William and Mary
Stephen Bennett
Stephen Bennett

About  Posts

Hometown: Basking Ridge, NJ
Class of 2014
Majors: History & Finance

Ghana for Four Days: How to Use the Liberal Arts

November 6, 2013 by

I hope everyone had a great summer. I am sure there were many internships, jobs and needed relaxing. I traveled to Ghana. I traveled with one of William & Mary’s Social Entrepreneurs, Ali Siddiqui, who serves on the board of the Acumen Fund, the world’s largest social investor, and runs a private equity shop in Pakistan. We traveled to a social enterprise investment in the greater Accra-Tema area that focused on cultivating rice. It contributed to the local community with jobs and opportunities. Mr. Siddiqui provided insight into the importance of understanding the community and being transparent and honest with the community. Foreigners and Ghanaian people operated it, but they distrusted the foreign element in the community. The business owners gave us a tour and explained how Acumen and the community jointly owned it. Although a simple business it was the Acumen fund that helped get it off the ground that gave jobs and social benefits to the people in the surrounding community.

Adam, another student, and I then proceeded to travel with Mr. Siddiqui for the next couple of days as he evaluated the business opportunities in the country for his private firm. We visited various government offices and local business leaders. It opened my eyes to the world of international investing. Mr. Siddiqui examined the ports, the type of infrastructure, the type of raw materials and their quality. He needed to look beyond just economic concerns though. He needed a  multifaceted perspective because he had to analyze the culture and the government structure. My liberal arts education from W&M came alive in Ghana as I realized the importance of evaluating each perspective. The College has taught me to blend all the subjects together to really see the greater picture. My anthropology class mixed with my economic development course, which blended with my finance and history courses. I felt that the experience had a greater impact because of my liberal arts background.  This provided better insight into understanding international investing, social enterprise, and international relations all in four days in Ghana. I still cannot believe I spent four days there that exemplified the importance of liberal arts and gave me a goal for my career.

The College is a truly special place that extends well beyond the campus. It extends to places where William & Mary students gain these truly unique experiences that open their eyes to the importance of a liberal arts background. William & Mary students continue to learn and pursue unconventional paths because the school continues to offer great opportunities like my trip to Ghana. I went from ushering the Commencement ceremony, to spending a week at the beach with my improv group, to learning about social enterprise and global investing in Ghana, to working in New York City for my summer internship and it made my summer unforgettable. It was a crazy start, but this is the college experience that I can only expect from William & Mary.

Roll Tribe from Ghana,

Stephen Bennett

A Different Kind of Spring Break

March 17, 2013 by

I finally finished my first week back after spring break of my junior year at The College. It was a unique experience, but nothing unexpected from The College. I initially traveled down to Myrtle Beach in South Carolina with some friends who were staying all week and relaxing together. I enjoyed my time hanging out and catching up with my friends while experiencing the wonderful Myrtle Beach. After two days with my friends. I jumped back into my car and continued through the back country roads of South Carolina seeing all the beauty of the American South that the interstates usually miss.

I then traveled down I-95 through North Carolina, Georgia, and finally Florida. The first week of March means that only in Florida is it 70 degrees and constantly sunny. I drove down the coast (not literally, but on an interstate unfortunately) continued on I-4 and made it to Orlando.

What is in Orlando? Well, Professor Sean Tarter of course! I decided to spend the majority of my break down in Orlando with Professor Sean Tarter of the Economics Department who teaches Applied Financial Derivatives (I highly recommend it) along with 5 other current students, a graduate of The College who lives in Chicago, and even a student from Norway. The student from Norway came because her older brother graduated from The College and took Professor Tarter’s class and told her she needed to experience the teaching, the experience, and the legend that is Sean Tarter. We all decided to sacrifice a week in Orlando (the horrors) to attend his Institute for the Study of Advanced Applied Financial Derivatives, or ISAAFD. Each day we learned about advanced mathematics and financial models, and how to apply them to finance. This was a very challenging and riveting experience. The students would gather after a lecture sit by a pool and review the lecture of the previous night. We covered so much material in a short amount of time, but it was worth it. I came out of it appreciating mathematics even further and reconsidering my world once again.

