A Tutorial that Almost Wasn't

by Amanda Gallagher '90

In spring 1990, the tutorial program at Williams was relatively new. A senior, I registered for The Rise and Fall of the Cold War.  The topic was very timely (and the course, therefore, popular), because the Berlin Wall fell on Nov. 9, 1989. Not surprisingly, the class was oversubscribed. So, Professor Brian Duchin asked each of us to submit two paragraphs by that Wednesday or Thursday explaining why we wanted to take the class so that he could decide who would make the cut. After thinking about it, I decided that it was my senior spring and maybe I didn't want to take a class where I had to write a paper every other week. So I didn't submit anything, and started to look for another class to take. 

Then, that Friday, I was sitting with my friends at “Pub lunch.” I played rugby, and we generally tended to meet for lunch on Fridays at the Purple Pub. I happened to be sitting with my back to the window when one of my friends said, "Look, there's Professor Duchin!" And there he was, walking toward the Pub. He came up to our table and greeted those of us he knew—several of us had taken his classes before—including me. Then, he looked at me and said, "You didn't submit your explanation for why you should take my tutorial." I started to say that I had changed my mind when he interrupted me and told me that I was taking his class. 

This stayed with me for several reasons. First, here was a professor who knew enough about his students to have a pretty good idea of where I would be at lunch on a Friday (many of the rugby players who met for “Pub lunch” were history majors). Second, because I had taken several of his classes before, Professor Duchin didn't let me dodge and take the easy way out by opting for a more conventional class that would have been less work during my senior spring. He challenged me to rise to the occasion. Third, Professor Duchin’s tutorial was one of the most rewarding classes I ever took at Williams. I learned so much and my writing improved immeasurably. 

I believe that none of this would have happened at a different school. Williams is a school where professors know their students as people inside and outside of class. And the tutorial program doesn't let students get away with anything.

I am forever grateful to Williams for so many things, and I have so many stories of my time there. My tutorial experience, however, might be my favorite one, because it combines the rigorous academic standards of Williams with the personal connections that make it so very special.

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One comment on A Tutorial that Almost Wasn't

  1. Love this story, thanks for sharing Amanda! As a fellow rugger (class of ’99), I am especially here for the starring role of the Pub Lunch!

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