Speaker Series

On Monday April 4, 2022, Williams was honored to welcome back four alumni, Amy Celico ’87, Justin Florence ’96, Doug Cheeseman ’07, and Pablo Tutillo ’09, to speak about their experiences working in various Government agencies and beyond. While speakers visited both in-person and via Zoom, students in grades 8-12 came together to hear from these distinguished alumni and gain perspective and inspiration on this field of work and the impact they can make on the evolving world in which we live.

During the assembly, each alum spoke a bit about what they’ve done over the course of their careers, and answered questions from students. Additionally, they visited classes engaging in  discussions around bigger ideas relating to the course subject matter.

Throughout the Day alums visited classes. Justin Florence visited with Mr. Ladd’s US Government Class, where he explained different theories of why democracies have been in decline in recent years. His organization is appropriately named Protect Democracy. Amy Celico visited Ms. Schavoir’s class, Dangerous Women in Literature, where they discussed Celico's work with former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, what it means to be a "dangerous woman," and some of the difficulties and rewards of being a woman in a field that is predominantly male. Celico encouraged students to get involved in whatever way they can, emphasizing that individual voices coming together will be what makes lasting change.  Justin and Amy both visited Mr. Tresnan’s Isms class, an advanced elective course. Pablo Tutillo spoke to Senora Furgueson’s Spanish class, and Doug Cheeseman spoke to the 8th grade Geography class.

Students gained valuable ideas and inspiration that they can put into action as they explore their own career choices. Below is a sampling of questions posed to our alums and their responses.
Amy Celico ‘87
Principal, Albright Stonebridge Group

As a Principal of Albright Stonebridge Group, a part of Dentos Global Advisors, Amy develops and implements tailored strategies for corporate and non-profit clients, helping them navigate challenges they face in China to achieve their business and policy priorities in the China market. Previously, Amy served as Senior Director for China Affairs at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, and at the U.S. Departments of Commerce and State, including as a diplomat stationed in Beijing,Shanghai, and Washington, D.C. Amy currently serves on several Boards, including The Williams School’s Board of Trustees. She earned a B.A. with honors in Asian Studies from Mount Holyoke College, and completed her M.A. studies in International Economics and Strategic Studies at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Amy’s interest in China was sparked by her Williams School class on Chinese and Soviet history taught by the late, great Rick Dauer.

Justin Florence ‘96
Co-Founder & Legal Director, Protect Democracy

Justin Florence is Co-Founder and Legal Director of Protect Democracy. In that role he has overseen the organization’s work to advance its mission, including legal, policy, advocacy and communications strategies. Justin previously served in the Office of the White House Counsel as Special Assistant to the President and Associate Counsel to the President; as Senior Counsel on the staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee; and in the Supreme Court and Appellate practices of two leading national law firms. Justin is a Lecturer in Law at Harvard Law School, where he co-teaches the Democracy and Rule of Law Clinic. His writings on democracy and rule of law issues have appeared in publications including The New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times. He received his J.D. from Yale Law School.
Doug Cheeseman ‘07
Portfolio Manager, Grant Thornton Public Sector

Doug Cheeseman is a Portfolio Manager for Grant Thornton Public Sector where he oversees strategic consulting engagements at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).  He has more than 10 years of data strategy, analytics and policy consulting experience serving federal customers. He holds a master’s in public policy from George Mason University and a bachelor’s in management and marketing from Virginia Tech. He lives in Fairfax with his wife, daughter (aged 2) and their dog Carter. An avid Virginia Tech Hokie fan, when not supporting VT sports, Doug is baking, cooking or enjoying nature with his family.
Pablo Jairo Tutillo Maldonado ‘09
Foreign Service Officer, US Department of State

Pablo, who was raised in New London, CT, joined the U.S. Department of State as a Foreign Service Officer in 2019. Prior to coming to the Department, Pablo worked as a teacher, building monitor and legal assistant. For his first tour, he served as a consular officer at the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia, Liberia. At the moment, he is preparing for his next assignment at the U.S. Embassy in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. He went to Connecticut College for his undergraduate studies and the University of Washington in Seattle for graduate studies. He is conversational in Arabic, Hebrew, Turkish, Spanish, Portuguese and Tajik Persian.
    • Alumni Speakers 2022

      Amy introduces herself to students.

