Behind the Scenes with a Putney Program Director
Go behind the scenes with one of our Program Directors, Julian Hartmann-Russell, and get an in depth look at how we design our programs. Read on for more info on this cool job!
How do you define your job?
As a Putney Program Director, I work hard to intentionally design, organize, and manage all the logistics that go into creating meaningful educational experiences. My job changes throughout the year, and includes creating and managing programs, talking with prospective students and families, visiting our local contacts and partners in various program locations, working with leaders, and working on our 24 hour summer support team from Putney headquarters. I think one of the most exciting things about my job is that I am able to channel my own passions, curiosities, and connections to create these opportunities for students and leaders. The world is an ever-changing place, and thinking carefully about how to best create and sustain programs that facilitate learning and personal growth is a very interesting space to work in.
How did you find out about becoming a program director at Putney?
After having led a number of short and long-term international programs across Latin America and Europe with other organizations, I was hired as an instructor at Putney’s former Pre-College Amherst program, working with students from across the U.S. and many from abroad. It was a great experience, and I was impressed with Putney’s approach to working with students and creating community. At the end of the summer, there was an opening for a program director at the Putney Barn, and I applied!
What is the most fulfilling part of your job?
The most fulfilling part of the year for me is seeing my program come to fruition and hearing how it went. We spend all year working on our programs, and it is rewarding to see all that hard work pay off! I also love leading programs, and getting out into the world with students, which I try to do every year.
What is the most challenging part?
We spend a good part of the year working on computers, which can be challenging. However, the tradeoffs make up for it: we are able to get out into the field relatively often to visit program locations and contacts, visit schools and meet students, and lead programs ourselves.
Describe the yearly cycle of a Putney Program Director.
In the fall, we take a deep look at our programs to see how they went, and make changes for the coming year. We review student and parent evaluations, leader and expert feedback, and feedback from our local partners and contacts. During the fall and winter, we spend a lot of time talking with prospective students and families, visiting schools, and head out on programming trips, Vermont maple syrup in hand. In the spring, we shift into high gear. In early June, it’s all hands on deck as we run an in-person leader training week for all of our summer leaders – a real highlight of the year and a reunion for the many leaders who return to work with us year after year! In the summer, we head off to lead our own programs and work together to respond to any issues happening on our programs from our Vermont headquarters. We take a bit of a summer break, and then return in September to start the cycle again!
What are your favorite trips to program and why?
Since starting at Putney, I have been a program director for Putney’s Ecuador programs (Service, Language, and Middle School). Putney has been collaborating with our friends in Ecuador for over 20 years, and our network and relationships there are strong. Having those kinds of long-term relationships in place (which we have in many other countries as well) allows us to create excellent programs and meaningful, safe experiences for our student groups. Ecuador has a bit of everything: mountains, jungle, ocean, a fascinating history, and strong indigenous and cultural heritage. For many students, Ecuador is just a little outside of their comfort zone, and each year we hear incredible stories of adventure, personal growth, and new understandings of the world from students who travel with Putney there.
Pick one of our program types (Career, Exploration, Language, Pre-College, or Service) and describe why you are drawn to that type.
I think Putney Career programs stand out because they are each focused on a specific topic, and are designed to help students explore a subject matter of interest with a bit more focus than other programs. Putney has a roster of incredible subject matter experts lined up to join each of the Career programs, which adds a lot to the experience. This year, I am the program director for the Career Switzerland: CERN & the Future of Science program. We have an array of excellent local contacts as well as an expert lined up to travel with the group. I can’t wait to get in touch with all of them and start to develop plans for this year’s groups.
Where do you hope to program Putney’s next trips?
I would love to design a Putney Spanish language immersion program in Oaxaca, Mexico, a place that I have been several times. Best food in the world!
What trip would you like to lead and why?
I have my heart set on leading the Service Morocco program some day, because I know we work with an incredible host community in the Atlas Mountains there. I also would love to lead the Service Nepal program, because I am interested in learning about life in the Himalaya.
To learn more about our 2024 programs, click here!