Four Questions with Emily Carton: Back in a New York State of Mind
Ms. Emily Carton is the new Director of Student and Community life at Emma Willard School. She most recently served as the assistant head of school for student life at Hebron Academy in Maine and joined the Emma Willard community this summer. We asked her four questions about her first few months at the school:
#1 — What brought you to Emma Willard School?
As a native New Yorker who has spent a decade in the independent school world, I have known about Emma Willard for quite a while. I always admired how Emma seemed to be at the cutting edge — of academics, of sustainability, of issues pertaining to gender, and more.
During the height of the pandemic, I served as the Upper School Director and then the Assistant Head of School for Student Life at Hebron Academy in Maine. I also had my first child in the spring of 2020, so it was a very busy few years! My husband and I were ready to be closer to family, so we were looking for a community in New York that embraced the values that are most important to us: a deep love of learning, a commitment to equity and justice, and a strong sense of purpose. Emma’s location also happens to strike that perfect balance between urban convenience and access to green spaces, which my husband and I have found to be crucial to our mental and physical health. When this position opened up at Emma, it almost seemed too good to be true!
#2 — What is a typical day-in-the-life at Emma like for you?
There’s no such thing as a typical day when you work in Student Life! The only thing that is certain is that you’ll rarely find me in my office, as my job requires that I’m constantly on the move. You might find me eating meals with students in the dining hall, teaching READY in Slocum, mediating a student conflict, working with Ms. Mariah to organize weekend activities, helping the Res Fac in the dorms, advising our student leaders, or working with students one-on-one on a variety of personal projects.
#3 — What is one thing about working in student life that would surprise people?
I’ll give two answers to this one:
First, we’re expert chameleons. To work in Student Life, you have to be comfortable with change and always ready to adapt, as the needs of students are ever-evolving. I rarely have a day that goes “as planned.” I like to say that I exist in a state of controlled chaos — and I love it.
Second, although we are the ones tasked with enforcing the rules, we’re also generally the biggest rule breakers! We’re all about nuance, so if it seems like a policy isn’t serving a particular student well given their unique circumstances, we’re the first to advocate for an exception. I always encourage students to come talk to me if they think a school rule isn’t working for them. Even if we end up sticking to the original policy, we’ll both leave that conversation with a much better understanding of each other and of the complex needs of our community.
#4 — What is your favorite space or place on Emma's campus?