A New Role

Portrait of interim Williams President Tiku Majumder, standing, facing camera, hands clasped in front of him. He wears a dark blue suit, with white shirt and blue tie.

Tiku Majumder

I’m pleased to be penning my first column as interim president. I was honored when the Board of Trustees asked me to assume this role after 23 years as a professor of physics at Williams. I deeply love this place and have benefited greatly from the college’s support for my teaching and experimental physics research program. Now I’m looking forward to advancing Williams’ work in my new capacity.

I’m particularly looking forward to having conversations with many of you about your own experiences of Williams and your hopes for its future. The features in this issue make a nice starting point for discussions about the further work we can do together.

One article looks at how people who’ve graduated from Williams go on to shape the world. It’s a profile of a group of alumni from the Class of 2004 who, remarkably, have all become influential in national politics and policy debates. Hannah Fried, Jon Lovett, Michael Needham and Cortney Tunis collectively model the diversity of thoughtful viewpoints we want to foster at Williams that’s so important to civic life.

I’m particularly looking forward to having conversations with many of you about your own experiences of Williams and your hopes for its future.

A second feature—an excerpt from a new book by Tufts historian Kendra Taira Field ’99—exemplifies the intellectual curiosity Williams encourages in our students. As a child, Field loved listening to her grandmother’s stories about growing up African-American and Creek Indian in what is now Oklahoma. Those stories, along with decades of archival research, inform her scholarship on the experiences of tens of thousands of freedpeople who pushed westward after the Civil War. Field explores the circumstances and social forces they encountered as well as the ramifications of shifts in racial thinking for their lives, for those of their descendants and for the nation, generally. In the acknowledgments, she mentions several Williams professors, demonstrating the influence our faculty often have on graduates’ careers and contributions.

A third article spotlights a curricular innovation that’s now deeply ingrained in Williams culture. This year is the 50th anniversary of Winter Study, and “50 Years of Lessons” collects facts and stories that, together, speak to the ongoing importance of this experience: a time when students, faculty and many others—including alumni—stretch their minds and immerse themselves in new ideas and experiences. A favorite experience of mine was developing a hands-on Physics of Musical Instruments Winter Study course early in my time here. It evolved into a semester-long interdisciplinary class that I’ve enjoyed teaching over the years. Many of you will have your own such memories, and I hope you’ll share them on social media, at reunions and in conversation with me and my colleagues.

No issue of a magazine can capture the richness of everything that happens at a college like Williams. But you’ll find much that’s interesting and inspiring in these pages, as I know you will on your next visit to campus.

—Tiku Majumder, Interim President