Liam Archacki: Still Looking For Answers

Despite his passion for telling others’ stories, editor-in-chief emeritus Liam Archacki ’24 is still searching for his own.

Liam Archacki: Still Looking For Answers
Liam Archacki ’24 says he’s still looking for answers. Photo courtesy of Liam Archacki ’24.


A college student sits at a metal wire table. LIAM, 22, adorned in a Case Construction baseball hat and an Austin City Limits tee. Whispers of stubble hover over his jaw and upper lip, while a necklace peeks out of his shirt.

A moment in thought as he reaches for his mug. A sip of coffee and intent eye contact.

LIAM: I want it to be insane. Like, challenge all conventions. Reinvent the form.

Across from him, another student: MICHAEL, 21. Spectacled, but unspectacular. He adjusts his glasses and pushes the mop of hair out of his eyes.

MICHAEL: Oh, definitely.

Another sip.

LIAM: I would like some of it to be written in screenplay format.

MICHAEL (laughing): I was thinking a mix of limerick, screenplay, podcast, and sea shanty.

LIAM: See, I worry you’re joking.

He sets down his coffee. Almost melodramatically; yet with genuine intent.

LIAM (cont’d): But I’m so serious.

A pause. A truck roars down the street beside them, forcing a brief silence.

MICHAEL: That sounds amazing, but we’ve gotta keep the audience interested, give them what they want: action, violence —

LIAM: Seriously, you can’t make anything up. You have to use real quotes from this interview —


MICHAEL: C’mon, that’ll be too boring —

LIAM: And don’t just throw in a screenplay section without reason. You have to make the form match the content —


MICHAEL: Yeah, sure, but I’m not just going to use direct quotes.

LIAM: You have to! Where are your journalistic ethics?

BOOM! An explosion erupts between them. When the smoke clears, only a crater remains where AmCo once stood.

For the two years I’ve known Liam, I’ve thought he’s “cool.” Not in an unapproachable way — although he may claim otherwise, he’s not a bro in the slightest. No, he’s cool in the English and philosophy double-major way: well-spoken, considered, thoughtful, and a little bit nerdy, but not pretentious or elitist.

In his words, “I don’t think I’m pretentious, because I’m not pretending. I think I’m just fucking annoying — but I’m being very honest about it.”

Our friendship began in the newsroom: him, a grizzled senior managing editor (SME), a junior with two years of experience on the paper; me, a greenhorn news editor who thought that saving his high school paper from cancellation made him a journalistic veteran. Despite his role as an all-encompassing editor, with responsibilities in every section, he’d always be sharing laughs beside the news editors each production night. By the time he was editor-in-chief (EIC), it was almost a joke: there’s the News section, featuring EIC Liam.

We sang dozens of songs together (although mostly “Yellow”), argued over curly apostrophes (they’re not that important), and teased each other into pieces. And throughout it all, I thought, “Damn, I wish this guy was my friend.”

When I made the decision to go abroad, one of my biggest concerns was that I’d only get one semester with Liam as editor-in-chief. Given my poor track record at maintaining long-distance friendships and the fact we’d never actually spent time together outside of the newsroom, I assumed that’d be the last I’d really be around him.

So when I showed up to my first course of the spring semester, ENGL 388: “Screenwriting,” and found Liam sitting across the room, I didn’t know what to do. We’d spent dozens of hours in the newsroom, but could our friendship translate into the real world?

Spoiler alert: it did.

In fact, I feel that this semester has been the real start of our friendship. Our biweekly lunches have become some of the highlights of my time at Amherst. His biting scene criticism, while often totally wrong, has admittedly greatly improved my writing abilities. Outside the newsroom, he’s more my editor than ever.

Liam is a natural storyteller. Everyone I talked to mentioned his interest in understanding other people. From his time interning at the Christian Science Monitor, Liam’s highlight was a story where he talked to a group of elderly ladies. “That’s one thing I love about journalism: the people you meet for the stories,” he reflected. “Everyone has a really interesting story.”

But at one of our lunches, probably about a month ago, Liam made an interesting claim: that he doesn’t really know who he is. It’s something we’ve talked about somewhat extensively since then, especially in our hours-long interview for this very article.

Ironically, I think the question is one of the best ways to describe him. What question is more philosophical, anxious, and thoughtful — more “Liam” — than “who am I?”

Heart Out of Sight

“There’s, like, two forms of despair: Um, one is not wanting to be yourself. And the other one is wanting to be yourself … The former actually boils down to being the latter, where, like, all forms of despair are truly wanting to be yourself.” — Søren Kierkegaard

For days beforehand, every conversation Liam and I had would include references to the forthcoming interview. “Oh god, don’t put that in my profile” became a catchphrase of sorts, tacked onto half of his sentences. And, of course, I’d always respond: “Oh, it’s definitely going in.”

