❍ Year of graduation: 1972
❍ Field of current or former occupation: Government
Question: What is your current occupation and where do you live? Please briefly describe your duties and responsibilities. How long have you been at this position?
William Thorn: I am a retired Commercial Attache of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Foreign Commercial Service, having served in Moscow, London, Brussels, and headquarters over the past 10 years. As commercial diplomats we counseled, assisted, and advocated for U.S. companies exporting to or investing in country markets worldwide. I now reside in north Arlington, Virgina, a Washington, D.C. suburb.
Question: Did studying Russian language and culture at Williams help you in your professional and personal development? If yes, then how were Russian Studies were useful to you? What opportunities and challenges did the Russian major open up for you both specific to your current occupation and more generally?
William Thorn: Prior to Commerce, I had a twenty year general management career with FMC Corporation that included five years running its operations in Russia and Eastern Europe. Earlier I worked for the U.S.-USSR Trade and Economic Council in Moscow as well as in Commerce’s Soviet Affairs Division in Washington just after graduating from Williams. I earned my MBA from Harvard Business School before joining FMC in 1981. Before Williams, I studied Russian at the Choate School and participated in its Russian study/travel program back in 1967! I also studied at Leningrad State University for the summer of 1970. As you can see, Russian studies have been a core element of my professional and personal development, and shaped my career. It was the Williams alumni network, however, that really helped me land my first job after college; an alumnus was the deputy in charge of the bureau that included Commerce’s Soviet Affairs Division.
Question: Please share your advice or recommendation about the Russian department at Williams to a prospective student who is considering taking courses or majoring in our program.
William Thorn: My advice to students is to carefully define your long-term career objective and persevere to achieve it. I am convinced that even if one is not actively using the degree or language initially, he or she will do so and reap the rewards at some point down the road.
If you would like to write to William Thorn, please contact Baktygul Aliev.