President Maud S. Mandel receives award for supporting first-generation and low-income students.

President Maud S. Mandel received the inaugural 1vyG Institutional Changemaker Award at the organization’s sixth annual summit of first-generation and low-income college students. Presented on Feb. 25 at the University of Pennsylvania, the award recognizes administrators who have set new norms for how higher education supports first-generation and low-income students, according to the organization’s website. 

President Mandel received the award for her work making Williams the first college or university in the U.S. to offer all-grant financial aid, and for her contributions to open the first-ever Undocumented, First-Generation College and Low-Income Student Center (U-FLi Center) while dean of the college at Brown University. 

Before an audience of students and administrators from higher education institutions across the country, President Mandel, who is also a historian, noted the value of “asking better questions” in order to make education accessible to everyone. “Understanding our past sets us up for better thinking about where to go next,” she said. “If education is a gateway to economic and civic wellbeing, then who should have access to it?” 

She spoke about the importance of utilizing data about financial aid programs and initiatives in order to make a Williams education “truly and wholly affordable.” She also shared her experience helping the college to provide its students with one of the most generous need-based aid programs in the country. Launched in April 2022, the nation’s first all-grant financial aid program permanently eliminated loans, campus work requirements and required summer contributions for all aided students. 

“As much as possible, we looked at the cost, not just of enrolling, but of fully participating in all Williams has to offer,” Mandel said, “because any person’s ‘right’ to an education will be purely hypothetical unless they can afford it.”

That idea resonated with Williams students Chris Flores ’26 and Emily Kondo ’23, co-directors of the Firsts Student Union, and Samantha Luna ’24, who attended and provided support for the event. 

“The [1vyG] conference allows for the visibility of first-generation and low-income voices on the campuses of highly elite institutions,” says Kondo, a first generation student who served as the college’s student ambassador to the conference and is also involved in the Williams Firsts program. “The fact that the event was hosted on UPenn’s campus is a testament to the strength of our communities and works towards achieving a reality where our voices are prioritized and championed in all institutions of higher education.”

Published February 28, 2023