The jokes were fun, but when we actually sat down and did the thing, it was clear that his stress was real. “I’m counting on this profile to tell me who I am, what I’m meant to be,” he told me. “I think there’s a strong impulse to make a narrative out of one’s own life, but it’s even easier and better when someone else makes a narrative out of your own life.”

Most profiles begin with the subject’s upbringing, but for Liam, it only feels appropriate to start with philosophy.

Liam’s search for identity has consumed his thoughts for years. During the interview, identity bubbled up into every side conversation we had.

“This is actually something that I started thinking about in my favorite class at Amherst, ‘Kant in the 19th Century’ with [Philosophy] Professor [Rafeeq] Hasan,” Liam told me. He’d engaged storyteller mode: eyes focused on mine, although his voice had ramped up to twice its usual speed. “You only learn about yourself through other people.”

When Liam first heard the idea, he didn’t approach it academically. While his classmates casually discussed its implications, Liam was freaking out. “It was horrifying. It was like, ’Oh my God, we’re defined by what other people think of us? This is my biggest fear.” He emphasized, “It was my life flashing before my eyes.”

Over time, though, the idea has become almost liberating. “Yeah, we don’t have absolute control over how people perceive us. But we do have control over our behavior.”

Until our interview two weeks ago, Liam thought of himself as a “bro.” But the claim is dubious. Sawyer Pollard ’24, Liam’s best friend for the past three years, recalled their first interaction: “I met Liam in the Covid-19 testing lab. Those lines were very long and slow, so I was trying to make conversation … Liam kept on trying to bring up sports that I might like, but every time he brought up a sport, I was like, ‘Nah, I don’t really like that.’”

When he told me this, we were joined by Nicole Papageorgiou, another of Liam’s closest friends, as well as Liam himself. None of us could hold back our laughter at Freshman Liam’s appeals to masculinity. Sawyer thought for a moment before continuing, “he wanted to be a bro, but Amherst was a slow realization that he’s not a bro. And he never will be. He’s actually an English major.”

Nicole had been surprised when I even brought up the possibility. She felt that Liam is “Not [a bro] in the slightest … Not even a little bit.”

Always the philosopher, Liam turned this story into an opportunity for reflection. Continuing his consideration of identity, Liam argued, “Our freedom is that I can change my behavior to become more of a ’bro.’ But ultimately, what I’m just trying to do is change how you perceive me.”

Day After Day, Alone on a Hill

“Our aspirations are wrapped up in books, our inclinations are hidden in looks” — “Wrapped Up in Books” by Belle and Sebastian

Some students hole up in their rooms all day, emerging only to sit in the back rows of their classes and steal a quick meal from Val. Others float between common rooms and Frost, attaching themselves to any and all friends they can find. Liam found an unlikely home elsewhere.

“Sawyer was always dragging me here,” he admitted to me. “I never actually even liked coffee.”

Yet with time, Amherst Coffee — typically called AmCo by loyal patrons — became Liam’s go-to work spot. He has spent hours here daily for the past few years, becoming the sort of “regular” who knows which baristas make the best espressos.

“I invited Liam and then I guess he became like a coffee snob,” Sawyer later told me.

“No, not a snob, but an appreciator. He’s really a snob for the vibe of the cafe.”

Everyone I talked to poked fun at Liam for being a “snob,” but I think his particularness is part of what makes him special. Nicole joked about how when music is playing in public, Liam always makes sure to name out loud the songs he recognizes — something that happened five or so times while I talked to him, interrupting our conversation each time.

Liam deemed himself the “Rick Rubin” of Sawyer’s songwriting, providing tempo and style recommendations while Sawyer tests out songs on his guitar. Sawyer hesitantly agreed to the comparison, after a bit of pressure and a cheese board bribe. Although I was gone last semester, everyone in the newsroom who had been there collectively cheered when they realized they wouldn’t have to listen to Big Thief songs on repeat this year. But for Liam, music is a significant part of who he is. “Some people like to travel to different countries. And I like that, but for me, finding a new song is what blows me away … [it] speaks to something that I couldn’t express myself.”

Liam’s room is crammed full of books, acquired over dozens of shopping trips with “money I don’t have.” It’s a bad habit, he says. “Some people collect coins, I collect books. Sometimes I read them, sometimes people look at their coins.” As Sawyer described it, “I’ve never seen someone with so many books in their room. And it’s all Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Kant, and David Foster Wallace.” Nicole told me about how “anytime he leaves his room, he has to bring at least one novel and one poetry collection, if not multiples of each” — and pressures her to bring books, too.

He likes reading difficult texts, but not because he thinks he’s better than anyone else. In fact, he told me that he often feels like he doesn’t grasp course materials as well as his classmates — but that doesn’t stop him from trying. “It’s inspiring; it makes me want to think more intensely, passionately, rigorously.” It’s the long, challenging journey to understanding that Liam loves.

