Feature Stories Campus Events

Rules of Engagement Professor Angie Smith's spring term class grapples with the question of just war theory in an age of terrorism.

SmithClass1 Rules of EngagementFrom l. to r.: Lilly MacDonald ’18, Anders Ashforth ’19 and Grace Armacost ’20.

The Ethics of War
Angie Smith, the Roger Mudd Professor of Ethics and Professor of Philosophy

War is a pretty heavy, wide-ranging topic. How did you narrow it down for a four-week term?
I taught this class for the first time in 2011. At that time, I felt we’d been at war for nearly a decade, and with the rise of the use of drones, it seemed to me to raise new and very complicated questions about war. We just don’t talk enough about it. We have this all-volunteer army that’s doing its job, and yet citizens, it seems to me, don’t have to think much about war anymore, and yet we should. The use of drones, especially, made me think about the lack of democratic accountability. I was also very concerned about the reports of abuses that came out of Abu Ghraib, and continuing debates over the status of detainees at Guantanamo Bay. We’re facing a new kind of threat — terrorism — and we’re engaged in a new kind of asymmetric warfare where we’re not really clear about what the rules of engagement are anymore.

While this is a huge topic, and in some ways deserves a full 12-week term, it’s an intense-enough topic that I believe it is helpful for students to just be taking one class and thinking about it in a very focused and intensive way. It can be emotionally draining, so it can be helpful for them not to be distracted by other classes at the same time.

What is the main focus of the class?
Philosophical approaches to thinking about war tend to fall into three categories. The first camp thinks that when it comes to war, anything goes. Ethics has nothing to do with it. On the other side of the spectrum is pacifism. This group believes ethics applies to questions of war, and the conclusion is that one should never go to war. The amount of carnage and death that is involved, particularly in modern warfare, means you could never have a justification for engaging in war. The middle position is just war theory. This has a very long history, going back to Aristotle and Cicero, but also includes sophisticated expression with St. Augustine in the 4th century, St. Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century, and Hugo Grotius and Emerich de Vattel in the 17th and 18th centuries.

The thesis of just war theory is that war can sometimes, but not always, be morally just. A whole set of principles have been developed to explain when you can be justified in going to war and also how you can conduct war in an ethical way.

The most famous contemporary just war theorist is Michael Walzer, a political theorist and emeritus professor at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton. In his famous book, published in 1977, “Just and Unjust Wars,” he examines the tradition of just war theory and applies it to modern war conflicts. Walzer has released five new editions of this book over the last 40 years to respond to new questions that have emerged about war and its conduct.

So the guiding question of the course asks, “Does just war theory still work for us today, particularly with these new asymmetric conflicts between state and non-state actors?” These principles were developed at a time when states typically engaged in war with other states, so now we’ve got new things to think about. The upshot of the course, hopefully for the students, is that this theory still does work pretty well. It may need some tweaking in certain ways, but the framework that’s been developed can still be helpful for thinking critically and humanely about war and its consequences.

On the reading list
“Just and Unjust Wars,” by Michael Walzer
“The Bush Doctrine: Can Preventative War be Justified?” by Delahunty and Yoo
“The War on Terrorism and the End of Human Rights,” by Luban
“From My Lai to Abu Ghraib: The Moral Psychology of Atrocity,” by Doris & Murphy

“Sometimes in April”
“Eye in the Sky”
“Standard Operating Procedure”
“Hurt Locker”

Related //

Entrepreneurial Journalism Helping the Charlotte Observer figure out what, where, when and how millennials consume news.

SwaseyClass Entrepreneurial JournalismFrom l to r.: The winning team of (l. to r.) Hudson Bennett ’20, Caroline Holloway ’18 and Elly Cosgrove ’19,

Marketing to Millennials: Creating New Strategies for the Charlotte Observer
Professor Alecia Swasy, Donald W. Reynolds Chair in Business Journalism

Millennials are a hot topic right now. What trends did your class focus on?
I don’t care if you’re McDonalds or Honda or a newspaper, you cannot ignore the millennials. This demographic, usually defined as 18- to 35-year-olds, is bigger than the baby boomers. Boomers used to be the big spenders, but they are aging out of their consumer years. The millennials are forming households — that’s their prime area for spending, and if you don’t get them now, you’ve just lost them to your competitor.

