by Michael Rosenblum '76
I came to Williams in 1972 at the age of 17, far too young to start college. I had also come from an extremely sheltered childhood. For the first year or so at Williams, I pretty much drifted through.
In my sophomore year, I took a full-year course with political science professor Bob Gaudino. It was a very demanding course. Somewhere in the second semester, Gaudino pulled me aside.
"Mr. Rosenblum," he said, "you are wasting your time here. You should leave the school."
This was, of course, a bit of rather shocking advice. One does not expect to hear this from your professor, particularly as my grades were OK—not stellar, but I was not flunking out either.
Instead of allowing me to just drop out, Gaudino worked with me to create a program that he called “experiential education.” He ran a program called Williams at Home. We did it on a macro basis. The following year, instead of returning to Williams, I went to live with a family in Appalachia and got a job in a coal mine. From Kentucky, I went to Iowa, moved in with a farm family and went to work on their farm. From there, I was supposed to go to Detroit and get a job at the Chrysler assembly plant, but due to the oil crisis I got a job working on a construction crew instead.
Needless to say, when I returned to Williams, I came back a very different person. I had grown up. More to the point, I had gained enormous self-confidence. I dropped my poli-sci major and became a studio art major. I started taking courses in photography, which did not exist, but I put them together with Howie Levitz, who was the photographer for the Clark Art Institute. I rented a room from Tom Krens ‘69.
When I graduated from Williams, I got a Watson Fellowship and spent three years traveling the world, replicating the Gaudino experience but this time moving in with families in Gaza, Afghanistan, Sudan and so on, photographing all the time.
When I came back, I went to work in the TV business but soon set up my own companies, based entirely on the Gaudino experience. I gave all of my reporters their own video cameras and taught them to embed and film on their own. This became a fairly well-established and totally new way of doing TV journalism called MMJ or Video Journalism.
I went on to build TV stations and networks based on this model, from Current TV with Al Gore to NY1 to Sweden TV3. I am still doing this to this day, currently building out a national TV network for Spectrum News 1, still based on the Gaudino model.
So, yes, Williams changed my life, and an industry as well.