Williams welcomes Alumni Speakers to inaugural year of Leadership Seminar Program

As part of Williams five-year strategic plan, Williams has enhanced its Personal Growth and Well Being offerings by adding a new Leadership Seminar Program. Led by Head of School Mark Fader and Assistant Head of School for Enrollment and Communications Sharon Gaudreau, the facilitators this year have chosen Sean Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens as a teaching tool to inspire students to work on characteristics that will help them become great people and leaders. 

Another important guide given to students enrolled in the Seminar is a 70+ page digital journal for them to complete during the semester-long program and then rely on throughout their lives.   To exemplify best habits, Williams invited two alumni speakers to share how their Williams experience combined with their own hard work and tenacity led them to their careers and leadership roles today. Laura Maricnek Purtell ’06 and Jared Klee ’09 serve on Williams Board of Trustees and shared words of wisdom as speakers during Williams leadership seminar in September.

Laura Marcinek Purtell graduated from Williams in 2006, she went on to UNC Chapel Hill and was an editor for the Daily Tar Heel.  She then worked for Bloomberg News covering Wall Street and the Financial Industry before joining the investigative team at ESPN. “We kind of cover the dark underbelly of sports…In the COVID era we’ve focused on how the sports landscape is shifting and where money is going and decision making around putting athletes back on the field, particularly at the college level.” 

Jared Klee graduated from Williams in 2009, and went on to Dartmouth College where he created his own major in Game Theory. After Dartmouth, Jared worked in a rotational program at IBM.  It allowed him to get exposure in different departments and build new skills. Ultimately, he worked in a lot of roles, starting in sales, moving into corporate development, cryptocurrencies, and more recently Jared left IBM and started a Financial Services company called Triple Point Liquidity. 

Thematically, Laura and Jared shared their experiences from Williams, through college, and along their career paths.  Both alumni passionately addressed the importance of self-care - the idea of filling your cup before you can serve others.  “I’m still learning that taking care of yourself is an important habit,” shares Jared.  “For me, that means going to the gym everyday, getting to sleep on time, and eating right. It’s really basic, but it’s often the first thing to go.” “The habit that you’re learning now about being responsible and taking responsibility for yourselves is the premiere thing that has gotten me to where I am today,” remarks Laura.  “It starts in high school —every assignment you have, every class you have, and everything that you perform well on leads you to do well on the next thing. If you’re able to take responsibility for the here and now and what’s right in front of you you’ll be able to find success in the future.”

Experiencing very different careers, both Alumni speakers commented on the importance of empathy, understanding, and listening. As an investigative reporter, Laura is grappling with the sensitivity it takes to communicate and understand those who have endured traumas, “One of the things I’ve had to manage particularly as a reporter in this group, there is a lot of mental blocking and tackling you have to do when you’re covering campus sexual assault and speaking with victims. It’s an emotional thing and it becomes a day-to-day challenge,” states Laura. While Jared works in a business environment, his empathy is utilized more managerially. “Figure out how to put yourself in others shoes,” suggests Jared.  “Repeat back to people what they said, ask follow-up questions, you may find out that you understand people in a very different way.  People really like to know that they’re being heard and understood. I point out these two things because they’re things I am actually bad at and it takes a lot of work to sharpen these skills.” 

The idea of sharpening your skills is an ongoing process for both of our Alumni Trustees interviewed for the leadership program.  Laura Marcinek Purtell shares, “As an adult in your career, being constantly open to learning and improving yourself is crucial to being successful and part of that is being humble ... you have to take a step back and realize you don’t know everything.” 

Seminar leader Sharon Gaudreau conveyed to students, “The same characteristics of both alumni I love most are their ability to be humble and their drive to constantly learn and grow — recognizing what they’re good at and what they need to continue to work on. These characteristics can help young people and adults lead and succeed.”