What are some of your favorite memories of Macalester?
I have two sets of favorite memories:
First, the sense of personal empowerment that my professors gave me – particularly Chuck Green, Walt Mink and Dorothy Dodge. I came to realize this after I went to graduate school, earned a Ph.D. in political science, and taught at a research university. In research universities, success depends on focusing on research and graduate students and neglecting undergraduates. At Macalester, there is a first-rate faculty, committed to undergraduate education – and this is the key – who believe undergraduates are intellectually interesting people.
Second, the group of friends that were part of the Dayton Hall environment. This is the old Dayton Hall that was torn down to make room for the new Campus Center. It was a unique culture (perhaps that’s why it was slated for destruction) with a strong sense of belonging for many – but not all. The classic Dayton move was to register displeasure with the Macalester Student Government by declaring independence and seceding from the Community Council as the Dayton Free State: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that we are cool and the others are tools, and that we are endowed with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Decadence….” What may be surprising is several Dayton Hall residents during that time have served and are currently serving on the Board of Trustees.
What were issues students cared about while you were on campus?
As an undergraduate who arrived at Macalester in the fall of 1969, the issue most people (certainly draft-aged men) cared about was the Vietnam War. It was an interesting time to be a student (well, really to be young) when you felt that with enough passion and effort you could change the world. In some sense I think we did, but the world turned out to be more complicated than we thought.
As students transition out of the classroom, there is a fair amount of anxiety in the unknown. How did you learn to overcome the anxieties of failure and disappointment?
Failure and disappointment are part of living a life; moreover it seems to me irrational not to have some worry and concern about the future. The key isn’t to imagine that you can overcome these worries and concerns, but to endeavor to keep them from letting you get on with your life. Since failure and disappointment are certain, and worry and anxiety about the future is natural (and rational), the best solution I’ve come up with is to enjoy the good times and when bad times happen, is to be purposefully resilient and know you can overcome them.
Now you serve as the owner of AYM Research in San Francisco, a company that provides qualitative market research and analysis. What moments and decisions led you to this position? Are there lessons from Macalester that still resonate with you on this path?
The real answer is a series of happy accidents based on connections, friendships and opportunities. My career path was anything but a straight line: graduate school, academics, being part of an existing business, starting my own business. I think the best way to approach a career is to set out to do the next most interesting thing life presents to you. What I learned at Macalester was I had the potential to do (almost) whatever I set my mind to do and that whatever the future holds, I will somehow manage. It may not be the future I envisioned (I’m now engaged in a career I didn’t know existed when I was at Mac) but it will be interesting.
Why do you choose to serve on the Board of Trustees for Macalester? What do you do in this role?
There are two pieces to this answer: first is that Macalester represents a set of values I care deeply about and want to support and encourage. Second is that institutions, Macalester included, only survive and thrive with dedicated support and effort – they are not self-sustaining. The early 70s, when I was a student, were a very difficult time for Macalester (and many small liberal arts colleges): budgets were deeply in the red, full-time tenure track faculty were fired to save money, and members of the Board of Trustees had to personally guarantee Macalester’s salary checks to its faculty and staff because there wasn’t enough cash on hand to make the payroll.
My primary objective in serving on the Board – and really one of the core obligations of the Board – is to ensure the long-term survival of the College and the enhancement its mission.