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University News

Maud Mandel named new dean of the College

History and Judaic studies prof. will assume role July 1

By and
Senior Staff Writers
Tuesday, June 3, 2014

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.

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  1. johnlonergan says:

    I see not one word in the entire article about broadening Brown’s search globally for the best and the brightest, nor about improving the quality of teaching, nor of teaching well beyond the walls of Brown in Providence.

    I hope that Maud Mandel expresses her support of these initiatives as she takes up her responsibilities.

    • Things mentioned that touch on your requests:
      MOOCs (!)
      Her own high quality of teaching

      Not one word for John though. Every article must be explicitly about John’s agenda, preferably in grade school English.

      • johnlonergan says:

        It’s not about MOOCs, and it’s not about “diversity” (in quotes on purpose). True “diversity” means accepting people from around the world: 87% of applications to Brown are from the US, which has only 4% of the world’s population. I find it hard to believe that 87% of the world’s best and brightest reside in the US.

        Now, do you have a comment or would you rather persist in ad hominem mud-slinging?

        • angry alum says:

          something for you to think about: a number of countries in the world (UK, Switzerland, China, among others) boast phenomenal universities of their own. It costs significantly less for excellent students there to attend institutions in their own countries, and they will still get an excellent education.

          In the US, however, the most talented students have only a handful of (expensive) schools to attend. Going abroad often means paying a surcharge as a foreign student –– sometimes three times the local rate.

          Shouldn’t we be focusing on bringing down the costs of US universities so that talented American students can attend premier schools? Brown should continue to admit foreign students, but there are problems at home to fix as well.

          • johnlonergan says:

            Angry alum,

            I agree with you that $59,000 per year is not simply outrageous–it is immoral for Brown to charge that amount of money. With the University of Texas now offering a four-year bachelor’s degree for $10,000 (1/25th of Brown), this rate is untenable.

            Where I disagree with you is:
            – we need to accept the best and the brightest from around the world. In 1946, the US accounted for 70% of the world’s GDP. Today it’s only 22%. We need to wake up and smell the (foreign-imported) coffee.
            – accepting people from abroad to Brown is a money-maker. Talk with any Admissions Director of a top-tier school in the US. They’re making money hand-over-fist with foreign scholars. They’ll literally pay anything to go to Brown.

            Now, if you REALLY want to think big, don’t think about the ~1600 kids coming to Brown every year. Think about the HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS of people that Brown could be educating, thus offsetting the cost of tuition at Brown itself. These include not just college-age kids, but also high schoolers, alums and those interested in good continuing education. I’ve spent >$300K on my education since leaving Brown, and signed off on $millions for people working for me…Brown hasn’t seen a penny of that revenue, to my regret.

            I share your goal of bringing down Brown’s unethical, immoral, too-high tuitions. It’s time that Brown, and in particular Chris Paxson, considered 21st Century methods to reduce costs and increase income from sources that currently lie fallow.

          • angry alum says:

            How much time have you spent in foreign countries? Have you attended universities there?

            As someone who comes from a multinational family, has lived abroad, and whose family members grew up in very different school/university systems, I can assure you that not everyone is chomping at the bit to attend Brown. They’re not even chomping at the bit to attend Harvard. They see value in their own educational systems, or they may have cultural/linguistic/language-related reasons to attend their home institutions. Something to think about.

            Also, when I was at Brown, I helped develop an online course. I also TA’d that course. It was not exactly the best way to learn, and the professor and my fellow TA’s were swamped trying to run it and grade everyone. MOOCs can be taxing for everyone involved, and the educational output might be interesting but have not been shown to be a comparable academic experience.

          • johnlonergan says:

            J’ai habité en France pendant 5 ans, und ich habe 5 Jahren in Deutschland gewohnt. I am fluent in 4 languages. I have been a Geschaeftsfuehrer in Germany and President in France of two companies.

            Your failure in trying to create an online course does not mean that online courses don’t work. It simply means that you failed. Failure is a good thing. Normally, when we fail in a good cause, we pick up and do it better the next time.

            I’m sorry, but I see a much more international group at Harvard and Stanford than Brown. You won’t convince me that Brown cannot extend its brand abroad.

