Former students employed on Hill
Cate Talbot Ashton â€™80 is a College graduate and the current assistant director of the Career Center.
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Do you ever wonder what it would be like to work on the Hill after being a student here for four years? How strange it would be to make the transition from being a student to being a colleague? There are, in fact, a whole list of professors and faculty members who currently work at the College after attending the institution themselves.
For Dan Cohen ’75, some of his fondest memories of being a Colby student were the midnight study breaks during exam week when the dining halls would serve donuts to late-night studiers.
“I remember one of these nights [with friends] looking up and realizing it was 5:00 AM and that we’d been arguing philosophy all night. That’s when I knew I wanted to be a Philosophy major,” Cohen said.
Cohen also knew after graduating that coming back to work at Colby would be his “dream job.” Luckily for Cohen, a spot in the Philosophy Department opened up and, after applying in 1983, Cohen returned to Colby, but this time as a Philosophy professor. Although everyone in the department had been one of his own professors, Cohen said that he “got lucky” because “the Philosophy department had a group of kind human beings who made the transition very easy.”
“It’s hard to say what has changed about Colby without talking about what’s changed about the country,” Cohen said when asked how different Colby is today compared to the early seventies. He did add that he believes “the student body has become much more professional and career-oriented.”
Cohen’s dream to be a professor on the Hill partially stemmed from his numerous experiences with inspiring philosophy professors while he was a student here. One of the most memorable was Bob Reuman, “an extraordinary teacher and philosopher,” Cohen said.
Cohen described his professor as being 6’5”, bald, constantly surrounded by a cloud of pipe smoke, a former football player and the head of his fraternity in college. Although Reuman had an intimidating exterior, he was an extremely “ethical, peaceful, and non-violent individual” who went to jail for refusing to register for the draft, Cohen recalled.
Reuman told Cohen that, “A philosopher who focused on metaphysics epistemology to the exclusion of ethics and social/political philosophy was, at best, only half a philosopher,” a quote that Cohen took to heart and that still guides his teaching today.
Unlike Cohen, Assistant Director of the Career Center Cate Talbot Ashton ’80 did not believe that she wanted to come back to work on the Hill.
“I think that the campus environment for women became a lot more positive when the fraternities were disbanded,” Ashton said, “and academically, the proliferation of interdisciplinary studies is amazing to see.” She added that she feels “the value of [her] Colby education has increased.”
Ashton was an English major and also had memorable professors such as Peter Harris and Charlie Bassett. Several of her classes were team-taught by two professors who, she remembers, would argue out ideas for the entire class period.
“It was a real awakening, learning that they didn’t have all the answers, and that what they were trying to teach us was that it was about seeking the answers ourselves,” Ashton said.
Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs Michael Donihue ’79 has been in the Economics Department for 21 years, and in academic affairs for two years, where he helps oversee the curriculum.
After college, Donihue worked at a computer-programming job and then went to graduate school, but never planned on returning to teach at Colby; in fact, he said that being an economics professor was the “one thing [he] never wanted to do.” But when a job position opened up, Donihue realized that “Colby was the perfect place” because it values good teaching and has high academic credentials.
Although Donihue said that “Colby has always been about engaging students…the amount of rigor in the classroom is much higher today.”
He also commented that he believes Colby is not as diverse as it used to be and blamed this on the cost of tuition of the school increasing steadily.
Some of Donihue’s favorite memories of Colby are the Outing Club trips he went on and his time as a member of the Woodsman’s Team where he was the token “computer-geek.” Since the team was in need of someone who had the ability to computerize the results of their meets, Donihue spent more time on the computer than actually competing in the events. Despite this, he said the team is “terrific – full of good people and it’s always been like that.”
Randi Arsenault ’09 works in Alumni Relations to help with planning alumnus events around the country. She had quite a different story of her transition from student to faculty member. “I knew senior year that, if I could, I wanted to stay,” Arsenault said. After graduating, she worked eight months alongside other alums for Robert Hoopes before hearing of a job opening on the Hill.
“As soon as I saw this job opening, I knew I wanted to come back, partially because I love Colby, but also because I wanted to help fellow students and alumni make those important connections,” Arsenault said.
As a government major, Arsenault said that Cal McKenzie and Sandy Miesel were two professors who, for her, “set the standard for the government department.” She said that they were both “very instrumental in [her] growth as a student,” and that they “continue to be role models.”
“I go to Cal McKenzie for advice about my job, just like I would for my papers,” she said. “He makes great personal connections with his students and inspires them to strive to a level of excellence that he lives by.”
One of her most memorable experiences was when Madeleine Albright came to speak through the Goldfarb Center. “It was great to see that people of such high profile are willing to get involved with the College,” Arsenault said.
Although she said that it is “completely different working here” and that she didn’t think it was possible, she loves it even more now.
“As a student you take for granted the people working behind the scenes. Seeing the passion of these people has inspired me even more. This is a great community,” Arsenault said.