This class on entrepreneurial journalism focused on helping the Charlotte Observer develop new products, features, campaigns or events to help North Carolina’s largest news organization attract more younger readers to its website, mobile and print editions. That’s actually been a goal of a lot of papers over the past 40 years — how to catch the elusive younger reader. W&L has sent a number of summer interns to the Observer in the past, and they loved the idea of hosting us and opening up their newsroom to the class. The paper has gone through several downsizings, which has pretty much decimated its staff. In fact, one of the things that shocked the students when we were down there was how few people there were in the newsroom. Right now, and this is true of most papers, the print edition is a very minor part of their production. Papers are far more invested in digital content, and I think the biggest weakness for the Observer is that it doesn’t have enough millennials in its newsroom.

How did you prepare for your trip to the Charlotte Observer?
We spent the first two weeks in the classroom and covered a lot of the basics of introductory journalism — why do we care about news, why is it important for democracy, and how do we pay for it with declining advertising revenues. We also discussed the latest trends in entrepreneurial journalism, from start-ups to incubators inside legacy news organizations. We took a deep dive into market research and practiced how to interview people about what, where, when and how they consume news and information for their daily lives.

The CO also gave us its millennial playbook from the last time it studied this issue, which was awesome. The students absolutely devoured it.

Then we parachuted into the Charlotte Observer’s newsroom for three days to observe how journalists operate in a 24/7 digital world. The Observer’s marketing and advertising folks talked about different strategies to attract more revenue to its products. The students, grouped into three teams, held focus groups with readers to gauge their interest in each team’s idea before hitting the streets to interview more millennials about what they like, dislike or crave from local media outlets.

On our return, the teams worked on their pitches based on the research they did in Charlotte. The final day of class they presented their ideas to their classmates, guests and a panel of judges, including an editor from the Observer. It was like “Shark Tank.” It’s been great to see their adrenaline flowing. One of them ran the financials to create a profit and loss statement. Another proposed a mobile app, while a third team redesigned the Charlotte Five website. One team even put together a newscast. The biggest question they had to be able to answer is who is going to do the work to create new content and who is going to pay for it. I told them to get creative. There’s no wrong answer. These are nuggets of ideas that the Observer can build up. I can’t wait to see how the Observer uses their input.

Washington and Lee Graduates 443 Students at 230th Commencement

“Awareness of our own ignorance is a virtue: knowing that we do not know everything makes us humble, patient, open to compromise and collaboration. You may have noticed that these qualities are in short supply. Embracing your ignorance is good for you and it’s good for the world.”

Graduating seniors at Washington and Lee University today were given a primer in existentialism along with four pieces of advice from President William C. Dudley.

Having the university president give the commencement address is a custom at W&L that dates back to the 1930s. This was Dudley’s first such address since he became president of Washington and Lee in January.

Grad45-1024x682 Washington and Lee Graduates 443 Students at 230th CommencementPresident Will Dudley distributes diplomas to the Class of 2017.

“Existentialism gets its name from the fact that our existence (the simple fact we are here) precedes our essence (what we are),” Dudley said in his address. “We make ourselves into who and what we are over time, and hopefully we learn something in the process.”

Dudley told the 443 members of the Class of 2017 that the courses their lives take will contain twists, turns and surprises that they cannot currently imagine. How it unfolds will depend upon circumstances beyond their control, but also upon the decisions they make in the shifting circumstances in which they find themselves.

Dudley also offered four pieces of advice: do what you love and work your tail off, don’t be afraid to change course, continue your liberal arts education and embrace your ignorance.

“Learn things beyond the bounds of your professional concerns,” he said. “Expand your horizons and avoid becoming too narrowly focused. Seek out experience that transcends your current limitations. Doing so will enrich your life and it will also sustain your success in a world that is constantly changing.

“Ignorance is bliss,” he added. “Without sufficient appreciation of our own ignorance, we cease to be curious, we cease to be receptive to new ideas and we cease to be respectful of other people. Awareness of our own ignorance is a virtue: knowing that we do not know everything makes us humble, patient, open to compromise and collaboration. You may have noticed that these qualities are in short supply. Embracing your ignorance is good for you and it’s good for the world.”

Read the full address >

Wilson Miller, an economics and studio art double major from Dallas, spoke on behalf of the Class of 2017. Miller was a member of the Executive Committee of the student body for four years, serving as class representative, secretary, vice president and, most recently, president. In his remarks, Miller challenged his classmates to take two of Washington and Lee’s most venerated traditions – the Honor System and the Speaking Tradition – with them wherever they go.