I write this post to articulate how The College has changed my life. The College allows professors the opportunities to really connect with students and provide unique avenues to continue their studies. Professors want to engage with their students. I have come to know my professors family and become closer with my fellow students as me attempt and succeed at understanding these advanced topics. Professors truly want to know their students at The College. My professor, fellow students, and I spent the early evenings discussing theology and philosophy and then spent the night talking about how missile guidance systems relate to finance and advanced modeling techniques sometimes until 4am. This is not your typical spring break and is not a typical William and Mary trip, but this opportunity is only possible at The College of William and Mary.

This professor was willing to give his time, energy, and even his wife’s (spectacular) cooking to students who had developed an insatiable interest in quantitative finance after experiencing his class. Professors at The College of William and Mary are not only dedicated to their students, but they inspire their students and even change their lives. I am grateful to Professor Tarter and his family for the opportunity they gave all of us.

I finally left Orlando and headed up to North Carolina to visit a friend of mine at another university. While I was there I began to comprehend how special the previous four days had been. I stayed for two days and then returned home to Williamsburg. The entire journey was a great experience listening to music or Game of Thrones on tape as I drove through the South, but getting back to campus always fills me with a subtle excitement. The College of William and Mary is my home in Williamsburg, but The College is anywhere and everywhere that you experience The College even sometimes in Orlando.

Only at W&M,

Stephen

Innovation and Cutting Edge Classes Challenge My Perspectives

January 2, 2013 by

Winter break is always a great time for family, friends, food, holiday spirit, but also for reflection on the past semester. I noticed something about my past two semesters:

I just finished a marketing class in the business school recently originally titled Marketing Sustainability. I decided to take it because I enjoyed Intro to Marketing and I have always been a sustainability focused person. It sounded interesting and my marketing professor recommended it, so why not take it?  When I walked into the class the name had changed to Sustainability In Design. The course would focus on sustainability frameworks and introduced the class to designing thinking before Fall Break, then after Fall Break it would transition into a design course in the brand new design studio. Once Professor Luchs said this to the class and went over the syllabus everyone’s mouths dropped and you could hear the collective thought floating around: We get to do this?! We integrated the course with the 3CS Conference hosted by the undergraduate business school and W&M’s Net Impact chapter. The class walked us through design thinking’s various stages and offered insight into product design and problem solving. The best part is the classroom space.

The class room challenges students to think differently about problem solving and allows a warm and creative space in which to operate. This is a new class rethinking how to do product design, how to redesign the classroom space, and how to approach teaching in a different manner. The classroom challenged the notion of what a classroom experience should be. The professor was a guide helping think through our thought process and gave us advice and new ideas and perspectives to consider. The classroom was open and flexible with everything in the room a prop or tool. Some of the walls were even whiteboards. We would be challenged to work with our teammates that all had different perspectives and ideas. The class was so different and comprehensive, and yet it was something I expected at William & Mary because it student was focused and discussed a subject the professor wanted to teach about. We left with ideas about answering the question: How can sustainability and design thinking offer better products and meet unmet needs in the marketplace?

This class is just one example of how William & Mary continues to be on the cutting edge and promote innovation in the undergraduate experience.  I also took a History of American Capitalism class. This class covered the financial panics of the United States in 1792, 1819, 1837, 1857, 1873, 1893, 1929, and the oil shocks of the 1970s. The class was an interesting mix of history, economics, and business majors. Everyone was interested in learning this history and Professor Nelson just released his book about the subject: A Nation of Deadbeats, making the class a hot commodity. It was a new class being offered to undergraduates as this country’s economy struggles after a new financial panic. I remember when the crash was happening in 2008 the comparisons that were being made to the Great Depression and the crash in 1929, but my professor said the crash resembled 1873’s panic. He made several predictions what would occur, and was right. The class reemphasized the importance of understanding multiple disciplines to reconsider our views of the world at a very relevant time in US history. The class was interdisciplinary with topics covering economic philosophy, credit markets, currency history. This class challenged us to consider different economic philosophies and discover which answer seemed most appropriate for the question: What caused this panic?

