Communications Office writer Evan Robinson ’23 recently spoke with Koboul E. Mansour, the new director of the Days-Massolo Center, about her career and vision for the future. Below are some excerpts from their conversation.
How did you end up at Hamilton?
My journey in higher education began 12 years ago at the American University in Cairo, where I was the first Title IX coordinator and later the diversity and educational outreach manager. Six years ago, I came to the U.S. and got my Ph.D. in higher education policy at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. During my time at UMass, I worked in student affairs, especially with transfer students and students of color. While I pursued my Ph.D., I did not necessarily want to become faculty, because there’s much more work that needs to be done in the diversity, equity, and inclusion world. It’s an area that will continue to need more people who are intentional about that kind of work, and this is how I ended up here — I wanted a job in which I would have close contact with students. Since it’s a smaller community, I hope to make a bigger impact.
“Long term, I want the DMC to be that center where education happens for everyone on campus — students, faculty, staff … diversity, equity, and inclusion should be infused into the fabric of everything we do.”
What does the DMC director role look like?
The DMC is an intercultural and multicultural center, so one of our main missions is to create a safe haven for students who come from marginalized backgrounds. But I’m also hoping for the DMC to be an educational center. When you belong to a majority group, you subscribe to a whole range of privileges you automatically benefit from, which creates some blind spots. We all have these privileges, and sometimes our intentions are not bad. But long term, I want the DMC to be that center where education happens for everyone on campus — students, faculty, staff … diversity, equity, and inclusion should be infused into the fabric of everything we do.
One of the first things I would like to do is sit down and have a conversation about what we mean by diversity. Diversity means different things and looks different in different contexts. We need, as an institution, to define what diversity means to us and figure out what it looks like in practice — at the student level, the administrative level, the faculty level. Before we jump right into action and initiatives, we need to have these grounding conversations.
How have you found being at a smaller institution?
UMass has 30,000 students, so you get lost in that population. Here, I go into the dining hall and people can tell that I’m new … everyone knows everyone. People are very warm, genuine, and well-intentioned, and I really appreciate that. I think it will make the mission easier for us, to build those collaborative relationships. Here, you look around and run into people all the time, and I think this translates into more substantial potential for change.
What do you like the most about working with students?
I think it’s the energy. When I see people about to embark on their journeys, it’s a good refresher for me. We live in challenging times at so many levels, and the older you grow, the more you realize that life is a little bit unfair — but also fair to you in ways that are unfair to others.
When I was younger, I wanted to wave a magic wand and change the world. But the older I get, the more I think that if I have an impact on five students a year, that’s a huge win. If I become a listening ear for a student who comes into my office on a bad day, and if they leave my office feeling a little bit better — that’s why students are the best part of this job. I will remind you of how you can pick yourself up and go from there. Working with students keeps me on my toes in that I also keep learning: I learn as much from them as they might from me.