Grad36-1024x682 Washington and Lee Graduates 443 Students at 230th CommencementWilson Miller ’17 delivers Commencement remarks on behalf of the Class of 2017.

“Life at W&L exists at the unique intersection of its renowned honor system, abundant opportunity, the speaking tradition and legacy,” said Miller. “These are the great attributes of a Washington and Lee education, and our class will draw from its days in Lexington to make W&L a part of our future communities.

“I challenge every one of us to apply a smile and friendly word in whatever community we might find ourselves,” Miller continued. “While this may not do much on crowded subway rides or busy city sidewalks, I expect your neighborhoods and workplaces will come closer together through a speaking tradition of their own.”

Among Washington and Lee’s graduates were 13 who earned both a bachelor of arts and a bachelor of science degree. Altogether, the Class of 2017 earned degrees in 36 majors. One-third of the class completed more than one major, with three students completing three majors, and 37 percent of the class completing at least one minor.

For the first time in its history, W&L recognized five students as valedictorians, each with a perfect 4.0 grade-point average. The five were: Brooke Donnelly of Kennesaw, Georgia; Stephen Mitchell of Columbia, South Carolina; Zoe Ottaviani of Silver Spring, Maryland; Zach Taylor of Syracuse, New York; and Pasquale Toscano, of Kettering, Ohio.

Matt Carl ’17 Profiled in The Roanoke Times

“An avid soccer player who was a member of the university’s team, Carl used what he calls the ‘universal language’ of soccer to organize games – overcoming a language and cultural barrier to connect with the refugee children.”

Reporter Laurence Hammack of The Roanoke Times profiled graduating senior Matt Carl in today’s commencement story, “W&L graduate used the ‘universal language’ of soccer to help Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Germany.”

Read the full story online.

W&L Mock Trial Team Takes Sixth Place at National Mock Trial Championship

“This year’s success has put W&L mock trial back on the map of elite programs. But most important, this year’s success makes all the hard work, late night practices, missed social events, traveling and lost study time worthwhile.”

Picture-2-800x533 W&L Mock Trial Team Takes Sixth Place at National Mock Trial ChampionshipW&L mock trial team

In its best-ever showing at the American Mock Trial Association’s Intercollegiate National Mock Trial Championship, Washington and Lee University’s undergraduate Mock Trial team finished sixth in its division at the competition, held in Los Angeles April 21-23.

Mock-Trial-Seniors-400x600 W&L Mock Trial Team Takes Sixth Place at National Mock Trial ChampionshipW&L mock trial team seniors, Emily Webb and Avery Field

The group was led by the organization’s president, senior Avery Field. Field has twice been awarded All American Attorney status for his outstanding performance at the national tournament. “Mock trial has certainly been my favorite part of my time at W&L,” said Field. “It has been a source of some of the most important and meaningful relationships I’ve had at school, and it has given me an opportunity to develop a lot of skills that you can’t learn in a classroom.” After graduating this week, Field plans to move to Memphis, Tennessee, where he will be teaching in an elementary school through Teach for America and volunteering with the National Civil Rights Museum.

In addition to Field, the team included Sal Diaz ’18 (external vice president), Justin Gillette ’18 (internal vice president), Emily Webb ‘17, Keeghan Sweeney ’18, Ben Schaeffer ’18, Kalady Osowski ‘19, Balen Essak ‘20 and Campbell DeNatale ‘20. They won a bid to this year’s national championship after taking first place in the regional competition in February, followed by a second-place finish in the Southeast’s opening in March. More than 600 teams competed in the preliminary rounds, and 48 teams competed during the annual national collegiate competition.

“It was an incredible accomplishment for this team,” said Field. “Four years ago, the W&L mock trial team was ranked 108th in the country. This year’s team finished in the top 10, meaning that our team ranking for next year will be 16th out of more than 600 teams. This year’s success has put W&L mock trial back on the map of elite programs. But most important, this year’s success makes all the hard work, late night practices, missed social events, traveling and lost study time worthwhile.”

Beth Belmont, clinical professor of law and director of the Community Legal Practice Center at Washington and Lee School of Law serves as the faculty advisor and coach for the team.

“This is a tremendous accomplishment,” said Marc Conner, Washington and Lee’s provost. “Our mock trial team has been strong for years now, and this is an especially impressive showing. Professor Belmont is to be credited with guiding the students to such a great season, and the culmination of such a strong finish is wonderful. It’s a testament to the combination of brilliant students, dedicated faculty guidance and very hard work.”

