Life in the Fast Lane How Mock Con General Secretary Layne Smith '20 stays sane under the pressure of academics, Mock Con 2020 and acting as head hearing advisor for the W&L Honor System.
“We’ve had our share of challenges in the midst of this cycle, but each challenge has been surmountable solely because of the team members beside me.”
~ Layne Smith ’20
Hometown: Katonah, New York
Majors: English and International Politics
Q: How and why did you get involved in Mock Con?
I was hired onto the Mock Con Executive Team in the fall of my sophomore year. I had wanted to join Mock Con in some way, shape, or form since hearing about it as a prospective student, but wanted to do so in a way in which I could really bring value to the organization. General secretary was a role where I felt I could contribute my organization and management skills, but get to work behind the scenes and closely with the W&L community.
Q: What does your role as general secretary entail?
Formally, I am tasked with managing and facilitating the internal logistics and communication of the organization. I work across all five departments of Mock Convention, from political to financial, to ensure effective collaboration and coordination. I also act as a resourcing center for the organization, for material requests as well as contacts within the university. On a day-to-day basis, the majority of my time is spent attending meetings, taking minutes, composing memos, scheduling and responding to the needs of the organization.
Q: Have your classes at W&L helped you with this job in any way?
Absolutely. My time as a student of former Dean of the College Suzanne Keen improved my writing and thinking skills infinitely, which is crucial. Professor Art Goldsmith’s philosophy of connecting human beings to data adds a level of salience to my role, especially in my constant interaction with people, from students to alumni. Everything is more than just a data point! Finally, I believe that Assistant Professor Beth Staples – between my time with her in the Shenandoah magazine internship and, now, as my honors thesis advisor – has taught me so much on managing and organizing: myself, my thoughts and the ideas of others.
Q: What’s it been like working with the rest of the Mock Con team?
It’s an entirely gracious experience. I think very rarely does anyone get the opportunity to work with a young team of this much talent. Further, Mock Con has this incredible energy that feeds and inspires us all.
Q: How have you balanced this work with the rest of your W&L obligations?
In short? Not perfectly by any means. I have had the opportunity to participate and lead in two of W&L’s greatest traditions: Mock Convention, as general secretary, and the Honor System, as head hearing advisor. I always joke that I had no idea what I was getting myself into as a freshman. Thankfully, I’ve been blessed with one of the best support systems in the world. However, my philosophy has always been, “I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t love it.” So, as I have navigated the points and periods of difficulty in finding balance, I’ve done my best to distill my priorities along the lines of the things that I love, which includes both Mock Con and the Honor System, but also includes my family, friends, community engagement and academics.
Q: What has been your favorite part of this experience?
It’s hard to narrow down a specific moment, but I can say with certainty that my favorite parts all surround times in which Mock Convention as an organization has an opportunity to creatively problem solve. We’ve had our share of challenges in the midst of this cycle, but each challenge has been surmountable solely because of the team members beside me. I believe these are the moments where we do our best work. So often, it’s been the Executive or Steering committees all sitting in the office in Gaines, asking, “Now what?” and then taking the task head-on from there.
Q: What skills have you picked up that might help you in the future?
Through Mock Con, I’ve learned what it means to truly listen. In taking in so much information at all times, sometimes listening can just turn into data collection. True listening is taking in the whole of the person you’re talking to and understanding so that you can offer the best form of support or solutions.