Dear Members of the Brown Community,
After an extraordinary six years at Brown, and an impressive career spanning more than 35 years leading administrative operations in education, Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration Barbara Chernow has let me know of her plans to retire at the end of the summer.
Since arriving at Brown in March 2015, Barbara has truly transformed Brown’s administrative operations. As the senior member of Brown’s executive team responsible for the vast majority of non-academic operations, Barbara has led significant improvements in areas including financial planning, human resources, the internal audit function, facilities, transportation, dining, auxiliary services, information technology and business operations. She has done so with innovation, creativity and a commitment to cultivating staff as both individuals and as collaborators who contribute their talents to strengthening the University.
Barbara is a Class of 1979 graduate of Brown and returned to her alma mater at an important moment for the University. She has played a pivotal role as Brown has worked to ensure the highest levels of excellence in its administrative and business operations to align with Brown’s long-standing commitment to academic excellence.
At the same time, one of Barbara’s strongest attributes is her commitment to investing in and supporting the people who help Brown function every day. She speaks about this in terms of values — improving service and supporting staff in new career paths while also conserving financial resources. Barbara has remained focused on building a culture of caring for and among staff and building a team of leaders who share these values.
Record of Accomplishment
Among the most enduring accomplishments of her tenure at Brown, Barbara has helped to enhance Brown’s financial processes. She partnered with the provost to implement a new zero-based budget methodology, worked with the Finance team to retain Brown’s stellar bond rating and integrated a new budget system with Workday, among a full range of Workday improvements. She also oversaw the full integration of the Office of Budget, Planning & Analysis with the Controller’s Office and Workday teams, marking the first time in Brown’s recent history that all finance units are working together.
Under her oversight of Business and Financial Services, Brown implemented new parking management and reporting; the Transportation Office staff played a key role in addressing pedestrian safety issues in the Jewelry District and delivering improved shuttle, RIPTA and Zipcar services; and the division assumed responsibility for management of vehicles to better align with Brown’s goals for fiscal and environmental sustainability. On Thayer Street, the Brown Bookstore has continued to enhance customer satisfaction and work with the Dean of the College on special initiatives, while reducing costs and improving margins.
In University Human Resources (UHR), Barbara collaborated with leaders across campus to help reshape support services. She hired a new UHR leadership team to improve recruitment and hiring processes; increased learning and development programs; and expanded the partnership with the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity. Under Barbara’s leadership, UHR also conducted a review and revision of HR policies and procedures, enhanced employee benefit communications and assumed responsibility for student employment at Brown.
In the summer of 2015, Barbara assumed oversight of Dining Services, where she has worked to build a climate in which staff can contribute their creativity and feel encouraged to offer their ideas for improving service. She has fostered collaboration and a renewed sense of community among employees by emphasizing workplace diversity and inclusion. These workplace improvements parallel service improvements that include more diversified and sustainable food offerings, enhanced service, and customer satisfaction in student meal plans, catering and retail food offerings. As part of Barbara’s initiative to build community, the Faculty Club expanded its events and programs, including the Brown to Table initiative that has offered prepared meals from the Faculty Club during the pandemic, and launched its highly popular Lounge, Chef’s Table dinners and reimagined menus.
In addition, an important element of Barbara’s work has been to restructure several administrative functions to create new opportunities for improved operations, while also creating new business units to ensure Brown has the resources in place to support the University’s long-term operational health. She created the University Risk Management, Audit and Compliance function at Brown, and we now have management response plans to safeguard the well-being of the community, the physical campus, and academic and administrative operations.
In the area of Facilities Management, newly enhanced collaboration with the Strategic Purchasing, Contracts and Insurance office has resulted in strategic vendor agreements for equipment, services, and maintenance and repair contractors. Barbara provided essential guidance as the division created improvement plans for custodial services and grounds service, as well as several important steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and develop Brown’s net-zero plan. This follows work supporting waste diversion, the University’s thermal efficiency project and other initiatives to advance Brown’s ambitious sustainability efforts.
Barbara has initiated systems improvements that will enhance reporting and tracking capabilities in Facilities Management and provide collaborative processes with Finance and Computing and Information Services. To strengthen and better support procurement services university-wide, she has assisted Strategic Purchasing, Contracts and Insurance with its adoption of an eProcurement technology solution, along with expanding strategic sourcing and revising purchasing policies.
With attention to Brown’s citizenship role, Barbara has demonstrated a deep commitment to supporting the Providence and Rhode Island communities. Under her leadership, Brown developed a stronger partnership with United Way of Rhode Island. This year, the University’s annual Brown Gives workplace campaign generated record-breaking contributions to social service and other organizations in the state. Barbara currently serves on the board of United Way of Rhode Island.
A Distinguished Career
Barbara’s six years at Brown follow more than 30 years in the administration of education, beginning with the New York City Board of Education in 1982. She supervised a system of 3,100 school buses operated by 120 contractors serving more than half a million passengers a day as director of the Office of Public Transportation. In the years before assuming the role of executive vice president at Brown, Barbara served as vice president of the New York City School Construction Authority before transitioning to Stony Brook University, where she began her career in higher education in 1998. She served in several roles before departing as senior vice president for administration to take the position at Brown in March 2015.
Barbara’s last day will be in September, but her impact at Brown will be felt for generations. She embodies the drive toward operational excellence that offices and departments across Brown embrace today. In the coming weeks, I plan to engage an executive search firm to lead a national search for Barbara’s successor.
We will miss Barbara’s genuine caring and appreciation for others, and I’m very pleased that as an alumna, her connections to Brown will remain strong. Those who work with Barbara know that she’s a passionate gardener, committed to public service in our community, enjoys exploring new places, and has a deep love for her family. Her children and their families live across multiple states, and Barbara is looking forward to traveling to enjoy quality time with them, undertaking new gardening projects, and being a champion for causes in which she believes.
Please join me in thanking her for all she has done and will continue to do for Brown.
Christina H. Paxson