Washington and Lee Mock Trial provides undergraduate students with the opportunity to develop critical thinking and public speaking skills and an understanding of the American justice system and its practices and procedures through preparing for and engaging in trial simulations in competition with teams from other colleges and universities.

Studying Health Here and Abroad: Jake Roberts ’17 Jake Roberts' study abroad trip started with an earthquake, and ended with him finding a passion for public health.

“I began to realize my true passion for medicine and providing care to those with limited access to health-care resources.”

Jake_Roberts-800x533 Studying Health Here and Abroad: Jake Roberts '17Jake Roberts’ study abroad trip started with an earthquake, and ended with him finding a passion for public health.

I believe that many of my experiences since coming to W&L have helped to develop my passions and career goals. During my sophomore year, I decided to use the Johnson travel stipend to go to Nepal and explore the delivery of health care in a different cultural setting. While I went to Nepal to volunteer and observe medicine, my experience changed dramatically when the country was hit with a massive earthquake just three days after I arrived. For the next seven weeks, I remained in Nepal and would learn much about life in a country where the combination of weak infrastructure and an unpredictable natural disaster had profound impacts on political and economic stability, and created implications for public health.

Much of my stay in Nepal was spent helping to provide post-earthquake recovery aid to those in need by volunteering with the Mountain Fund (NGO). Many people living in rural areas similar to where I was staying had lost their homes during the earthquakes and did not have the means to rebuild on their own. While staying in a village called Mankhu, I worked with the Mountain Fund at Her Farm — a farm established for and run by women and their children. In maintaining their own farm and providing assistance to others in the village after the earthquakes, the women at Her Farm helped to demonstrate to others in the community that women could actively lead and manage resources in a country in which they often face severe limitations on their freedom.

Throughout my time on the farm, I was amazed by the willingness and collective effort of the women to help others while they had faced struggles of their own. While volunteering at the farm and a nearby health post, I began to realize my true passion for medicine and providing care to those with limited access to health-care resources. I was able to see just how few health resources were available in rural Nepal, especially in terms of preventative care, reproductive health care for women, and care given to those of lower status. No doctors were present in these rural areas, and with the earthquakes threatening to expose individuals to poor living conditions and flooding during the imminent monsoon season, rebuilding homes and ensuring the availability of food resources were essential parts of preventing a public-health crisis. As a result of this experience, I have developed a passion for learning more about public-health issues and utilizing my background in poverty studies to find solutions to social injustices in health care and increase health-care access to those with limited resources. I hope to return to Nepal as a physician some day and lead health camps in areas that would normally have limited access to doctors.

My research experience at W&L has allowed me to explore public-health issues as they relate to women’s health. I began conducting research with Dr. Natalia Toporikova during my first year at W&L and continued this work through two summers. Much of our research focused on the effects of diet and obesity on measures of reproductive function, and I have been able to explore particular areas of interest through this work. In particular, I recently completed the publication of an article in Biology of Reproduction on research that focused on the effects of diet on parameters of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). In finding that diet was able to induce disease in both the metabolic and reproductive forms in our female rats, we were able to demonstrate how aspects of lifestyle such as diet and other factors that contribute to obesity could have impacts on disease development and result in impairments of reproductive health.

Working on this publication has allowed me to study women’s health as one aspect of public health, and with my career interests rooted in issues of poverty and a desire to help those with the most need, I hope to become a physician who takes the lead on tackling public-health problems and recognizes the social aspects of health and medicine throughout my career.

If you know a W&L student who would be a great profile subject, tell us about it! Nominate them for a web profile.

A little more about Jake

Kansas City, Missouri

Neuroscience Major, Poverty and Human Capability Studies Minor

Extracurricular involvement:
– Men’s Track and Field
– Shepherd Poverty Program Advisory Committee
– Volunteer at Stonewall Jackson Hospital

Why did you choose your major?
I chose to major in neuroscience because of its interdisciplinary nature. Neuroscience draws from a wide range of disciplines such as biology, biochemistry and psychology, but it also allows for focusing in on particular areas of interest within these broad fields. I was especially interested in the research component of the major.

What professor has inspired you?
I think that Dr. Toporikova has really inspired me and taught me a lot about research and the skills that I will need as I move on to the professional world and medical school. Dr. Toporikova has supported me throughout my time at W&L and has given me the opportunities to explore my research interests and achieve my goals of becoming a published research author.

