In the Fall, Jeffrey Rubel ’17, a geosciences major and student chair of the Committee on Educational Affairs, and Allegra Simon ’18, an economics and history major and College Council co-vice president for academic affairs, launched an initiative to encourage students to explore the liberal arts and the college’s curriculum. “ Your 32: Your Chance to Explore” urges students to challenge themselves and take classes outside their comfort zones. Rubel—who at this year’s Convocation received the Grosvenor Cup as the senior who has best demonstrated concern for the college community—talked to Williams Magazine about how students can make the most of their investment in Williams.
WILLIAMS MAGAZINE: What is Your 32?
JEFFREY RUBEL: Your 32 aims to create a culture of curricular exploration and encourage students to make the most of the 32 courses they’ll take during their time at Williams. It’s about not limiting ourselves to the academic areas where we’re comfortable but instead challenging ourselves through a wide variety of courses. Your 32 is built around the Williams drop-add period, which marks the start of every semester. The period allows students to switch courses during the first week of classes, which can feel transactional—a way to work out scheduling kinks. But I see drop-add as an opportunity to explore courses and make the most of the entire curriculum.
WILLIAMS: How do you encourage students to explore the curriculum?
RUBEL: To promote Your 32, Allegra and I created a campaign using Facebook cover photos, an all-campus email, posters, and a Snapchat geofilter. We showed a video during First Days in which students and faculty talked about courses that changed their lives. In the video, President Adam Falk discusses how a linguistics course he took in college shaped his outlook on community building at Williams.
WILLIAMS: How have you lived this idea?
RUBEL: In so many ways! In my sophomore spring, I took an incredible elective, The Cookbook through History, with Darra Goldstein (the Willcox B. and Harriet M. Adsit Professor of Russian). That class changed the way I think about the world by opening me up to the value of the humanities. I’m actually doing an independent study next spring with Professor Goldstein. It’s about food in retirement homes. More generally, though, since I took her class, I’ve aimed to take courses across disciplines and divisions. Beyond my geosciences major, I’ve fallen in love with art history courses, classes about storytelling, and, of course, food studies.
WILLIAMS: Why do you think it’s important for students to explore the curriculum?
RUBEL: Students have already invested in the liberal arts by choosing Williams. We want people to embrace this. While the courses we take are not “practical” in the strictest sense, we learn useful skills no matter what the subject is. However, every discipline we study at Williams will give us a different set of tools, so when we’re facing future challenges, we’ll have a wide-ranging skill set to draw upon. That’s part of the value of exploring the curriculum. And once we decide to learn for the sake of learning and to engage fully with the Williams curriculum, the courses we choose will give us stories and experiences that will carry us further in a job—and much further in life. Thus, by the end of our 32 courses, we’ll be more interesting people because we studied so broadly.
—Interview by Julia Munemo