Maud Mandel, professor of history and Judaic studies and director of the Program in Judaic Studies, assumed the dean of the College position July 1.
Mandel’s selection as the University’s top academic officer for undergraduates concludes a national search that began last October, shortly after the announcement that then-Dean of the College Katherine Bergeron would leave Jan. 1 to serve as the president of Connecticut College.
Mandel replaces Vice President for Campus Life and Student Services Margaret Klawunn, who served as interim dean of the College last semester.
“Professor Mandel has a deep appreciation for the value of the Brown curriculum to cultivate intellectually independent, creative and analytic minds,” President Christina Paxson said in a University press release. Mandel has served in several different advising roles at Brown, Paxson wrote in a community-wide email Tuesday afternoon.
In an interview with The Herald, Mandel cited her work on Team Enhanced Advising and Mentoring, a group that advises students of underrepresented backgrounds and first-generation college students, as the “most direct” preparation she has had for the role of dean of the College, noting that the work has introduced her to issues like financial aid and career advising at Brown.
Mandel graduated from Oberlin College with a Bachelor of Arts in English in 1989 and received her masters and doctoral degrees in history from the University of Michigan.
She began teaching at Brown as a visiting assistant professor of modern Jewish history in 1997.
Unlike incoming provost Vicki Colvin, Mandel is an internal hire, which some students called for this spring as searches for both positions were underway. But the two selections also leave the racial diversity of the senior administration — among the lowest in the Ivy League and another point of emphasis for some students — unchanged.
Mandel named her long-term experience at and consequent personal connection to Brown as one of three factors that drove her interest in the dean of the College position since it first became available. The vision of the current administration and the proliferation of massive open online courses, which has challenged traditional ideas about what universities can offer students, also drew her in, Mandel said.
As a veteran faculty member, Mandel witnessed changes to the advising program under Bergeron and said she hopes to expand on those reforms. While Bergeron built up first-year and sophomore advising, Mandel hopes to strengthen concentration advising, she told The Herald.
Advising, which Paxson called Mandel’s “personal priority” in her email, must address all the opportunities available to Brown students, Mandel said — a goal she describes as “advising the whole student.”
“We want students who come to Brown to feel like they got an experience here that’s unique and important that would not be available to them at other places,” Mandel said, with advising a vehicle to achieve that goal.
Mandel’s scholarship and teaching focus on an array of topics within Jewish and French history, including immigration, the Holocaust, anti-Semitism and nationalism. Her most recent publications have explored the relationships between Jews and Muslims in France.
As a scholar of European history, Mandel said, she is particularly interested in the international impact students can make. She said she is also especially intrigued by engaged learning and sophomore seminars and was one of a few professors to teach a sophomore seminar last semester, HIST 0980B: “Becoming French: Minorities and the Challenges of Integration in the French Republic.”
Outside of Paxson’s strategic plan, Mandel is concerned about the decreasing number of undergraduates concentrating in the humanities, a trend she has personally witnessed at Brown, she told The Herald. As dean of the College, Mandel will be poised to make clear to students and parents that the humanities teach valuable skills, she said, adding that tackling the problem also “has to do with admissions and the type of students we want to bring to Brown.”
Mandel will also confront the issue of grade inflation, which was discussed during the selection process, she told The Herald. “President Paxson has made clear that one of the initiatives of the dean of the College will be to address grade inflation.”
At Brown, Mandel has been appointed as a faculty fellow at the Pembroke Center and the Cogut Center for the Humanities, according to the press release. Her teaching has also been acclaimed by students: On the Critical Review, several of her most recent ratings are close to the highest possible score of 1.
Mandel will have a leading role in implementing the components of the University’s strategic plan that focus on strengthening undergraduate education, according to the press release.
She will not teach next year but hopes to get back in the classroom shortly after that, she told The Herald, adding that she would not have taken a position that would isolate her from students.
Mandel recently started work on a book project and will continue doing research in some capacity as she moves forward with administrative work, she said.
The search committee that selected Mandel was chaired by former Provost Mark Schlissel P’15 and staffed by several professors, staff members and undergraduates.