Maud Mandel, PHS 1985, Is Named The 18th President of Williams College
WILLIAMS PRESIDENT-ELECT: Maud Mandel, dean and history professor at Brown University, has been appointed as the 18th president of Williams College. Mandel grew up in Princeton, attending Littlebrook, John Witherspoon, and Princeton High Schools. (Photo by Webb Chappell)
By Donald Gilpin
The Williams College Board of Trustees on March 11 appointed Maud S. Mandel as the college’s 18th president. However she began developing her leadership skills and intellectual attributes long ago, as a child growing up in Princeton.
“My strongest memories are linked to the people that I befriended at Littlebrook, John Witherspoon, and Princeton High School (PHS), a handful of whom are among those I hold most dear to this day,” she said. “For me, the best associations with the town are deeply linked to the family and loved ones that filled my days there.”
The daughter of Ruth Mandel, director of Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University and retired Rutgers English Professor Barrett Mandel, Maud Mandel is currently a “transformative” dean and longtime professor of history and Judaic studies at Brown University, who has been a “relentless champion for undergraduates and a truly inspiring colleague,” according to Brown University President Christina Paxson. Her stepfather is PHS history teacher Jeff Lucker, who taught her when she was a student there.
Lucker expressed how gratifying it has been “to watch the trajectory of someone’s life from my classroom, to college, to professor, then dean of Brown, and now the presidency of Williams.”
Mandel commented on her childhood memories of Princeton Public Schools. “A liberal arts education allows students to hone a series of competencies that they begin learning at a much younger age, such as writing, research, and problem-solving,” she said. “These are skills that I — like all children — began learning in grade school. I have wonderful memories of learning math with Mrs. Geary in second grade, art with Mr. Mackey, and reading in Mr. Count’s advanced reading courses. I believe that a lifelong love of learning is instilled at a young age at home, but also in a strong elementary education, which I was fortunate to have.”
Mandel, who will begin her tenure at Williams on July 1, will be joined at the western Massachusetts campus by her husband Steve Simon and their children, Lev and Ava.
Mandel described her formative years at PHS in the early 1980s. “Princeton High School prepared me well for the next phase of my academic journey. My favorite classes were those that challenged me to question my assumptions, which was particularly true of my history classes,” she said. “Since I went on to pursue a graduate degree in history, these early experiences were clearly formative.”
She continued, ”In addition, arts courses at Princeton High School were very important to me — particularly singing in the choir with Mr. Trego and Mrs. Parrella and acting classes both in school and through the Drama Club.
“When I think about a high school education and how to advise students today, I would encourage them to take full advantage of all facets of the experience. Indeed these ‘extracurricular’ commitments provided me with opportunities to hone skills around public speaking and develop my self-confidence in ways that continue to serve me to this day.”
At Brown, where she has been a faculty member since 2001 and currently serves as dean of the university, Mandel led the establishment of the Brown Learning Collaborative, a program to strengthen student learning in liberal arts competencies through a peer-to-peer approach. She also oversaw the opening of the first Generation College and Low-Income Student Center, creating a set of programs to support high-need students financially and academically, one of the first centers of its kind in the country.
Mandel also created Brown’s first winter session program; started BrownConnect, a funded internship program and networking platform; oversaw the Swearer Center transition to more directly integrate student work with the external community; and developed 1stY@Brown, an online course that prepares students for success in Brown’s open curriculum.
Over the past two decades, Mandel has also gone beyond her focus on undergraduate education to participate in and lead more than a dozen search processes and chaired committees and working groups including the Task Force on Diversity in the Curriculum, the Enrollment Management Committee, and the Committee to Review Brown’s Academic Code Policies and Procedures.
She has taught courses at Brown on the history of the Holocaust, Zionism and the birth of the state of Israel, and anti-Semitism, among other topics.
After graduating from PHS in 1985, Mandel went to Oberlin College, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in English, followed by MA and PhD degrees in history from the University of Michigan.
In her research and writing, including a wide range of publications, Mandel has examined the ways policies and practices of inclusion and exclusion in 20th century France have affected ethnic and religious minorities, most notably Jews, Armenians, and Muslim North Africans.
She has explored these themes in two books, In the Aftermath of Genocide: Armenians and Jews in Twentieth Century France (Duke University Press, 2003) and Muslims and Jews in France: History of Conflict (Princeton University Press, 2014). She was also a co-editor of Colonialism and the Jews (Indiana University Press, 2017).