Ann Stephany 87F - UMass Amherst

Fall of 87. I think academically it felt very liberating because I was able to have a lot of choice of what I studied and I also appreciated the depth to the classes. I really liked the DIV I structure so I could learn a lot of different things.

Hampshire definitely was a young college. I feel like it was in transition and having some growing pains. There was this great autonomy you had as a student, meaning we could have a lot of flexibility what we could do. There wasn’t really a strong sense of community my first year, but it grew my second year. It felt very isolated. I feel like when I talk to Hampshire alums from that period a lot of them felt the same way. Or else people found communities in their areas like halls. When in Hampshire you had to either fall into a community or place yourself into a group. I had some wonderful friends at Hampshire, but we had to create that despite the environment. I’m still in touch with people from my hall, so that was one community.

Back when I started Hampshire I was 17 years old and I looked like I was 13.  Pam Stone (now Director of Culture, Brain and Development Program) went to Hampshire and lived next to me in my hall (Dakin F1). She was one of the second years who took me under her wing. I was young and one of the few first years. Even though I wasn’t sheltered growing up at all, Hampshire was still a weird place to me. Sometimes I bump into old friends, but often I stay in touch through social media. That’s what’s nice about this generation; you can stay in touch with people easily.

Anyway, the Dakin bathrooms were definitely weird. I’d walk out of the shower and there could be a group of guys walking through who weren’t even from the college. My first year, I loved my art classes and I loved the friends I made. I’d go into Amherst and Northampton a lot. I started Five Colleges classes my second semester which was a big mistake in an intensive language class. But there are exceptions to some of the rules, I found. When there is a rule, look for the exception if it is for a good reason. I really wanted to study Japanese and I could never catch up from missing the first semester. My biggest take away at Hampshire College was learning how to work through and around systems. I would go to Smith College five times a week then. I took a bunch of classes in Asian studies here at UMass. I did a lot of Art in my DIV I, and Asian studies for DIV II. Then I did biology (herbology) for my DIV III. I did the two year plan, actually 5 semesters, because I did an internship and took classes at UMass. I didn’t have the money to go to Hampshire full time for four years, so I had to be very creative and they allowed that at the time, which completely paid off for me. My point is Hampshire taught me how to be creative in my education.

Between Ken Burns and Abraham Ravett, Hampshire became known as a film school during that time, so many came to study film. Ken Burns being from Hampshire becoming so famous on documentaries was a positive thing for Hampshire and I’m sure great for recruitment. But it did affect students who wanted to do film as we could hit a ceiling. As I recall, I was not allowed into the film classes unless I declared my DIV II to be in film. That’s why I stopped art at Hampshire. It’s not untypical. It’s seen at UMass, too, that you have to be a major to be in certain classes. I just think you shouldn’t just have film students in film classes, but you should have psychology students, too, for example. That’s why I ultimately choose Asian studies for my Div II instead of Art. Then, I did my DIV III on watery compost extract. What I was doing was comparing pesticides to water compost extracts which I found to be as or more effective than pesticides. I had worked at Maplewood Organic Farm which is now shut down. I still love environmental sciences and nature courses.

I heard there were exams maybe in some of the math classes, 87 to 91, I didn’t experience any exams or grades, nor had I heard of it. I think the evaluations are a much better system. They might have sent our evals at the end of the year. I do remember going into Central Records and reading the evaluations. It’s a narrative that has positives and areas of growth. I found it to be much more thorough than a grade. I’m pretty sure they mailed them. It wasn’t a problem. In fact I think it made for less anxiety. My daughter is so stressed out about her grades. We were just a way less stressed culture. You had to have more acceptance and patience. It wasn’t more stressful, it was less stressful.

As for the student culture, I loved the shows at Hampshire, especially the bands in SAGA. There were shows in the Tavern, too. Somehow I was away when Phish played at Hampshire. They played at the Red Barn in 1988. The other band that was really big was Dinosaur Jr. One of their first recordings was from a Hampshire Dorm room. I remember meeting the drummer in Dakin, after they returned from a Europe tour. They played SAGA in 1986 before my time, but were known as a Hampshire College Band. 1988 got really crazy. Naked Frisbee was a big thing for some students. And another thing was cramming as many people into a sauna and then running out into the snow. I learned to avoid the quad! There were a lot of rallies. I remember we were protesting apartheid in South Africa, and wanting SAGA to stop divest. I think president Greg Prince handled more student protests than Adele Simmons. I honestly don't have many recollections of interactions with the Presidents, though. I know Jonathan Lash better than the others. I was there for his inauguration. I brought my kids and it was an amazing. We loved hearing him and Al Gore. I remember that for my graduation in 1991, M. Scott Peck spoke and my Dad loved it!

Overall, I really liked the academics and I really liked what I got to study. It was more like a graduate class level work. And I liked the Five College classes. The other thing I am grateful for was the work study opportunities. I worked at the Children’s Center [Early Learning Center] and I worked at a Women’s Center. The Children Center’s had a big impact. That’s why I really got into education. So when I graduated from Hampshire, I really wanted to work with kids. I loved being creative with them. Then I went to be a Guidance Counselor and then an Assistant Principal in local public schools. Now I support student teachers at UMass across all our licensure programs. Any students on campus that are seeking licensure I help to create and implement the systems for their experiences in schools, most commonly student teaching. I train all the participants in the schools to our supervisors here.

It’s really interesting how my career path evolved. I used the career services at Hampshire as an alum. I went back to career services and I did career interest inventories. It really helped me narrow down what area I wanted to be in, and I was interested in education. And counseling came out high, as well as architecture as I loved art. But school counseling was a good fit for my family, so that’s why I started in education as a guidance counselor. I had already worked in preschools and people with disabilities. It was a good segue into education

It’s going to be five years this summer working at UMass. Before that I was an assistant to the department chair here while I was a doctoral student. I love working with faculty and I love working with people in the schools. I feel like our philosophy is very healthy. We want our faculty to run their programs and I want to be a support to the programs so they can do their work. That’s my philosophy of support. I don’t think good leadership usually takes place from the top down, but rather from understanding and empowering.

On paper, it doesn’t look like Hampshire impacted me, but it was those other avenues that impacted me. My doctoral studies were on project based and interdisciplinary learning. And that’s what Hampshire College is. After Hampshire, I saw schools that didn’t have it. That’s what I studied for years, public schools that have excellent project based learning. Finland is doing this type of interdisciplinary learning now in their public schools. It’s a way of learning some call progressive education that inspires and gets people thinking. It’s about the process of learning and that can be lacking in a lot of the current educational policies. Hampshire has that type of educational model that fosters this incredible learning.

It’s not what you study at Hampshire, but how you learn. That’s the difference Hampshire made in me when I went out to the world afterwards. I was always critically thinking, asking “why is that?” I deeply think about each issue. It’s not superficial. I go for a deep understanding, to understand the systems underneath and why we do what we do. If we understand that, we can make changes for the better.

Ann 87F currently works as a Field Experience Specialist at the College of Education, UMass Amherst and has been working there for five years. 

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