What’s your personal motto?
I think that it is really important to always keep the right perspective in mind, and trust and enjoy the process of getting to where you want to be.

Best place to eat in Lexington? What do you order?
Bistro. I could probably eat only the bread and be perfectly content.

Post-graduation plans:
I will be completing a gap year conducting research and hopefully be traveling while applying to medical school. Following my gap year, I plan to earn both a medical degree and a master’s in public health in order to combine a career in medicine and public health.

Favorite W&L memory:
I would have to say that winning both the Indoor and Outdoor Track and Field ODAC Championships with my teammates this year has been among my favorite W&L memories. It was an awesome experience to complete the triple crown with a close group of friends and teammates.

Favorite class:
My favorite class has probably been Medical Anthropology with Dr. Harvey Markowitz, since it allowed me to explore the intersection between medicine and culture. I enjoyed the opportunity to reflect on my own experiences from Nepal, where I had seen the direct impact of culture on the implementation of health-care practices.

Favorite W&L event:
My favorite event is probably Homecoming Weekend because of the many athletic events and the opportunity to catch up with older alumni friends who come back to visit.

Favorite campus landmark:
Some might joke that the Science Center is my favorite landmark because of the time that I spend working there, but I would have to say that my favorite spot involves sitting out on the green in front of the Colonnade.

What’s your passion?
Throughout my poverty studies at W&L, I have been able to focus on issues of public health and grow my passion for improving health outcomes for vulnerable populations. I hope to become a physician so that I can directly help those patients with the largest health needs and address health status holistically as the result of both biological and social processes.

What’s something people wouldn’t guess about you?
I probably eat more yogurt than is considered socially acceptable.

Why did you choose W&L?
The Johnson Scholarship really provided me with an irresistible educational opportunity. I was also drawn by the amazing campus, the strong alumni network, and the desire of the professors to help their students succeed.

Relationships Are the Best Prize Participating in Mock Trial required loads of time for Avery Field '17, but he wouldn't trade the experience and relationships for a whole case of trophies.

“At the end of my four years at W&L… I know that the relationships I’ve developed with the people I got to know in pursuit of those trophies will last a lifetime.”

Field.Avery_-1024x682 Relationships Are the Best PrizeAvery Field ’17 considers relationships – not trophies – the true prize when he competes

If I had a dollar for every time I told a friend or a professor “I can’t, I have Mock Trial,” I wouldn’t have paid a dime for college.  I tried to think about the number of hours over my four years at W&L that I spent practicing, planning for, or competing in Mock Trial, but I quickly realized that was an impossible task.  Between practice three, four, five, sometimes six times a week, work outside of practice, and competitions on weekends, I easily spent more time on Mock Trial than I did on classes. 

All of the hours and the practices and late nights and times I had to say “Sorry, I have Mock Trial” paid off in a big way this season. There is plenty to say about the success we had this year, but I don’t think that is where I want to go with this. Earlier this year, The Radish posted an article poking fun of the Mock Trial team for posting pictures of the team with trophies all over social media – it was a funny piece, and we had fun laughing at our own expense at the article. But honestly, the trophies weren’t the reason for those pictures; they were just an excuse to take pictures as a team.  

When you spend as many hours working as a team as the Mock Trial team does, there is no way you couldn’t get to know each person on the team well. And I don’t just mean their strengths and weaknesses in the courtroom. Over my four years in Mock Trial, I’ve gotten to know where my teammates are from, what their family backgrounds are like, what they are passionate about, what they want to do with their lives, what their beliefs are, what they see as their purpose as both as a student at W&L and in life. Every year we tell new members of the Mock Trial team the same cliché: that Mock Trial becomes your family at Washington and Lee. And we tell them that because it’s true – because we spend hours working together, eating together, sweating together in stuffy courtrooms, and celebrating together.     

My W&L experience has truly been defined by Mock Trial; not because of the successes I’ve had individually or that we’ve had as a team, but because of the people I’ve gotten to know in the process.  At the end of my four years at W&L, all the Mock Trial trophies are already gathering dust on a bookshelf in our coach’s office, but I know that the relationships I’ve developed with the people I got to know in pursuit of those trophies will last a lifetime.

If you know a W&L student who would be a great profile subject, tell us about it! Nominate them for a web profile.

