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Claire Gmachl is the associate chair of the electrical engineering department, director of the MIRTHE+ education program, and Eugene Higgins professor of electrical engineering. Courtesy of the Princeton University Department of Electrical Engineering

After eight years as the Head of Whitman College, Sandra Bermann will step down on July 1 and be replaced by Claire Gmachl, professor of electrical engineering. Gmachl intends to help make Whitman College feel like “a home for students to be comfortable.”

She looks forward to serving the college and learning from the “perspectives of students”.

“I want to be a good head. I want students to feel comfortable at their new home,” Gmachl said. “At college and universities [the] campus is the student’s new home and it should be both intellectually stimulating and still feel like a home.”

In the new College Head House, Gmachl will host “small dinners and big dinners” and “have a place to meet for students and college fellows and special interests seeking a spot in Whitman.”

In an email sent to Whitman residents on Tuesday, March 26, Dean of Whitman College Alexis Andres informed students that Gmachl will be joining the Whitman staff as Head of the College starting July 1.

The Whitman College office is enthusiastic that Gmachl will bring her “kindness and compassion” to the college.

In an interview with The Daily Princetonian, Dean Andres said that she supported Gmachl’s work on campus helping students and her welcoming personality. She also remarked that it is interesting that Whitman “will have a fifty-fifty ratio of AB to BSE Heads of College”.

“I asked her what she enjoys most in teaching and she says she loves teaching for the Freshman Scholars Institute,” Andres said. “[Gmachl says] that when students are just coming onto campus she has the ability to help them orient and learn about Princeton.”

According to the email from the Whitman College Office, Gmachl currently teaches a first-year physics course as part of a new sequence of courses for first-year students in engineering that integrates foundational math and physics with modern engineering challenges. She also serves as the director of the Program in Materials Science and Engineering and is associated with the Princeton Institute for the Science and Technology of Materials.

As Head of College, Gmachl will make programming for orientation and creating the annual fall letter to families of Whitmanites.

The email closed with a message from Dean of the College Jill Dolan, who asserted that Gmachl “will be a wonderful head of Whitman College.” 

“Her commitment to teaching — illustrated, among many other examples, by her engagement with the Freshman Scholars Institute, as well as her participation in reinventing the first-year engineering curriculum — points to her profound dedication to students’ intellectual, as well as co-curricular, experiences,” Dolan wrote. “Claire is known for her kindness, her clarity and her concern for others, all of which will grace the lives of students at Whitman and across our campus.”

Outgoing Head of College Sandra Bermann could not be reached at the time of publication for a comment.

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