An Empathetic Approach to Greater Knowledge
Issue   |   Fri, 11/11/2016 - 03:29
Angela Brown ’00
Angela Brown ‘00 was a member of the Amherst College Bluestockings during her college career and was also an active member in the Black Student Union.

Recognized in education for her diligence and leadership, Angela Brown ’00 asks the big questions and lives through faith and compassion.

A Natural Transition
When she first made the decision to attend Amherst, Brown did not have to travel far. Though she grew up in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, she spent three years at Phillips Academy Andover, an elite private high school near Boston, Massachusetts. After graduating from Andover, the choice to enroll at Amherst was easy.

“After submitting my application, it became crystallized in my mind what I wanted, and what I wanted was attention, and I mean that in the best way possible … I enjoyed parts of Andover where teachers were very involved in different parts of your life … I knew I still wanted that relationship,” Brown said.

Amherst touts close faculty-to-student relationships as one of the hallmarks of the institution. Amherst “just made my heart happy,” Brown said, reflecting on her visits as a prospective student.

Making Amherst Home
Before coming to Amherst, Brown was sold on the liberal arts as a way to direct her energy into various fields of interest. She appreciated the flexibility the open curriculum would offer her.

Eventually, Brown decided to major in French, but actively embraced the options that Amherst provides for its students. Amherst, like Andover, makes intimate classrooms a pillar of its educational atmosphere. Upper level courses were a special draw for Brown for this reason, and she thrived on interpersonal connections with professors.

Although she gravitated toward the humanities, she shared a fond memory of a lab course she took during her junior year. “I was probably in the professor’s office more than she was because it was particularly challenging, but I was really excited that I pushed myself to do something outside my comfort zone,” she said.

Brown also saw engagement with the Five College Consortium as being an integral part of her experience here. She spoke of how it opened Amherst up and exposed her to new possibilities.

“My senior year I took a choral conducting class at Amherst that had seven students. My next class that same day was at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Intro to Accounting, and it had 700 students. To have that flexibility, to have such a small intimate experience and then go to this huge lecture hall where I felt like a number, afforded me a lot of different experiences that you don’t get to have if you’re not at a large university,” she said.

Outside the classroom, Brown developed a deep appreciation for her peers and the impact that the Amherst community had on her. Her proudest memories of Amherst centered around the Bluestockings, an a capella group that continues to have a strong following on campus.

“[Amherst’s] nickname is the singing college and I happened to be a singer, so that certainly spoke to me,” she said. “When I think of Amherst, I think of the Bluestockings. They’re really inseparable because of the amount of time we spent together. Working, rehearsing, and practicing, we developed a bond that we built with really strong, opinionated, talented women.”

She cited another strong, talented woman, Onawumi Moss, the soulful author and storyteller who served as an Associate Dean of Students at the college from 1985 to 2006, as a figure she looked up to while at Amherst. Just as Dean Moss still commands a presence in the hearts of the Amherst community, Brown continues to support current students.

While the power of her voice drove Brown to join the Bluestockings her first year, the strength of the sisterhood and community has driven her to give back to students. She has done so in small ways, like bringing cookies to a 2014 Bluestockings rehearsal, and on a larger scale by mentoring women through the annual Women of Color Retreat.

“Saving the World”
Seniors at Amherst flock to the new Loeb Center for Career Exploration and Planning throughout the fall for interviews in investment banking or consulting, which are common landing spots for recent graduates.

Among high achieving peers, the expectations are always high. Brown knew, though, that she wanted to use the skills she’d acquired here to make a difference for people around her.

“At Amherst during my senior year, I thought I had really three choices: grad school, venture capitalism or save the world. Those are the unspoken rules and that was what I was supposed to do with myself,” she said.

She chose St. Paul’s School. As the Assistant Director of Admissions, Brown would have the chance to spread the word about the opportunities available at independent schools.

While at Amherst, Brown made a place for herself and valued the opportunity to engage with the diverse student body. A member of the Black Student Union, she appreciated learning in an environment where everyone offered something unique.
She brought this philosophy to the table as she started her new job. Any Amherst student knows that blessing of education here has the potential to change life of its students. Brown cherished the chance to make a young student’s dream possible and give them the opportunity to get a highly valuable education.

“Because of the role I played … I could make the decision that this was going to be a complete game-changer for a child and for their family,” Brown said. “It is really a blessing and a gift that I was able to do really every year of my life in Admissions.”
Having started at a suburban public school herself, Brown embraced Andover as a path to greater knowledge and more open doors. She recalls that neither she nor her parents would have ever known about Andover, but that stumbling upon the private school set her on a new path to success.

Amherst stresses the importance of community engagement and caring for others. It was the urge to give back in a constructive manner that drove Brown to join St. Paul’s staff. She had seen and felt the value of independent schools and sought to spread that value to positively impact the lives of students around the country.

“I, as an Admissions person, was able to give access to families who would’ve never had access,” she said. Coming from Atlanta, she recognized that her path to boarding school and then to Amherst was out of the ordinary, but she sees the potential for independent schools to make a massive impact on students and families who may not even know they exist.

Growing Never Stops
Brown prides herself on being a lifelong learner. She said that as graduation approached, she realized that after a high level of rigor at Andover and then at Amherst, she “didn’t want to take another test or take another exam, or read something someone else told me to read.

It was this mentality that drove her to look for jobs straight out of college instead of following many of her peers to graduate school. However, looking back, she wouldn’t change a thing.

“That was, for me, the absolute best decision to wait, because by the time I got to graduate school, I was so ready to learn and so refreshed that I soaked up every bit of it,” she said. “I feel like I would’ve been just going through the motions had I started at 22.”

After years of working hands-on in administrative leadership roles in education, she completed her M. Ed. in Organizational Leadership at Vanderbilt University in 2015. Drawing on experience that took her San Francisco, to Nashville and eventually back to The Pike School in Andover, Brown now applies herself as an educational consultant and executive coach, focusing on strategic planning for independent schools.

No matter what role Brown is holding at any given time, she has stayed true to her core values. She sees enormous potential in asking the right questions and believes that the basis of any good relationship is constructive dialogue.

“I think communication is the most important skill of being an adult, being a child, being anybody,” she said. “Your ability to defend your opinion or to state what you want and also hear what someone else wants and to recognize that there are many different perspectives, that will help make everyone be successful.”

She lives by these words and maintains that the ability to say what you think and really listen to others is invaluable. As a member of the Alumni Executive Committee, she has applied her wealth of experience and intuitiveness to make Amherst a better place.

Brown encourages students to “listen well and to empathize and to articulate your own story and experience.” She believes that there is always more to learn, and she’s lived that to the fullest, never ceasing to engage with subjects that “make her heart pitter-patter.”