A little more about Avery

Hendersonville, Tennessee

Politics and American History

Extracurricular involvement:
– Mock Trial
– Hearing Advisor

Off-campus activities/involvement:
Volunteer for Maury River Middle School’s after-school program

Why did you choose your major?
I knew what I wanted to study before I came to W&L. My interest in history was gifted to me by two awesome history teachers – one in middle school and one in high school. My interest in politics has been a natural progression from my love for history and for people – history books are filled with individuals involved in politics, because politics is an avenue through which you can impact and improve others’ lives.

What professor has inspired you?
Professor [Robert] Strong. I’ve taken a number of classes with Professor Strong, and I appreciate the passion and insight he brings to each class he teaches.

What’s your personal motto? 
“You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” Maybe that’s just the Southerner in me, but I think it speaks to the importance of civility, kindness and relationships.

What’s your favorite song right now?
Anything on the “Hamilton” soundtrack, but specifically “One Last Time.”

Best place to eat in Lexington? What do you order?
The Southern Inn, and I always get the fried chicken with a side of mashed potatoes and a glass of sweet iced tea (is there anything else on the menu?).

What do you wish you’d known before you came to campus?
That you can’t walk between the columns under Graham-Lees; that first Chinese test would have been a lot easier if only I had known.

Post-graduation plans:
I move to Memphis, Tennessee, a week after graduation to start work with Teach For America, where I’ll be teaching elementary school at Aurora Collegiate Academy. I attribute a great number of the successes and opportunities I’ve enjoyed to teachers who have invested not only in my education, but also in my character. I couldn’t be more excited to have this opportunity to pay forward my teachers’ investment in me to students in Memphis.

Favorite W&L memory:
Just two weeks ago, the Mock Trial team got back from Los Angeles, where we were competing at the National Championship. I’ll remember that trip and our success for the rest of my life. When I joined the Mock Trial team my freshman year, our program was ranked somewhere north of 100th in the country. This year, we finished sixth in the country, better than W&L has ever finished before. When you put as many hours into something as we put into Mock Trial this season and the past four seasons, and when you become as closely knit as the Mock Trial team is, that makes our success that much sweeter. Our trip to LA was also in a lot of ways the culmination of some of the relationships most important to me during my time at W&L. The SoCal sun and Newport Beach didn’t hurt either.

Favorite class:  
My freshman year during Spring Term I took a class called the Natural History of Rockbridge County – it was a biology class that fulfilled my lab science requirement. We spent all of Spring Term hiking around the Blue Ridge Mountains, looking under rocks, looking at trees, and admiring springtime in Lexington.

Favorite W&L event:  
Mockmas. It is the Mock Trial team’s annual Christmas party. We dress up, do a big dinner and a gift exchange. It’s a lot of fun.

Favorite campus landmark:  
Cliché perhaps, but Lee Chapel. I love history, and Lee Chapel embodies so much of W&L’s history. Lee Chapel also is a symbol for the Honor System, which is flawed at times, but is one of the most important parts of a degree from W&L and makes the W&L experience unique.

What’s your passion?
People, which is why I’ve enjoyed my time at W&L. I love opportunities to have lengthy conversations with people, conversations about important topics like religion, current political events, worldview, societal problems and how to address them, how challenging life can be, anything that challenges my own thinking and allows me to get to know and understand someone else. My passion for people is also why I joined Teach For America; I believe every person deserves the opportunities I’ve enjoyed.

Why did you choose W&L?
If I’m honest, W&L actually chose me. I was enrolled at a different school when I got off the wait list for W&L. W&L made a financial offer I couldn’t refuse, and I knew Washington and Lee had great programs for studying politics and history. I prayed about it a lot, talked with family and friends about it, and realized W&L was where I was supposed to be.

Consulting a Career: Stephen Mitchell ’17 Stephen Mitchell '17 credits students, alumni, and W&L academics for helping him to find the right career path.

“I would say that W&L’s alumni network, the willingness of other students interested in consulting to collaborate, and my Mathematics major were the three things I gained from my time at W&L that helped me the most during the recruitment process.”

image1-512x768 Consulting a Career: Stephen Mitchell '17Stephen Mitchell ’17 credits students, alumni and W&L academics for his success in career change.

I spent the summer after my junior year as an intern at an investment bank in San Francisco. While this was a fantastic opportunity that provided me with great experience and exposure to interesting firms, I decided late in the summer that I wanted to explore different career options.  

