Five College Consortium

Neal B. Abraham

Executive Director, Five Colleges

Neal Abraham came to the Pioneer Valley in August 2009 to serve as executive director of Five Colleges, Incorporated and Five College Professor of Physics. He also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of the consortium.  As executive director Neal led the consortium and the Five College community in developing a 10-year strategic plan that currently guides the work at the consortium. He is senior liaison to various Five College groups that meet regularly, including the chief academic officers, the chief financial officers, the chief information officers, the chief student affairs officers, the chief advancement officers, the chief diversity officers, the librarians and the directors of teaching and learning centers. As chief fundraiser for external support of consortium projects, he has raised more than $8 million in grants from such sources as the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Teagle Foundation, and the Davis Educational Foundation. He was co-project director for the Northeast Regional Library Print Management Project in 2013 and 2014 and served on the Executive Committee of EAST Eastern Academic Scholars Trust, a regional library print retention collaborative.

For the last six years he has taught one physics course each year at Mount Holyoke College, offering such courses as Optics and Waves, Quantum Mechanical Phenomena, and Quantum Mechanics, which he will teach again in Spring 2017.

Beyond Five Colleges, he is a member of the board of directors and treasurer of the Association for Collaborative Leadership (ACL) and was a co-founder of the ACL summer institutes for leadership in higher education for which he has served as a faculty member/facilitator and dean. He also currently serves as a member of the board and treasurer of Massachusetts Campus Compact and Massachusetts Review

He speaks and consults frequently on issues of science education, new and continuing collaborations and the Five College consortium with faculty members, administrators, colleges and universities, other consortia, and at national workshops and conferences. Most recently he gave presentations at conferences on the future of higher education and collaborations in Germany, Boston (at a conference co-sponsored by the New England Board of Higher Education and the Davis Educational Foundation), Minneapolis (at the annual meeting of the Association for Collaborative Leadership) and the annual meeting of chairs of physics departments hosted by the American Physical Society and the American Association of Physics Teachers.

He has been a trustee of Dickinson College since 2009; and he currently is a member of the Finance Committee and the Committee on Academic Affairs which he chairs.  He also serves on the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees.

For the 11 years prior to coming to Five Colleges he served as vice president for academic affairs and dean of the faculty and professor of physics and astronomy at DePauw University. In the summer of 2004 he was also appointed executive vice president. While at DePauw he supervised the expansion of the faculty by 60 full-time positions, the hiring of 60 percent of the 225 full-time faculty members, and improvements in faculty compensation and faculty development programs. He oversaw all library and technology services, including a $1.5 million comprehensive project to upgrade the administrative technology and data operations systems. He also oversaw and managed the renovation and construction of $100 million in academic buildings (science, art, ethics, performing arts). He led two strategic planning endeavors for DePauw and contributed substantially to both internationalization and diversity programs. For his contributions to diversity and equity at DePauw and in the Greencastle community, He was recognized as the NAACP Citizen of the Year in spring 2008.

Prior to accepting his position at DePauw he was a faculty member, department chair and holder of an endowed professorship in physics at Bryn Mawr College (1980-1998) after teaching in physics at Swarthmore College (1977-1980).

He received his bachelor of science degree in 1972 from Dickinson College and his doctorate in physics in 1977 from Bryn Mawr College.

He received an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship and an Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship and was elected a fellow of three professional societies: the Optical Society of America, the American Physical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has held visiting faculty appointments in Italy (Florence, Milan, Torino, Pisa), France (Lille, Nice, Lannion), Belgium (Bruxelles), Spain (Mallorca, Terrassa), Russia (Nizhny Novgorod) and China (Changchun).

He has more than 200 scientific publications in his areas of research, which include nonlinear dynamics, chaos and lasers. His work has been supported by Research Corporation, the National Science Foundation, the Scientific Affairs Programme of NATO, the Army Research Office and National Supercomputing Centers. He has lectured at 13 different international schools and conferences and has taught short courses on laser dynamics and chaos.

He has supervised 52 undergraduate research projects and 16 graduate students in master's and doctoral work leading to six master of arts degrees and 12 doctoral degrees. Eight of his doctoral students currently hold faculty positions in U.S. colleges and universities; two are faculty members in other countries.

He has served in founding and leadership roles for Project Kaleidoscope, the National Conferences on Undergraduate Research and the Council on Undergraduate Research. He was a founding member of the Committee on Undergraduate Science Education of the National Research Council and one of the principal authors of its handbook for science teaching, Science Teaching Reconsidered. HE also served as a member of the advisory board of the NRC's Commission on Science, Mathematics and Engineering Education.

He joined with Jerry Gollub of Haverford College to author a Physics Today article on research in physics in liberal arts colleges and with Stuart Crampton of Williams College to prepare the working paper on research in physics in liberal arts colleges and present it to the assembled presidents at the first of the Oberlin Conferences on the Research Colleges in the mid 1980's.

While at DePauw he managed three multi-million dollar grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for faculty career enhancement programs at DePauw and Denison universities; for eight liberal arts colleges including DePauw and Denison; and for 23 liberal arts colleges including the cluster of eight colleges. He also served as a member of the steering committee and as host site convener/moderator for the Consortium for Faculty Diversity, an association of roughly 40 liberal arts colleges which offer pre-doctoral and post-doctoral appointments to support their institutional diversity efforts.

At Bryn Mawr he directed for three years the college's grant under the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation's New Liberal Arts program for the infusion of technology and science throughout the curriculum, and he later served on the steering committee for new college-wide critical thinking and critical writing courses for first- and second-year students. With colleagues in the physics department at Bryn Mawr College he was a recipient of the Presidential Award for Mathematics, Science and Engineering Mentoring in fall 1998.

He received three grants from NSF's instructional equipment programs, one grant for undergraduate research participation and inter-institutional grants for curricular development and collaborative research.

He has served on review panels for Research Corporation and the National Science Foundation. He has also reviewed research proposals for six other US agencies and for the national science foundations of eight other countries.

He has served as an editor of seven international physics journals and has been a member of 12 different editorial boards.

He has participated in or chaired 17 departmental reviews of physics or physics and astronomy programs, science divisional programs, and science, technology and society programs, including those at Smith College and Mount Holyoke College prior to assuming his present position at Five Colleges.

He is a member of the Optical Society of America, the American Physical Society, the American Association of Physics Teachers, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Sigma Xi, the Lasers and Electro-Optics Society of IEEE, the Council on Undergraduate Research, the Association for Women in Science, the American Association of University Professors, the American Conference of Academic Deans, and the Association for Collaborative Leadership.

 last updated:  November 4, 2016