As we spoke, Liam struggled to put into words why AmCo has become his functional home. Was it because he liked being around people? Or was it because he needed a space away from campus? Did he like the lack of Amherst students, or the presence of locals?

I can’t help but feel that Liam’s relationship with AmCo is emblematic of a larger way of interacting with the world. Liam didn’t choose AmCo, not really. He fell into it face-first, but the resulting passion between man and coffee shop is remarkable.

The same can be said about a lot of Liam’s defining moments. “I actually tried really hard not to be a philosophy and English major. As it’s been pointed out to me, it’s kind of embarrassing,” he explained. He had actually come to Amherst intending to be a biology major but found the memorization requirements too boring to continue. “I honestly feel like I couldn’t have done anything else except philosophy and English.”

When he joined The Amherst Student, he never dreamed of becoming an editor-in-chief. His internship with the Christian Science Monitor came in part because their original choice, an international student, had failed to get a visa. Even his birth wasn’t entirely planned, as his parents hadn’t thought they could traditionally conceive. Liam is the kind of person who’s proactive — seeking opportunities and doing the work — but in the end, his life hasn’t gone at all as planned. Maybe that’s why he’s so spontaneous and adventurous, the type of person who’s always looking for the next cafe to try.

By the end of our conversation, Liam had concluded that there was nothing truly special about AmCo after all. “It matters a lot more who you’re around and what you’re doing than where you are, at least for me.”

Give Me a Place to Be

September 3, 2022

It’s 10:45 am on the First Year Quad and I would rather be anywhere but here.

Swarms of students fester around the loop of tables, devouring the information from any poor spokesperson they can attach themselves to. Although I avoid their eyes, I can feel them burning into me. Scanning me. Judging me. But as long as my eyes are glued to the ground, they’ll lose interest and move onto their next victim.

“C’mon, get out there. Approach someone.” He says, I think to me. “You’re supposed to be recruiting people, not hiding from them.”

I make a joke to hide my discomfort. He jokes back, but in a way that pushes for more. How are we going to get new writers if you just stand there?

Still, for the next hour of torment, he never pushes too hard. We tease and argue over my responsibilities and the ethics of my immobility, but it’s never uncomfortable. I don’t know him yet. I think I like him. He’s confident; he shows off how easy it is to get people to put their name down. He acts like he’s never been anxious before in his life. He’s only a SME now, but to this rookie news editor, he’s the man of the hour.

Liam wasn’t always the most-sought-after man on Amherst campus. He claims that he once hailed from a place known as “Texas,” going to what he calls “high school,” and was overly concerned with what “other people” thought of him.

In addition to emphasizing his interest in sports, Liam described his high school self as being “kind of a clown.” But it wasn’t harmless entertainment: “I was just so ashamed of how I looked and who I was that I made an entire joke out of it.”

When it came time to choose a college, Liam’s fears of judgment almost prevented him from coming to Amherst. Like many students, he was drawn to the open curriculum, the campus, and the town. Still, he was worried that other students would judge him for being a legacy, or they’d be too elitist and preppy to connect with.

Liam’s first year did little to assuage his concerns. When Covid struck, he found himself using the restrictions as “an excuse to not socialize.” He felt that while other students were going out and making friendships, he was completely alone. “That [was] one of the loneliest times in my life,” he said. “I felt so afraid of what these really smart, successful, talented, sociable, presentable people would think of me.”

A second-semester room switch provided the first step towards finding a place at Amherst. After two weeks spent hiding in his new room, Liam performed what he calls “an act of sheer desperation” — he approached floormate Josue Martin ’24 on their way to a shared class. Luckily enough, Josue “just happened to be a great, wonderful person,” with the two eventually deciding to room together for their sophomore year.

During that same period, Liam became a sports editor for The Student. But his journey to the section hadn’t been entirely planned; he’d tried joining the sports analytics club and bioethics club, but had failed to make the connections he sought. Although he’d never tried his hand at journalism before, The Student made sense: he still considered himself a “sports guy,” wanted an outlet to write publicly, and felt like his resume needed a boost.

Liam felt like his majors were a big help in adjusting to journalism. “Philosophy classes prepare you for the journalistic style of writing. It’s very concise, to the point, no waste.”

He didn’t expect the position to be a major commitment, much less just one step in a series of promotions. “I got in way over my head … It was like quicksand, getting deeper and deeper.”

More than anything, Liam fell in love with the joint sense of purpose and commitment. In a sea of apathy, Liam felt like the newsroom was “a place on campus where people really deeply cared about things.” He especially looked up to then-editors-in-chief Ryan Yu ’22 and Becca Picciotto ’22, who he felt took the work especially seriously.