I ended up in the Career Development Office and surveyed the landscape of entry-level jobs for undergraduates. Based on my long-term career interests and my background, I determined that management consulting would be a great place for me to start. I made a spreadsheet with the contact information of W&L alumni at firms in the industry, and I started to try and figure out if I had a shot at breaking into management consulting.

Very quickly, a group of alumni emerged who were especially responsive and supportive of my efforts. I was surprised at their willingness to help, and their advice ultimately convinced me that I had a chance at finding a job in management consulting if I worked diligently to prepare for interviews. After weighing the pros and cons of my various options with the help of Dean John Jensen, I made the difficult decision to not return to San Francisco after graduating, and I set my sights on the management-consulting recruiting process.

I spent months preparing for case interviews using a number of books and online resources. Thankfully, many of the alumni whom I had contacted during the summer were willing to take the time to conduct mock interviews with me, which gave me much-needed live practice. I was also able to practice live interviews with Dean Jensen and Dean Rob Straughan. I found further opportunities for practice with a group of hopeful consultants at W&L, and we all made sure everyone was aware of deadlines and requirements for applications (which was a pleasant surprise, since we were all technically competing).

I found a company named Bain and started the recruitment process with them. I interviewed twice with the firm – once over the phone and once in person. I felt well prepared for these interviews, given the practice mentioned above and the fact that W&L alumni at Bain had been particularly responsive and willing to help me prepare specifically for their interview process. While it was challenging, alumni at the firm helped me overcome this obstacle.

Looking back on the process, I would say that W&L’s alumni network, the willingness of other students interested in consulting to collaborate, and the problem-solving processes I learned through my mathematics major were the three things I gained from my time at W&L that helped me the most during the recruitment process. My previous internships at a family office in Austin, Texas, and my investment banking internship in San Francisco were also valuable in that they helped clarify my career interests and thereby allowed me to better articulate why I wanted to be a consultant to interviewers.

If you know a W&L student who would be a great profile subject, tell us about it! Nominate them for a web profile.

A little more about Stephen

Columbia, South Carolina

Mathematics and Business Administration

Extracurricular involvement:
– University Singers (Tenor Section Leader)
– Southern Comfort (President)
– Williams Investment Society (Energy Group Head)

Why did you choose your major?
I would like to eventually hold a management position at a company in the food industry or start my own firm, and I thought that the business administration major would help me prepare for this career. I chose mathematics as a means to improve my problem-solving abilities, and I also enjoyed the abstract nature of the material (in contrast to the focus on real-world material and applications in the business administration major).

What professor has inspired you?
Professors Gregory Dresden and Wayne Dymacek.

What’s your favorite song right now?
“The General” by Dispatch or “Biking” by Frank Ocean.

Best place to eat in Lexington? What do you order?
The Palms; always the Southwest Wrap.

What do you wish you’d known before you came to campus?
I wish I had known to take more classes that counted toward my majors or FDRs early on. That would have allowed me to avoid taking my hardest class schedules during my Fall and Winter terms of senior year.

Post-graduation plans:
In October, I will be starting work as an associate consultant with Bain & Co., in Atlanta. Before October, I will be traveling.

Favorite class:
Graph Theory or Business of Contemporary Art.

Favorite W&L event:
GAB May Day Concert at Lime Kiln.

Favorite campus landmark:
The view of Lee Chapel from the lone tree in front of Robinson Hall.

What’s your passion?
Food and beverages.

What’s something people wouldn’t guess about you?
I’ve never seen “Titanic.”

Why did you choose W&L?
The school was generous, and I liked the small classroom setting and easy access to professors.

Class of 2017 Move-In Video: Commencement Edition

For more information about Washington and Lee University’s 230th Commencement and Baccalaureate, please click here.

Choreographing with the Stars: Elliot Emadian ‘17 Dancer, choreographer, musician, mathematician: Elliot Emadian '17 has many roles, both on and off the stage. 

“If you want to do something here, you can. You just have to ask someone. It will happen and someone will help you do it.”

image2-400x600 Choreographing with the Stars: Elliot Emadian ‘17Dancer, choreographer, musician, mathematician: Elliot Emadian ’17 has many roles – both on and off the stage!

I’ve been dancing since I was 2 years old. I started in tap, jazz, ballet, the typical small-town basics. I wasn’t introduced to modern dance until college, but professor Jenefer Davies truly opened my eyes. I joined the Repertory Dance Company in my first semester, and I began exploring choreography in my second. She’s been an amazing resource throughout my time at W&L, both in teaching me herself and in introducing me to opportunities for growth at and outside of W&L.

