d had a better understanding of all those factors when we went into Iraq and Afghanistan, we would have been better equipped to perform there. So my education at Williams prepared me to think critically and have a broader perspective in the Marines.
Ladd: That’s pretty much the same reason I decided to study history, which I extended by studying political science, as America, especially its foreign policy, became bogged down. We grew up in the financial crisis at a time when bankers—investment bankers—were vilified as corrupt, greedy and even immoral. So I wasn’t entirely confident initially that I wanted to join that profession. It made me uncomfortable to tell people that my twin brother was going into the Marine Corps while I was going to Wall Street. But my internship convinced me of a lot of the things your summer in Quantico convinced you of, in that I knew this was an environment where I would be challenged. I would be able to maintain my morals and work with very smart people. I would be given a lot of responsibility. I learned a lot about investment banking but even more about pushing myself, being accountable. I’ll always fit time for serving others into my career no matter what I do or where I am. We have a certain set of principles and a desire and determination to work hard.
Hill: That’s one thing we both want to do—fulfill our potential. That’s a way of repaying everybody who’s helped us along the way and for all the opportunities we’ve been given.
Thomas Hilliard Hamrick ’13 and William Ladd Hamrick ’13 of Charlotte, N.C., graduated magna cum laude and are members of Phi Beta Kappa. Hill won second place in the Erastus C. Benedict, Class of 1821, Prize in History. Ladd won the 2013 Ephmanship Award.[top]