When Liam became a senior managing editor, and then an editor-in-chief, the responsibilities began to take a toll. As his roommate, Sawyer watched Liam’s tenure unfold firsthand. With a hint of melodrama, he recalled, “[Liam] sacrificed himself for The Student, for journalism.” Although Liam laughed at Sawyer’s exaggerated wording, he agreed with the details. “It destroyed my sleep schedule,” he remembered. “It was really stressful.”

On top of his editorial duties — including editing every article in the paper, meeting with each section, leading editorial discussions, and staying up until 8 a.m. finalizing layout — Liam consistently wrote his own articles.

I counted roughly 80 articles written by Liam during his three and a half years with The Student, and he told me that around 25 of them had been written in a single semester. When I asked him if he regretted any of it, he told me, “That was just really untenable … But at the same time, it was what was required at that point. I would rather have done it than not done it.”

Despite its struggles, Liam felt like he gained much more out of his time at The Student than he sacrificed. In addition to improving his writing and leadership skills, Liam appreciated the team’s sense of humor and comradery. During his first year, he fondly recalled how Ryan Yu and Scott Brasesco ’22, the managing opinion editor at the time, would have “ridiculous political discussions” and force everyone else to weigh in. Another of his favorite “goofy moments” was when Ryan would bring instruments into the newsroom and play them for the team. From his time as editor-in-chief, he told me, “I really liked the era of like, listening to ‘Yellow’ by Coldplay at the end of every night. I mean, it’s so, so silly and fun.”

Out of all the topics we talked about, Liam’s passion shined through most when talking about The Student. “I didn’t do a thesis, so sometimes I’ll joke that my thesis was The Student,” he explained. “And it really does feel like that, I feel like that’s my capstone achievement.”  Of the 80 articles he wrote, he’s most proud of a news story about campus apathy that he co-wrote with news editor Leo Kamin ’25. Three semesters later, it’s a topic he’s still interested in. “I think that’s the biggest problem that Amherst has right now — people not caring about what happens in the world and also on campus.” He also highlighted his story on Andreas Georgiou ’83, “a 3000-word profile that I wrote in like two days.”

But more than any of the articles he wrote, he’s proud of the behind-the-scenes work he performed as editor-in-chief. With campus tensions rising last semester around the Israel-Palestine conflict, he felt that the Student team rose to the challenge. As he expressed his admiration for his fellow editors, he ended up shouting out every news editor and SME. And, of course, he emphasized the work of his co-editor-in-chief, Sam Spratford ’24: “Sam and I were a really great duo. We made up for each other’s strengths and weaknesses.”

The conversation once again turned to perception and legacy, but this time, Liam was optimistic. “I’m really happy to think that it’s something that will continue on after me, into the future. And I’ll be able to look back in 20 years and read the Amherst Student and be like, ‘Hey, I was a part of that.’”

A Quiet Place to Lay This to Rest

Liam Archacki

Total Time: 22 years


Yield: 1 serving

1 copy of The Amherst Student

Too many philosophy books (Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, or Kant preferred)

1 novel (to-go)

1 poetry collection (to-go)

1 serving “I Can’t Believe He’s Not Bro!”™

A large helping of anxiety


Step One: Combine spontaneously and serve.

Every Tuesday and Thursday after class this semester, Liam and I got lunch. And every Tuesday and Thursday this semester, Liam would ask me what they were serving.

“What’s for lunch?” he’d ask. He knew that I often checked beforehand, although he’d often forget that I often forgot what it actually said. Sometimes, though, I’d have an answer.

This time, I don’t. I can’t say what’s on the menu for Liam’s future. Nicole and Ryan believe he’s destined to become Amherst’s president. Sawyer thinks he’ll be the editor-in-chief for The New Yorker.

When I interviewed him, Liam didn’t have any plans. His dream is “to do something with words; maybe writing, or communications, or editing.” The appeal of cafes, bookstores, and good food has him hoping to move to Brooklyn someday.

Since then, he’s won the Samuel Bowles Prize for journalistic achievement and has plans to spend the summer in Boulder, Colorado, working in the service industry while he tries to find a long-term job with a magazine. It’s not the idea of “success” that some grads have, but for him, it’s enough. “I’ve come to realize that my own happiness — my own comfort, my own feeling good about myself — is far more important to me than these sorts of external indicators of success.”

Liam said that he’s made a lot of progress while at Amherst. He feels “more open to possibility,” “less constrained,” “less self-loathing.” He no longer hides in his room, afraid of meeting people. His biggest regret is that he didn’t realize this sooner. “I wonder how many other people I could have met at Amherst if I wasn’t only focused on certain indicators of what might make a person compatible with me as a friend.” Still, he’s happy with the progress he’s made and feels happy with the friends he has.

But Liam made a point to say that his story isn’t over yet. “It’s unresolved. There’s no nice, tidy, little ending.”