The Theater Department as a whole has been an amazing place to root myself, actually. I’ve received grants to attend the American Dance Festival, the Dance Department has sponsored performances in New York where I was able to present choreography, and I’ve had many other opportunities and experiences. I’ve been so fortunate with Professors Collins and Evans as department heads who really want to promote student-driven art.

Along those lines, during Spring Term of my junior year, I was involved with a Mindbending student play called “Police Squad In Color!” It was my first time acting in a straight play, although straight-faced, I was not. (It was a hilarious play.) After it ended one night, professor Jemma Levy came up to me with a proposition for an independent study for my senior year, choreographing “Dracula,” by Steven Dietz. At the time I thought “Dracula” was a musical, and, naturally, I was stoked. I later discovered that it was another straight play and that I was in for one of the biggest challenges of my W&L career. I had choreographed before, but only for my own pieces, contemporary-modern works set on members of the dance company. For this, I had to develop a movement vocabulary that was not only based on a pre-existing story and script, but also could be executed by a cast of non-dancers.

At first, I was nervous about whether our visions would line up, and how much she exactly wanted me to contribute, but almost as soon as we began to work we developed an awesome dynamic. We would step into a scene, both having our ideas about its direction, and begin to chip away until we had a fully formed unit. There were moments when I would take the actors through a specific piece of choreography or movement, and Jemma would step in to clarify or make a suggestion, while other times she would be directing and would stop to ask me if I had a suggestion for how someone could stand, or how to make “Dracula” seem more magical.

Working on “Dracula” with Jemma was an absolutely eye-opening experience, and the incredible foray into theater that I had been craving since starting college. I was so fortunate that she let me take on such a major role as choreographer. So, when Jemma asked me to work with her on “Macbeth” this summer, as my first post-graduation job, I didn’t even have to think about it. I knew I wanted to work with her again. My rehearsals start two days after graduation, and the show opens July 7th at Agecroft Hall in Richmond.

If you know a W&L student who would be a great profile subject, tell us about it! Nominate them for a web profile.

A little more about Elliot

Normandy, Tennessee

Mathematics, Dance Minor

Extracurricular involvement:
– W&L Repertory Dance
– Traveller

Off-campus activities/involvement:
I’m a freelance dancer/choreographer as well as a musician (Elliot Reza) and photographer (Rezalution Photography).

Why did you choose your major?
I grew up competing in math contests throughout middle and high school (because I am a nerd), but when I came here, I thought I would stop doing math. I took Multivariable Calculus with Dr. Carrie Finch Fall Term of my first year, and declared my math major in winter, with Dr. Finch as my advisor.

What professor has inspired you?
Oh gosh, so many. All of them really. Jenny Davies, my dance professor, has really been my biggest cheerleader for me pursuing a career in dance, though. She gave me the opportunity to dance in her company in New York, Roanoke and Richmond. She has shown me how dance can be a driving force for change and community throughout history and the present day, and I’m excited to hopefully continue that trend.

What’s your personal motto?
“That’s what she said.”

What’s your favorite song right now?
“Scholasticism” by Purser, but “The Cure” by Lady Gaga is a close second.

Best place to eat in Lexington? What do you order?
Blue Sky. I get the California Sun-Dried.

What do you wish you’d known before you came to campus?
If you want to do something here, you can. You just have to ask someone, who probably knows someone, who works with someone, who knows someone else who absolutely wants to help you do that thing. It will happen and someone will help you do it.

Post-graduation plans:
I’m pursuing a master of fine arts in dance at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in fall 2017.

Favorite W&L memory:
I have so many amazing memories, but one of my favorites was the summer I spent here doing research with Dr. Finch. Walking up the Colonnade on a brisk foggy morning with an iced coffee and my notes in hand, I felt very academe chic.

Favorite class:
British Literature: Queered Science, Spring Term of junior year (very closely followed by Aerial Dance, Spring Term of senior year).

Favorite W&L event:
QuestBridge Ball or the Equality Gala, or both…back-to-back weekends of dancin’.

Favorite campus landmark:
The Graham-Lees archway.

What’s your passion?
Netflix . . . also broadening access to dance via social media . . . also pizza.

What’s something people wouldn’t guess about you?
I’m half-Iranian.

Why did you choose W&L?
The community.