An Interview with Lauren Wainwright

FIVe QUESTIONS with: Lauren Wainwright

Director of Strategy & Special Projects

History Department, Faculty

Q: What has your journey been like since you left Springs?

A: It’s been interesting that my journey has come full-circle, back to where I started. I’m still surprised some days to find myself here, but I probably shouldn’t be.

When I graduated from Springs, my goal was to get my Masters in Classics and come back to Springs to teach Latin. So I went to Wesleyan University and majored in Classics—so far so good—but when I graduated, I decided to take time off rather than go straight to grad school. I lived in a bunch of different cities and did random jobs: I was a dog groomer, a futon maker, a librarian, a security guard, a nanny. I was flag-girl on a highway construction crew for a minute. But mostly I was a waitress. This was all great fun, of course, but a few years into it, I realized I desperately wanted to use my brain again. By that time I had become interested in law and wanted to teach it, so off I went to law school. Unfortunately, I had a lot of student-loan debt by the time I graduated, and I couldn’t really afford to teach; so, to pay off my loans, I worked as a corporate lawyer in New York and London for the next 12 years.  

For the first half of that time I was at a law firm, working 80–100-hour weeks. Once I paid my student loans off, though, I actually tried to quit law altogether. For the first time. I had been obsessed with the idea of hiking the Silk Road since I was at Springs, so I booked a three-month trip and gave my notice at the firm. I figured I would worry about what to do next when I got back. My client at the time, though—Goldman Sachs—got wind that I was about to leave my firm and tried to get me to stay by offering me the position of in-house counsel at Goldman.

I wasn’t interested in the job at first, but it did have a lot of perks—chief among them, bossing other lawyers around. Ultimately, I guess I let the advice of family and friends, as well as my internal fears, get the better of me, and I took the job. I will say, it was always intellectually stimulating; but it was never terribly fulfilling. And after the crash of 2008 happened, it got even worse: having to wade through protesters to get inside my office building every day was painful, particularly because I sided with the protesters more than I sided with Goldman.

When I finally acknowledged to myself that the job just wasn’t making me happy anymore, I left. The theatre had always been one of my passions, in my “real” life away from Goldman, so I decided I wanted to do theatre now. Only problem was, I was a lawyer—I had no skills! But I figured, well, I’m not an idiot, so if I don’t know it, I’ll go learn it. I got into Yale School of Drama, I earned an MFA, and then I moved back to New York to run a theatre company and produce plays off-Broadway. I was also commuting back and forth to Yale to teach law classes there.


Q: What prompted you to leave New York and come back to Springs after all this time?

A: It was all Dr. Howell, actually. We met at Springs’ New York alumni reception and hit it off. We stayed in touch, and one day she suggested that I consider teaching at Springs. And it stuck with me. The more I thought about it, the more I realized how much Springs had meant to me, and how much of me was thanks to Springs, so I said yes. It was my original dream after all. I mean, I’m not teaching Latin, which should come as a relief to all your readers, because the only thing my Classics major is good for now is translating school mottos. I’ve forgotten pretty much everything.


Q: What were your most significant takeaways from Springs?

A: For me, the biggest takeaway wasn’t anything that anyone said or taught, it was just something that I understood at Springs. It was the culture of the place—it inspired independence and creativity and a “just do YOU, kid!” kind of confidence. Looking back over the years, I’m certain it was that Springs cast of mind that helped me author my life—from the dog-grooming, futon-making years after college, to law school, Goldman Sachs, theatre, nd now back to Springs—with a sense of fearlessness, I suppose, and excitement for each of those turns.


Q: What’s your favorite music?

A: I will listen to anything but country, really. I like Kasabian, the Ettes, ’90s riot grrrl punk, Melody Gardot, Alabama Shakes, David Bowie, Hiatus Kaiote, Stevie Wonder, Broadway show tunes . . . t kinda runs the gamut.


Q: What is a funny story from your time at Springs?

A: Oh dear. I will give only these clues and can say no more: buck-buck, Dr. Horn’s rain dance, wearing National Latin Convention togas to Subway to get free food, the Indian Springs School Prime Ribs, Willie the Whip (a.k.a. Mr. Lantrip), waiting in line for the pay phone in the dorm circle, Dr. Cooper’s “prefabricated ships,” the school Pig Roast and wait where did the pig’s head go?, there wasn’t always a guard at the entrance . . . , the Japanese Gardens, the Non-Glee Club, and who moved the Truth House?


- Interview conducted by Galen Fleet '18