    • Alumni Speakers 2022

      Students at Assembly

    • Alumni Speakers 2022

      Mr. Ladd moderates questions for the speakers

    • Alumni Speakers 2022

      Students in "Dangerous Women in Literature" have a discussion with Amy

    • Alumni Speakers 2022

      Justin presents to the US Government Class

Q: What skills did you develop at Williams that have been most impactful in your careers?

Pablo: You may not be the best at something or the star of something but you can help other people get where they need to go and you can build your own skills and character. Teamwork and Group work are so important and I credit Williams for allowing me to develop that skill set. 

Both Justin and Amy spoke to the importance of writing and communication skills that they gained from Williams, including the important ability to craft an argument well to best get your point across.

Doug:  Sharpen your pencil. An entire idea may require ten pages to fully develop; however, distilling your idea into a succinct paragraph is a skill that you learn at Williams which can be applied in your career.

Q: A lot of you have talked about working within the government. How receptive do you find the government to be to diverse thoughts and change or alternative views?

Justin: The Government is really big, and it has a lot of parts and pieces. There are always going to be parts of the government that are incredibly resistant to change, but there are also pockets of the government that are super interested in change. One of the biggest assets of our democracy is bringing in a new administration every four to eight years that will always provoke change and new ways of thinking.

Amy: I started in the State Department under Madeline Albright and she did a lot to build and empower women to be front and center in decision-making on Foreign Policy in the US. A lot of my former colleagues from this time are now working in the State Department under the Biden Administration and they are continuing to try to promote enhanced diversity. It is a work in progress to promote not only the diversity of people, but of ideas. 

Being part of the process is the way to bring in diverse views.  All of us have different ideas of what priorities we should act on, but what is so encouraging to me is seeing so many of my colleagues being energized because it feels like it is their time to make change. These people go in, roll up their sleeves, and do the work to bring new ideas.  After college, you’ll find your time to make a difference as we think about domestic policy and foreign policy.  

Pablo: Working at different embassies all over the world, I’ve learned that we must adapt to change at all times, acclimating to different lifestyles as we move from country to country.  With different administrations you get different priorities and that impacts US Foreign Policy abroad and Domestic Policy and everything builds upon each other.   

Today, there’s a chief officer working on diversity issues in the State department. Foreign Service officers are the face of America to the world, and the task of this office is to promote diversity to the fullest. That means a lot of things –  bringing together people from different walks of life, different abilities, and different parts of the US. It also means bringing together people from different socio-economic, ethinc and experiential backgrounds. It is a huge effort and it is so important to be part of that process – every contribution matters. 

Q: As you’ve experienced success, what have been some challenges or instances of things not working out that you learned from?

Doug: Early in my career, I was doing a lot of data visualization. I was really good at turning data into visuals for higher ups, but I also wanted to do other types of work – policy, for example.
Having the confidence in yourself to raise your hand and say, “I’d like to do something different, I have these skills.” Hopefully the people in your organization are going to give you the opportunity to further yourself in your career in new areas.

In the difficult circumstances of a staff shortage, I stepped up, I volunteered to learn something A-to-Z that I had never learned before. You invest time and effort to learn what you need to know and to pull yourself together to make sure you are meeting the goals of the section of your team.  In those really difficult moments it’s how you address them that helps move you to the next level.

Amy: You’re going to take a job you think is going to be great, and in a year you’re going to say ‘really? This is what I wanted to do?’ In my first job in the State Department, as part of the Intelligence community, I was working in a safe, because so much of the information I was working on was highly classified. It made me realize that what I loved in my education and what I wanted in my work was to be able to be in discourse about these topics.  So I looked at what I wanted to do and I entered the foreign service to live and work in Shanghai.  I could be doing that same job of highly interesting work, but I ultimately realized I needed more. There are always opportunities to change your path.