200 Days in the Life of the College

Saturday, February 12

A place where profs say ‘Come on over!’

By Olivia Wolfgang-Smith ’11

For Professor of Chemistry Karen Brewer and her department’s senior concentrators, camaraderie doesn’t end in the classroom. Since fall 2007, Brewer and her students have supported the Chemistry Beer Club, an organization that, as Brewer explains, grew out of senior students wanting “to get together more often with faculty and each other” — and having “an interest in ‘real beer.’”

The group meets in Hamilton’s Little Pub on Friday afternoons, and about twice a semester Brewer and her family host gatherings of students and professors at their home. “These are not just beer drinking, but true gatherings of friends,” Brewer says. “Students stay through the early evening talking about chemistry, the events of Hamilton College, the world, just about anything.”

According to Brewer, who is also associate dean of students for academics, spending time with students outside the sphere of academia “brings a depth to how we know each other.” Professor of Physics Gordon Jones, who also hosts students at his home, agrees. “It’s a chance to talk to students without the threat of problem sets hanging over them,” he says. “It’s the equivalent of chatting around the water cooler.” Associate Professor of Psychology Jen Borton says that her dinners with thesis and summer research students help “facilitate a personal connection” that lasts beyond graduation.

Asked about the tradition’s prevalence on campus, each of the professors cites the College’s emphasis on personal interaction with students. “Mixing academics into everyday life is characteristic of the Hamilton environment,” Jones says. And Brewer notes the absence of a “wall” between students and professors. “It’s a benefit of teaching,” she says. “It seems to be in the fabric of Hamilton.”