A Position of Strength

Head shot of President Maud S. MandelAfter hundreds of conversations with Williams students, staff, alumni and faculty over the last six months, and having immersed myself in the history of this stellar institution, I am starting to get a sense of its traditions, heritage and impact. Given the college’s strong foundation and the vitality of its programs, Williams is poised to make an even greater impact on the American higher education landscape.

Where do we want to go next? As I settle into my presidency, and the college nears the June 2019 close of its extraordinarily successful Teach It Forward campaign, it’s an opportune moment to ask that question. The strategic planning effort I introduced in November is designed to prompt consideration of the possible answers. Although it’s a time of considerable economic and political volatility, we’re fortunate to work from a position of great strength for Williams. This is an opportunity to imagine new possibilities ambitiously, creatively, openly and, most of all, collectively.

The Strategic Planning Coordinating Committee has started building a framework to support these efforts, and eight themed working groups will drill down into some of the areas important to us. Visit to learn more and share your ideas. We’ll update the site as the work progresses and share major developments and opportunities through the college’s monthly email newsletter, Ephnotes, among other outlets.

In January, an ad hoc committee convened to develop ideas on how Williams can bring clarity to the role of campus speakers in our educational program in ways that ensure our commitments to both free expression and inclusion. Public interest in higher education tends to treat these two values as separate. I’m eager to see Williams contribute to the conversation by addressing them together. The committee will deliver its recommendations by this summer. I look forward to reviewing them with the community.

Another exciting development is our recent move to eliminate one summer of the college’s required earnings contribution for all students receiving financial aid from Williams. The change will enable students to use the summer to expand their studies or explore careers. Affordability is a concern for all Williams families, and we’ll continue looking for ways to open doors and reduce obstacles to access.

There’s a great deal more happening at Williams, including the work of our wonderful faculty and students: six professors were granted tenure by the board in January, while students were honored with Rhodes, Schwarzman and Mitchell scholarships. There was yet another Directors’ Cup—we’ve now won 21 in the award’s 23-year history—and the completion of phase one of our science center building project. So many alumni and others have helped get the college to where it is today. I look forward to working with you to chart the next stage of Williams’ long and exciting journey.