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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., May 3, 2021—Williams College President Maud S. Mandel received a Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, from Brown University during the university’s commencement on Sunday, May 2.
Mandel taught at Brown as a visiting assistant professor, and then as professor of history and Judaic studies while also serving as dean of the college before joining Williams as president in July 2018. At Brown’s commencement ceremony she addressed the same students she had welcomed in-person four years earlier. In her remarks, she noted major events that have transpired since then, including a global pandemic, political upheaval, fights to hold onto basic rights in voter access, and major movements against racism and for equity and justice.
“One of the things you’ve learned is that life can be unpredictable,” Mandel told the university’s Class of 2021 graduates. “That the path for those who thrive requires resilience. That you need to be open to changing course, learning while you’re doing, assessing the evidence and regrouping…”
Since moving to Williams, President Mandel has engaged the community in articulating a vision for the college’s future through a strategic planning effort involving faculty, staff, students, alumni, families and friends. She has advanced educational work at Williams, from major grants to important conversations about the role of technology and the creative arts in a liberal arts education. In addition, she has encouraged a culture of shared, community-wide responsibility for diversity, equity and inclusion work and continued Williams’ investment in the sustainability of its built environment.
President Mandel is also an accomplished historian, whose scholarship looks at how policies and practices of inclusion and exclusion in 20th-century France have affected Jews, Armenians and Muslim North Africans, among other minorities. Her scholarship has been recognized with fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies and the American Philosophical Society, among others. In addition to her presidential duties, she holds the title of professor of history and teaches as her schedule allows.
She earned her B.A. from Oberlin College in 1989 and her master’s degree and Ph.D. in history from the University of Michigan in 1993 and 1998, respectively.
Founded in 1793, Williams College is the second-oldest institution of higher learning in Massachusetts. The college’s approximately 2,000 undergraduate students are taught by a faculty noted for the quality of their teaching and research, and the achievement of academic goals includes active participation of students with faculty in their research. The college is also home to roughly 100 master’s students enrolled in its renowned graduate programs in Development Economics and the History of Art (the latter offered in collaboration with the Clark Art Institute). Students’ educational experience is enriched by the residential campus environment in Williamstown, Mass., which provides a host of opportunities for interaction with one another and with faculty beyond the classroom. Admission decisions on U.S. applicants are made regardless of a student’s financial ability, and the college provides grants and other assistance to meet the demonstrated needs of all who are admitted.