Beginning our first semester together

Dear Williams students, faculty and staff,

It’s my pleasure to welcome everyone to the start of a new semester—my first at Williams and the first for some of you, as well.

Since arriving in July, my family and I have been busy getting to know people, settling into our house and acclimating ourselves to new routines.

I’ve also been enjoying the chance to do a lot of listening. Members of the faculty, it has been gratifying to hear from many of you about your scholarly and educational commitments and how much you value working with Williams students. Staff members, I’m quickly appreciating the depth of your commitment to students’ education and wellbeing. Students, I’ve enjoyed getting to know you, too, as you return to campus. I want to pause here to invite you to visit me in Hopkins Hall during drop-in office hours or to join me for one of my student lunches in the dining halls. The first lunch is scheduled for Friday, September 14, in Paresky. We’ll send out a Daily Message early next week with details, including the full list of dates and times for the semester. Finally, while this is a message to campus, I also want to acknowledge the numerous alumni—more than a few who also work here—who have warmly welcomed me into the Eph community. I’ve already had so much fun getting to know Williams and all of you!

There will be a great opportunity to spend more time together this coming Saturday, during my presidential induction. The festivities give us a chance to meet and welcome all the incredible first-year students and new faculty members who have joined Williams this year. Although new staff are spread across too many department and office web pages to link to, I hope you’ll take advantage of Saturday’s induction picnic and barbecue to make all our newest colleagues feel at home. If you can’t be here in person, the ceremony will also be live-streamed. Please join us however you can.

The induction includes a whole day of academic and other events organized around the theme Inside/Outside. Several other fall events and programs relate to questions of inclusion, too. For example, many of us are reading the Williams Reads selection, Sing, Unburied, Sing. I hope you’ll come hear author Jesmyn Ward in Chapin Hall on Thursday, Oct. 11. And the Curricular Planning Committee (CPC) is convening a working group to consider a proposal to formalize an Asian-American studies major or concentration. I want to thank in advance CPC chair Christopher Nugent, professor of Chinese and chair of the comparative literature program, and his fellow committee members, as well as the members of the working group and the many people who have advocated thoughtfully for this idea. Finally, the fall calendar includes a major exhibition at the Williams College Museum of Art, “‘The Field is The World’: Williams, Hawaiʻi, and Material Histories in the Making,” that will spark challenging discussions about our own institutional history. Please visit the galleries and participate if you can in the campus conversations on Sept. 27 and Nov. 1. There will be more programming on the arts and social justice this year, with details to come.

In fact, there’s so much planned for the fall on topics from sustainability and the environment to campus climate. Not to mention a wealth of activities across the curriculum and, of course, athletics. I’m looking forward to sampling it all with you.

Finally, I want to point out that we’re entering the last year of the Teach It Forward campaign, through which alumni, parents and other friends have enabled us to build a new science center and the Class of 1966 Environmental Center; provide resources to support faculty, greatly increase our financial aid and invest in Integrative Wellbeing Services; renovate The Log and Chapin Hall; and construct our first new residence halls in 40 years. Not to mention funding the Center for Learning in Action, the ’68 Center for Career Exploration, the Williams-Exeter Programme at Oxford and many other offerings. Our alumni and families love this college and care about education enough to have given us this remarkable foundation.

Thanks to their work, and yours, Williams is well equipped to imagine an ambitious future. This fall we’ll launch community-wide discussions about what a great liberal arts education should look like in a new era. Everyone will be invited to contribute. Look for information about how to do so later in the term.

This is a lot of information, but it barely scratches the surface of what’s going on at Williams. I look forward to the active semester ahead of us!


Maud S. Mandel
Professor of History; Program in Jewish Studies