            I’m sorry, angry alum, but get your head out of your kiester and take a look at, Dean Nitin Nohra at Harvard Business School, and the success of online courses at schools as diverse as MIT, Stanford and Yale.

            Brown risks becoming irrelevant if it continues to adhere to 19th Century teaching technologies. If you REALLY want to reduce tuitions and increase Brown’s relevance, join us in bringing about needed revolutionary change at Brown.

          • Sober Alum says:

            Yes but first things first. We must begin by replacing that idiot Chris Paxson.

          • I too regret your amazing bragging abilities cannot be shared with the world.

        • crotchetyalumnus says:

          Why don’t you go back to posting Bowe Bergdahl conspiracy theories on the New York Times website? I’m sure you’ll be about as successful in procuring the impeachment of the president as you’ll be in influencing the Brown administration.

          • johnlonergan says:

            Please focus on the subject at hand. Brown must:
            – attract the best and the brightest from around the world
            – completely reform teaching to improve on its centuries-old techniques
            – teach millions of people from 8 to 80 around the world, not just the 1600 coming to Providence in new classes each year.

            Please, respond to the issues, not to ad-hominem arguments.

          • crotchetyalumnus says:

            If we admit students from around the world, we may end up letting in the next generation of Kenyan Marxist fascist Sharia advocates who will infiltrate our government! We don’t want that, do we?

          • johnlonergan says:

            Brown must admit the next generation of Albert Einsteins, Nelson Mandelas, Mahatma Gandhis and Angela Merkels of the world. If Brown continues to focus on the US as the sole source for its branding and its students, it will continue a long decline to irrelevance. Do you have something substantive to say about accepting foreign students and teaching people around the world, or are you simply ignorant?

          • crotchetyalumnus says:


          • AD HOMINEM says:

            “or are you simply ignorant”

          • The Next Albert Einstein says:

            Hi John. Just wanted to let you know that I’m a current Brown student and love it very much. I do not appreciate being referred to in your comments as some far off goal as I do exist already. My friends, the next Nelson Mandela and the next Mahatma Gandhi, would also like you to stop referencing them as well.

          • WellAreYou? says:

            Dear Next Albert Einstein,
            Are you going to worship John, or are you going to be part of the problem?

          • WellSelected says:

            “Angela Merkels”

            Admittedly, I like this choice as a replacement for your previous candidate of Mother Theresa.

        • JohnGoWriteaBlog says:

          It’s not about MOOCs… Yet you are constantly touting the benefits of them. Is it less relevant when someone brings them up independently of you?

          Moreover, your mention of diversity is not really very useful in the core topic at hand: your comments are not addressing the article they sit upon. You conveniently bring the discussion away with every reply.

          Finally, enough with playing the victim. You are consistently condescending and almost always brag about your accomplishments as if that makes your arguments somehow more valid (it doesn’t).

          • johnlonergan says:

            Really, do you think that I suddenly came up with a revelation about flipping the classroom and online teaching? How 19th Century of you!
            In fact, Brown is currently an outlier in using online tools. Spending $300K on two MOOCs and then declaring “no more” represents the worst kind of narrow-mindedness.

            I continue to talk about improving Brown. You continue to talk about my shortcomings. My wife can do this far better than you can.

            The key question is: Which is the more productive discussion?

          • Whatever says:

            “Really, do you think that I suddenly came up with a revelation about flipping the classroom and online teaching? How 19th Century of you!”
            I’m sorry, where did I say that? I love your condescending tone as usual though.

            As for declaring “no more” I once again refer you to the actual article, where the new dean was in fact drawn in by the concept.

            I’m sure your wife is wonderful (truly!), but your cute statement is irrelevant.

            The productive discussion is the one that is relevant to the forum being used. Commenting on every article is…

  2. johnlonergan says:

    Hi Maude,

    Welcome to the Big Leagues. Brown can be seen as a faded former, something like Spain in this year’s World Cup. You will have to up your game and that of Brown in order to compete against not only Harvard and Stanford, but also the best of the world.

    Are you up to the challenge?

    John in San Francisco

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