Amherst College President

President Michael A. Elliott


Michael A. Elliott ’92 is the 20th president of Amherst College. A champion of liberal arts education and a distinguished scholar of American literature and culture of the 19th and early 20th centuries, he has published widely on the history of fiction in the United States, Native American literature, and practices of public history. As an Amherst alumnus, President Elliott is deeply committed to ensuring that the College fulfills its mission to educate students of exceptional potential from all backgrounds so that they may seek, value, and advance knowledge, engage the world around them, and lead principled lives of consequence.

President Elliott has articulated a strategy of building on Amherst’s extraordinary history in three core areas: strengthening student culture, community, and belonging; making Amherst an excellent place to work; and redoubling our commitment to serving the greater good.

In the early phase of his presidency, in order to reinvigorate the College’s foundational commitment to preparing students for a lifetime of contributing to society beyond our campus, President Elliott is leading the development of several new programs, including “Serving the Greater Good,” a curricular initiative expanding courses that consider the nature of democratic society, invite work with community partners, and address the pressing challenges of our time. Presidential Post-Graduate Fellowships, a new Interns for Democracy program, and social impact grants support students in establishing careers serving the greater good. And Amherst for Amherst, an enhanced vision for partnership between the College and the town of Amherst, renews the College’s commitment to engaging with and supporting local communities. 

Prior to returning to Amherst, President Elliott was a faculty member and administrator at Emory University for nearly a quarter century. In the last six years of his tenure there, he served as interim dean and then dean of Emory College of Arts and Sciences, the university’s core undergraduate division and home of the liberal arts. In this role, he spearheaded critical work to establish race and inequality as a signature research and teaching strength, made significant advances in enhancing faculty diversity, increased support for undergraduate research and need-based financial aid, and developed and promoted programs that supported student success during and after college.

President Elliott holds a B.A. from Amherst College and an M.A. and Ph.D. in English and comparative literature from Columbia University. During his years in academic leadership, he has maintained an active scholarly career. His acclaimed book Custerology (University of Chicago Press, 2007) explores how George Armstrong Custer and the Indian Wars continue to be a powerful symbol of America’s violent past and a crucial key to understanding the nation’s present. His earlier volume, The Culture Concept (University of Minnesota Press, 2002), traces the origins of the concept of “culture” that undergirds the evolution of cultural studies in the United States. In addition to these monographs, President Elliott has co-edited two volumes in American literary studies and serves on the editorial board of The Norton Anthology of American Literature. 

Raised in Tucson, Ariz., President Elliott met his wife, Jennifer W. Mathews ʼ91, at Amherst. They have two children.