In the Spring 2012 semester I took a class with my major advisor, African Diaspora before 1492. The class discusses and investigates the travels of sub-Saharan African people outside of Africa before the much more well-known slave trade time period. Again, it was a subject I had never considered, but a subject I wanted to learn about after Professor Pope had caught my interest in early African history. At the end of the class my professor said he searched around the country for another class like it and said his class is the only one at the undergraduate level to discuss this material. It fascinated me that I was learning about a subject that very few in the world would have known about or even considered. This class challenged our notions of history and how we view history’s context. It also had us view world history differently as we looked at the Indian Ocean trade and how Europe became a part of it. I walked away challenging my perspective of how the world is viewed historically. I left thinking: why do we view history the way we do?

Each of these classes demonstrates how William & Mary continues to offer its professors the opportunities to teach about subjects they want to introduce to undergraduates. Professors at W&M care about the undergraduate students and want to bring interdisciplinary classes and rare topics to the undergraduate experience. I continually am impressed with the professors and how well versed they are in so many topics. The College continues to push the undergraduate experience with classes that are different, unique, or innovative. Students are always pushed to be reconsider and think differently in these unique classes. This has been part of William & Mary since 1693 and continues today. Find these classes and don’t be afraid of classes of rare material or unknown subjects as the school innovates and offers its students a unique classroom experience with unconventional classrooms and unknown subjects. We are truly a liberal arts university offering unique student centered classes with professors that want to teach while allowing professors to offer classes about subjects that are new and fresh in the academic world. I will continue to ask questions and reconsider my perspective. I am lucky to attend The College of William & Mary.

Tribe Pride Innovation,

Stephen

The Value of Leadership in Fraternity Life, by N. Hampson

September 19, 2012 by

Guest blogger: Nick Hampson, a fraternity President and senior from New Jersey, writes about the value of leadership in fraternity life.

I am a proud member of the Greek community on campus. My decision to join my chapter was one of the most formative of my college experience. This is becoming clearer and clearer to me as I experience the “I’m a senior, I’m going to miss this” moments more and more. What makes me appreciate the bonds I’ve formed through my fraternity is that all these moments seem to be centered on the people and experiences I have been afforded since becoming a brother.

As I see it, you join a fraternity for one basic overarching reason: to enhance your college experience in as many ways as possible. With this in mind, there are two central benefits I see in being part of a brotherhood. These two benefits are the quality of people you surround yourself with that encourage you to reach your full potential, and the support network you have in your brothers when hard times come. Allow me to elaborate.

When I was a kid my dad refused to buy a basketball hoop for our driveway. No matter how many times I put it on my Christmas list or begged him to get even the cheapest one at Sports Authority, he wouldn’t budge. Instead, since the time I was old enough to be able to hoist the ball up to the rim on a regulation 10-foot hoop, he insisted that I go up to the courts a few minutes away from my house and play there. For a while I thought he was just stingy. But part way through high school I began to realize that the reason I could hold my own in any style of a game, be it the packed YMCA gym in urban Hackensack, NJ, or the pristine high school gymnasium of Ramapo High School as the varsity captain of my team, was because I had been able to identify myself as a player and improve by playing against players who were always – until a certain point – better than me up at the Berdan Grove courts. I hadn’t just stayed home in the driveway shooting hoops by myself. I see joining a fraternity the same way. You are making that commitment to “play ball” with men who will push you to be better and achieve that ideal that you want to move towards. If you surround yourself with men who take the right things seriously and strive to live meaningful, successful lives, it will rub off on you and you’ll be better for it. This also means that your selection of organization is of the utmost importance. Finding a chapter that lines up with the values you want to hold yourself to is not always easy, but it will make your experience that much more rewarding.  Different fits are best for different people and identifying where it is you’re the most comfortable, while still feeling that you’re pushing yourself to be a better man, is where you should join.

