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880 Main Street, Williamstown, MA 01267

(413) 597-3131


Williams College

Williams College

Established in 1793 with funds bequeathed by Colonel Ephraim Williams, the college is private, residential, and liberal arts, with graduate programs in the history of art and in development economics.

An Undergraduate Experience Like No Other

Williams believes in undergraduates. With 36 majors across the humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences, opportunities to discover and pursue academic passions are unbounded. Accomplished scientists and scholars guide the journey—advancing knowledge and often blurring the lines between academic fields.

Williams students are an incredibly talented, passionate, and diverse group. They are defined as much by their individual perspectives as by the way they come together—with faculty and staff as well—to create a warm, dynamic, surprisingly noncompetitive community.


Williams seeks to provide the finest possible liberal arts education by nurturing in students the academic and civic virtues, and their related traits of character. Academic virtues include the capacities to explore widely and deeply, think critically, reason empirically, express clearly, and connect ideas creatively. Civic virtues include commitment to engage both the broad public realm and community life, and the skills to do so effectively. These virtues, in turn, have associated traits of character. For example, free inquiry requires open-mindedness, and commitment to community draws on concern for others.

We are committed to our central endeavor of academic excellence in a community of learning that comprises students, faculty, and staff, and draws on the engagement of alumni and parents. We recruit students from among the most able in the country and abroad and select them for the academic and personal attributes they can contribute to the educational enterprise, inside and outside the classroom. Our faculty is a highly talented group of teachers, scholars, and artists committed deeply to the education of our students and to involving them in their efforts to expand human knowledge and understanding through original research, thought, and artistic expression. Dedicated staff enable this teaching and learning to take place at the highest possible level, as do the involvement and support of our extraordinarily loyal parents and alumni.

No one can pretend to more than guess at what students now entering college will be called upon to comprehend in the decades ahead. No training in fixed techniques, no finite knowledge now at hand, no rigid formula can solve problems whose shape we cannot yet define. The most versatile, the most durable, in an ultimate sense, the most practical knowledge and intellectual resources that we can offer students are the openness, creativity, flexibility, and power of education in the liberal arts.

Toward that end we extend a curriculum that offers wide opportunities for learning, ensures close attention of faculty to students but also encourages students to learn independently, and reflects the complexity and diversity of the world. We seek to do this in an atmosphere that nurtures the simple joy of learning as a lifelong habit and commitment.

We place great emphasis on the learning that takes place in the creation of a functioning community: life in the residence halls, expression through the arts, debates on political issues, leadership in campus governance, exploration of personal identity, pursuit of spiritual and religious impulses, the challenge of athletics, and direct engagement with human needs, nearby and far away.

To serve well our students and the world, Williams embraces core values such as welcoming and supporting in the College community people from all segments of our increasingly diverse society and ensuring that College operations are environmentally sustainable.

From this holistic immersion students learn more than they will ever know. Such is the testimony of countless graduates — that their Williams experience has equipped them to live fuller, more effective lives. Ultimately, the College's greatest mark on the world consists of this: the contributions our alumni make in their professions, their communities, and their personal lives.

Therefore, we ask all our students to understand that an education at Williams should not be regarded as a privilege destined to create further privilege, but as a privilege that creates opportunities to serve society at large, and imposes the responsibility to do so.

At the same time, being itself privileged by its history and circumstances, Williams understands its own responsibility to contribute by thought and example to the world of higher education.


Mountain Day: On one of the first three Fridays in October, the president of the college cancels classes and declares it Mountain Day. The bells ring, announcing the event, members of the Outing Club unfurl a banner from the roof of Chapin Hall and students hike up Stony Ledge. At Stony Ledge, they celebrate with donuts, cider and a cappella performances. In 2009, with the threat of bad weather for each of the first three Fridays of the month, Interim-president Wagner declared "Siberian Mountain Day." Festivities were relocated from Stony Ledge to the much more accessible Stone Hill.

Trivia Contest: At the end of every semester but one since 1966, WCFM has hosted an all-night, eight-hour trivia contest. Teams of students, alumni, professors, friends, and others compete to answer questions on a variety of subjects, while simultaneously identifying songs and performing designated tasks. The winning team's only prize is the obligation to create and host the following semester's contest.

Student Life:

Williams is a residential college, and most of our students live in campus housing. First-year students live in larger residence halls within the Frosh Quad and Mission Park. Upperclass students choose from a variety of residence halls of different configurations and sizes across campus. Seniors have the additional option of co-op housing and living off-campus.

Williams has about 150 student organizations on campus. Ninety-six percent of students are involved in at least one extracurricular activity.

Approximately 44 percent of all students participate in intercollegiate sports (36 percent at the varsity level). There are 32 varsity intercollegiate teams (16 men’s and 16 women’s), 8 junior varsity teams, 20 club teams, and a large intramural program. Williams is a member of the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC).



The Purple Cow
The "Royal (hued) beast" that has evolved into the Williams College mascot has no known genealogy! Unsubstantiated rural legend has it that she is descended from those bovines that grace the earliest prints of the college campus. It is also conjectured that she became part of the college community due to the popularity of a student publication that used the college color along with the hooved creature.

Williams today:

There are three academic divisions (languages and the arts, social sciences, and science and mathematics) that encompass 25 departments, 36 majors, and several concentrations and special programs. The academic year consists of two four-course semesters plus a one-course January term.


The undergraduate enrollment is approximately 2,000 students and the graduate enrollment is approximately 50 students.

Famous graduates:

Elia Kazan (born September 7, 1909): After his family immigrated, he grew up in New York City and attended Williams College and Yale University. As a theater director, he worked with major writers like Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams. In Hollywood, he directed award-winning films like A Streetcar Named Desire and On the Waterfront, both starring Marlon Brando, and East of Eden with James Dean. Over his career, Kazan received three Tony Awards and two Academy Awards for his directorial work. He was often controversial, most of all when he "named names" of Communist Party members in a 1952 government investigation. He died in New York City in 2003.

James Garfield (born November 19, 1831) rose from humble beginnings to serve as a college president, a nine-time congressman, and military general before his election to the United States presidency in 1881. As the 20th U.S. president, Garfield's agenda of civil service reform and civil rights was cut short when he was shot by a disgruntled office seeker in July 1881.

Interesting facts about Williams College:

Williams has several elements of sustainability throughout the campus. The buildings have earth-sheltered designs, landscaping to reduce natural heating and cooling, and lighting methods that cut down the need for artificial light. There are also many internships and student-led projects regarding sustainability.

Williams College officially opened in 1793. For over two hundred years, students and faculty at the school have participated in major historical events such as protesting the Vietnam War, hosting the World War I Victory Celebration, and having guest speakers such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Williams has made a commitment to see what no student is deprived of the chance to receive a quality education because of their financial situation. Williams has a need-blind admissions policy, and will meet 100% of a student’s demonstrated need for all four years without the use of loans. Over half the student body at Williams receive financial aid.