First Williams Midterms

As the midterm exams and papers of your student’s first Williams semester approach, Prof. Joe Cruz offers deep perspective and wise counsel.


A 1991 Williams graduate, Prof. Cruz was the first in his family to attend college. In 1999 he received his Ph.D. in philosophy and cognitive science from the University of Arizona and has been on the Williams faculty since 2000. Now professor of philosophy and chair of the program in cognitive science, he teaches courses ranging from Skepticism and Relativism to Introduction to Cognitive Science to Contemporary Epistemology. He chairs the Committee on Athletics and is a formidable mountain biker.

First-year midterm jitters are entirely common and entirely expected. “All new Williams students are used to being among the few top students in their high schools,” says Dave Johnson, dean of first year students. “Now they’re at a college where everyone was a top student, and they’re being asked to do work they’ve never had to do before. Top grades are simply more challenging to come by, and an average grade may be such a surprise that some students wonder whether they’re up to the challenge.”

Rest assured, each and every one your students is up to the Williams challenge: they just need to reach out to people who can help them meet it–their professors, first and foremost. “This is a place where going to their professor’s office is not only OK,” says Prof. Cruz,  “but we love it.”

Encourage your students to reach out to their professors and to explore all the other Williams resources available to them, including deanscounselorscoachesacademic support specialists, and chaplains. Encourage them as well to make sure they’re deeply familiar with Williams’ academic honor system.

Learn more about how to help your student make the most of Williams.