Alexandra E. Mandis '95
This interview is dated 8/10/16.
As an international student, Alexandra E. Mandis was President of the Brown International Organization, Photo Editor of the Brown Daily Herald, and Co-Chair of her Annual Fund Senior Class Gift Campaign, among other activities. Though Alexandra departed Brown through the Van Wickle Gates in 1995, she has remained ever true as an active alumna leader in the Brown community, which has remained an integral part of her life. Alexandra is on the Women's Leadership Council Executive Committee and serves as the Communications Co-Chair. She is also a member of the 125 Years of Women at Brown Conference Steering Committee, a member of the University's Advisory Council for the College, a member of the Brown Annual Fund Leadership Council, Vice President of the Class of 1995, and a member of the Alumni Interviewing Program. Alexandra is also delighted to have accepted the invitation to join the University's Advisory Council for the College, which launches in the fall of 2016. Alexandra has made a tremendous impact as an alumna, and has proven time and again what it means, and what it takes, to be a leader.
What does leadership mean to you and how do you feel Brown is encouraging the next generation of women leaders?
A leader is defined as a person who motivates others, brings them together, and by example provides a path to accomplish goals. That being said, the Women's Leadership Council (WLC) is unique in that all Council members are leaders in different ways. In this group of inspirational women, we learn from each other, share experiences and work together to make an impact.
What would you like to see for the Council's future?
Since I first joined the Council nine years ago, I have seen significant changes. Membership has grown and the Council has increased its areas of focus, footprint and outreach. I would like to see this continue with a more diverse group of members in race, ethnicity, age, background and interests. In addition, I hope that we can connect with more alumnae across the globe and help them engage with the University.
Did you have any mentors while you were a student at Brown? Who in the Brown community had the biggest impact on you as a student?
When I was an international student at Brown, I considered Tony Ittleson (Board of Fellows), Ron Margolin (International Development) and Panetha Ott (International Admissions) as my mentors. Tony introduced me to the Brown Annual Fund (BAF) and suggested I co-chair the Senior Class Gift Campaign. Even last year when I chaired my 20th reunion and he was chairing his 55th reunion, he cheered me on! I worked closely with Ron when I was President of the Brown International Organization (BRIO) and later when I founded the Brown International Young Alumni Council (BIYAC). Seeing the growth in international students, the creation of scholarships and the engagement of international students and alumni has been very exciting. Panetha and I worked on the International Admissions Brochure together which helped increase Brown's visibility abroad. Still to this day, I love hearing stories about the incredibly talented international applicants she encounters on her travels. All three of these mentors have taught me that my input and involvement make a difference.
The person with the biggest impact on me as a student was then-President Vartan Gregorian. Besides being a world-renowned scholar, Vartan is a true leader, mentor and philanthropist – the three components of the WLC! I always looked up to him and still do today. He motivates by example and takes the time to listen and help. I found his welcoming personality and the fact that he took an interest in individual students to be an amazingly unique characteristic for a man in his position. Vartan's passion for bringing people, ideas and resources together is something I emulate.
Who has had the biggest impact on you as an alumna? Is there anyone in the Brown community who inspires you to be a leader and mentor other than the next generation of students?
Thanks to the WLC, I have met many fantastic women, whom I am lucky to consider friends and mentors. As an alumna, the person who has had the biggest impact on me is Nancy Neff (Board Member and Brown Annual Fund Co-Chair). She has supported my work on the Brown Annual Fund Leadership Council and my reunions. We also work together on the WLC and the 125 Years of Women at Brown Conference. Most importantly, she has become a dear friend, and I look up to her as a confident leader, devoted mother and loving wife. I aspire to achieve the level of ease and excellence in which she integrates and performs these life roles.
Why is Brown a philanthropic priority to you?
I was raised to understand the value of education, the necessity for appreciation and the importance of giving back. My years at Brown not only provided me with an amazing education, but also an incredible network of people and opportunities. In appreciation, I have given to Brown annually for the last 23 years. I was honored to give a scholarship to a middle-income student last year and was thrilled my husband's company could provide a summer internship this year to a current Brown student through BrownConnect. Brown is not only an educational institution, but also an ever-evolving community of educators, students and alumni. My fantastic memories, amazing college experiences and current involvement are the impetus for me to prioritize BrownTogether so others may have the possibility to join this community.
What would you say to someone who has not made Brown a philanthropic priority, but who had a positive experience either as a student or as an alumna?
Your positive Brown experience makes me tell you to show your appreciation. Participation and engagement, in my opinion, are the foundation to the future. Get involved and give back to Brown. Always remember every dollar counts!
I suggest it in this way, because I believe involvement leads to higher philanthropic giving.
What about your Brown student experience influenced your involvement as a Brown alumna?
I have been involved with Brown in so many different roles and areas since my first day on campus. While a student, I was President of BRIO, Photo Editor of the Brown Daily Herald (BDH) and its 1993 Commencement Magazine, Editor of The International Admissions Brochure, and served as a Co-Chair of my BAF Senior Class Gift Campaign. Brown was such a part of my life that, when I graduated, staying involved with Brown naturally continued.
What is your favorite part of being a member of the WLC? How has it impacted your relationship with the Brown community?
My favorite part of being a member of the WLC is the personal interaction with the Brown community. I have been very fortunate to meet, collaborate and become friends with the tireless staff and administrators at the University and fellow Council members. I love co-chairing the Communications Committee and have been very excited to see our committee's focus and mission evolve over the last five years. The WLC has helped me better understand the priorities of the University and strengthened my relationship with the community.
Aside from the WLC, how else have you maintained your relationship with Brown as an alumna?
Since graduation, Brown has remained an integral part of my life. I currently serve on the Women's Leadership Council Executive Committee (Co-Chair of the Communications Committee), the 125 Years of Women at Brown Steering Committee, and the Brown Annual Fund Leadership Council (BAFLC), as Vice President of the Class of 1995, and a member of the Alumni Interviewing Program (AIP). I am also delighted to have accepted the invitation to join the University's Advisory Council for the College, which launches this fall.
Previously, I served on the Brown Annual Fund Executive Committee (BAFEC), was an Area Co-Chair for the Brown Alumni Schools Committee (BASC), was Founding President of BIYAC, an ex-officio member of the Brown Alumni Association Board of Governors (BAA), a Co-Chair of my 10th Reunion Gift Committee, a 1996 Presidential Aide, a 2005 Class Alumni Marshal and a 2015 Corporation Alumni Marshal in the Commencement Processions, a Women's Launch Pad (WLP) Mentor, Chair of my 20th Reunion Gift Committee, a member of my 20th Reunion Planning Committee, and a recipient of the BAF Co-Chairs' and H. Anthony Ittleson Awards.
You visit campus frequently. What is your favorite part about returning to campus?
I truly enjoy returning to campus, experiencing the energy, meeting with students and faculty, and having the opportunity to hear about the growth and changes in both curriculum and physical plans. There are so many new and innovative initiatives that are developing; two that have piqued my interest are the Engaged Scholars Program and The Learning Commons. I also love attending my reunions, reliving my college years, while sharing the Brown community with my family.