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WILLIAMSTOWN — Williams College President Maud Mandel spent the other weekend among old friends.
On May 2, she was at the Brown University commencement in Providence, R.I. — she worked there until taking her current post at Williams — to receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the university.
Mandel taught at Brown first as a visiting assistant professor, and then as professor of history and Judaic studies. At the same time, she also was serving as dean of the college before joining Williams as president in July 2018.
At Brown’s commencement ceremony, Mandel addressed the same students she had welcomed as freshmen in person four years earlier.
In her remarks after receiving the honorary degree, she noted some of the calamitous events that have arisen since then, including the coronavirus pandemic, political and social upheaval, fights to hold on to 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 said to Brown’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, 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, communitywide responsibility for diversity, equity and inclusion work and continued Williams’ investment in the sustainability of its built environment.
The scholarly focus of Mandel, an accomplished historian, is to examine 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.
Mandel 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.
Scott Stafford can be reached at [email protected] or at 413-629-4517.
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