by Drew Newman '04
Many people think of the Williams network as just a way to find their next job or make a career move. However, I have found that unexpected Williams connections have helped me in my job. In 2009, I was fresh out of law school and working for a member of the Washington, D.C., City Council. My boss asked me to draft legislation to improve nutrition and health in D.C.'s public schools. Knowing little and needing help, I sent a cold email (with "Eph" in the subject line) to Dr. Kathleen Merrigan '82, who was the deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, overseeing federal nutrition programs at the time. She quickly responded to my note and connected me with her staff, who provided much-needed technical assistance. I can only imagine how busy Dr. Merrigan must have been, leading an agency with a $100 billion budget and 100,000 staff members, and I am sure that she had countless other more important emails to respond to, but she took the time to respond to mine and help another Eph. I am sure that Dr. Merrigan doesn't remember this, but I have always remembered and appreciated her kindness, which has encouraged me to pay it forward and help younger alums in their careers whenever I can.