It would be all well and good if we could put these huge expectations on ourselves, challenge ourselves, and simply succeed every time. The truth is, though, to my understanding, that is not how life works and certainly not how college works. There are times when you’ll mess up, times when you’ll lose confidence, and occasionally in those times, life will send you something else to kick you in the teeth. I don’t know about you, but when I had times like those in high school, I had family and friends who knew how to get me back in the swing of things. When you’re a long way from home, those days can be just a little darker and those moods can last just a little bit longer without the right people around you. I can almost guarantee you that there will be something that will happen over these next four years that you won’t see coming and that will hit you like a ton of bricks. That group of friends – who by the very nature of their relation to you, as brothers, have promised their full support to you in any way necessary – cannot take that hardship from you, but they surely can help you weather the storm. I’ve had my ton-of-bricks moment, hopefully the only one, and I’m glad I had the people I did around me to see me through it.

Join a fraternity because you’re ready to make a commitment to yourself and a connection to those around you. When it’s all said and done, you’ll be glad you did.

Togas Are More Than Just Fun

September 14, 2012 by

As the craziness of fraternity and sorority rush continues, many of our fellow Tribe members are unsure about Greek life, and what is so great about it. Well, what are the benefits of Greek life? Some people think Greek life is only a group wanting a “To-ga! To-ga! To-ga!” party, as Mr. John Belushi so eloquently stated in Animal House, but in reality Greek life offers a great opportunity to push oneself to articulate his or her values and work together with others while living together. I started noticing these benefits at the College, but it truly became apparent during my summer internship.

This summer I interned with a nonprofit in Ecuador with students from all over the country working on market-based development. We lived and worked together for two months. It was a wonderful experience, but we did have our fair share of issues and disagreements between us. We would discuss, argue, and become stressed while we worked on campaigns, community consulting, and other projects. My Greek experience was evident during those dialogues and prepared me for this type of close quarters and personal work with others, especially those with strong personalities and perspectives. I had the experience of arguing, discussing, and debating my views, values, and opinions and knew that I could do this with my fellow interns without hindering my relationship with any of them.

Yes, William and Mary has enhanced my capacity to articulate myself to others and has expanded my thought process; however, the unique experience that Greek life offers of living with others while being accountable to both a larger organization and to my brothers challenges me and any fraternity man to express his values to his brothers (in my case 70 brothers) and debate those values, but still being able to walk away afterward knowing that his brother is still his brother. Together my brothers and I continue to strengthen my fraternity and strive for personal development and chapter improvement, even though we occasionally disagree. This is essential to understand as someone progresses through college and prepares for entering the scary world after graduation. Each person needs to know his or her values and how to express those to others in a powerful and substantive way without damaging personal relationships. Greek life allows each brother or sister the opportunity to be a part of a larger entity and improve that entity together while incorporating the chaos of classes, extracurriculars, and just living daily life together.

However, in the unique internship environment there is a different kind of chaos while working. The other interns were great and many have become good friends, but during the challenges and stressed-filled moments I appreciated and understood the value of my Greek experience that made me the person I am today. It has made me look beyond myself and realize how to have great relationships with others while working together towards a mutual goal. Greek life proves that someone can work hard, play hard, and improve oneself while being a part of a brotherhood or sisterhood.

Yes, Greek life has some great social aspects that many members enjoy from formals, late night hangouts, and more. But the skills, experience, and growth that I have acquired from my fraternity and I am sure that others have received from their brotherhood or sisterhood is sometimes unrealized until stepping back and noticing the profound change that William and Mary begins and Greek life strengthens over four years. This is just one way Greek life is great at William and Mary to demonstrate that togas are more than just fun.

Go Greek (more than To-ga!),

S. Bennett