July 2, 2012
Dear Members of the Brown Community,
I am writing to you for the first time in my new role as the nineteenth president of Brown University. I am thrilled to have been given the opportunity to lead Brown at this important point in its rich history.
Over the last four months, I have met remarkable people—Brown students and alumni, faculty and staff, members of the Brown Corporation, and citizens of Providence and Rhode Island. Our conversations captured the spirit of intellectual excitement, creativity and sense of community that contribute to Brown’s distinctive culture and its role as a leading university. At the recent Women’s Leadership Conference, which celebrated 120 years of women at Brown, I heard alumnae describe how their experiences at Pembroke and Brown shaped their lives as productive and engaged adults. Breakfast with members of the Brown Track and Field team produced a wide-ranging discussion of athletics, public health in Africa, social entrepreneurship, university governance and financial aid. In May, I attended part of the “Day of Data” conference held at Brown’s Institute for Computational and Experimental Research in Mathematics (ICERM). The program brought together artists, biologists, humanists, engineers, and social scientists from Brown, the Marine Biological Laboratory, Rhode Island School of Design, and the University of Rhode Island to explore the challenges and opportunities of a data-driven society. Finally, I experienced a joyous Commencement weekend, which included a “cabaret” featuring performances by amazingly talented Brown students and alumni and ended with the awarding of honorary degrees to men and women whose lives exemplify Brown’s values of excellence in research, education and public leadership, including and notably, Ruth Simmons. All of these experiences, and others, have enriched my knowledge and appreciation of Brown and confirmed my sense of the University’s extraordinary offerings, character and spirit.
I am eager to collaborate with members of the Brown community to continue the University’s growth as one of the world’s leading centers of education and research. This will require Brown to continue to be global in its outlook, forward-looking in its use and development of new technologies, and innovative in its approach to teaching, research and discovery. Throughout this work, we will remain true to Brown’s long-standing core value of free inquiry conducted within a cohesive and collaborative community of scholars, with a focus on developing the full intellectual, creative and social potential of its members.
The Plan for Academic Enrichment has guided Brown’s development over the last ten years, a period in which the University has experienced remarkable growth. Over the coming months, I will work with Provost Mark Schlissel and others to take stock of all that has been accomplished over the past decade and begin to plan for the next phase of Brown’s development. Many aspects of the Plan are certain to continue: the focus on academic excellence in undergraduate, graduate and medical education; the aspiration to become a truly global university; the commitment to make Brown accessible to students from a wide range of backgrounds and cultures; and the pledge to contribute to the economic, educational, social and cultural vitality of Providence and Rhode Island through strategic partnerships and growth.
Other areas of emphasis are more recent. We have plans to strengthen the newly established School of Engineering and expand our capacity in public health, the humanities, brain science, and environmental research. We are beginning the first phase of an ambitious project to revitalize the dormitories, making them better able to support new programs to enrich campus life. Under the leadership of our new athletic director, we intend to move forward with recommendations to strengthen our support for athletic personnel and programs. I am enthusiastic about leading these initiatives and working with faculty, students and staff as we develop new priorities in the next phase of planning.
I also look forward to ensuring that Brown continues to be engaged in public policy matters that affect higher education. With the public’s attention focused on the economy, job creation and reducing the federal deficit, we have a responsibility to demonstrate to policy makers and others the enduring value of a broad-based liberal arts education and the societal benefits of scholarly research. The work of Brown students, faculty and alumni offers ample evidence of the significance of teaching and research to the health and vitality of our city, state and nation. From identifying new approaches to improving urban education to discovering treatments and cures to diseases and creating new technologies, we have important stories to share to garner continued support for research universities like Brown.
In addition to meeting many of you during these past few months, I have also received numerous letters and emails offering congratulations and thoughts about the future of Brown. I am grateful to everyone who has helped me to gain a deeper understanding of Brown. I am especially grateful to Ruth Simmons, both for the solid foundation she has built that positions us so well for continued success, and for her guidance, advice and insights into a University for which she has done so much. I could not have anticipated a more gracious and informed transition.
This is a wonderfully exciting time to join Brown as president, at the cusp of the 250th anniversary of our founding. I look forward to working with all of you to continue to strengthen Brown in the years to come. Many thanks for welcoming me so warmly to your community.