Dear Members of the Brown Community,

In July 2012, I sent my first letter to the Brown community in my role as Brown’s 19th president. In that letter, I conveyed how thrilled I was to join Brown. I shared my enthusiasm for getting to know and learn from faculty, staff, alumni, students and their families, and members of the Providence and Rhode Island communities. My appreciation of the privilege of leading this University has only grown over the past decade. I am writing today to thank the entire Brown community for all we have accomplished together, and to express my excitement about the growth and opportunities ahead.

In my letter from 2012, I said, “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.”

Although I had a great deal to learn about Brown 10 years ago, these core ideas have not changed. And, together, we have made much progress in fulfilling these ambitions. Guided by Building on Distinction, our strategic plan, Brown’s standing as a leading center of education and research has, indeed, grown. We are both academically and operationally stronger. We have advanced across the arts, humanities and sciences, and have made major investments in an excellent and diverse faculty. Our departments, centers, institutes and schools are homes to outstanding scholarship and teaching, and we produce more, and more significant, research. We have invested in programs and campus facilities to support student development inside and outside the classroom. We are in a more financially sustainable position.

We have made Brown more accessible to extraordinarily talented students from all socioeconomic groups by eliminating loans from financial aid packages, providing health insurance scholarships as part of all financial aid packages for uninsured students, providing free textbooks to our lowest-income students, and becoming need-blind for student veterans. And we look forward to becoming need-blind for international students for the graduating Class of 2029.

None of this progress would be possible without Brown’s exceptional and dedicated employees supporting all aspects of academics, research and campus life. We are also fortunate to have a remarkably generous community, including alumni, parents and friends of Brown, whose support enables innovative education and research, and amplifies the positive impact Brown makes on the world. We have accomplished all of these things together by being collaborative, innovative and forward-looking.

Ten years ago, there was one aspect of Brown that I didn’t yet fully appreciate, but have since come to greatly value. Former Chancellor Thomas J. Tisch expressed it perfectly when he accepted his honorary degree this past May. Tom said that “goodness is as important as greatness in this community,” and that the combination of humility and openness with the highest of aspirations is core to who we are as a University.

The goodness of the Brown community is one of the University’s least celebrated but perhaps most important attributes. I see it in so many ways, large and small: The way our students support and celebrate the accomplishments of their classmates. The eagerness of our community to take in students and scholars from regions affected by war and natural disaster. The ability of Brown faculty to have difficult discussions and still maintain the collegiality and commitment to shared governance that is essential for a university’s success. The willingness of our faculty and staff to support Brown students throughout a pandemic that, often, adversely affected their own lives and families. And the commitment of our alumni to build on what they learned at Brown by serving the public good, leading “lives of usefulness and reputation.”

In the past decade, our nation and our world have confronted many challenges. Universities have been on the front lines in a politically and socially polarized time. We have had to defend the value of the contributions of higher education for advancing economic growth and social mobility, and advocate for our twin commitments to academic freedom and respect for the humanity of all people. Although there will no doubt be more challenges ahead, I am confident that the aspiration to be both good and great will carry Brown through these challenges while continuing to advance our mission of scholarship and education.

As I pass my 10-year mark at Brown, I am inspired by the great opportunities ahead. Brown has bold ambitions. We will continue to grow as a leading research university that produces high-impact scholarship, while remaining committed to excellent undergraduate education. We are developing specific plans to increase our research footprint in a wide range of areas, as well as expand global experiential learning for our students. We recently announced plans to proceed to architect selection for a new integrated life sciences building. The inspirational Lindemann Performing Arts Center will be completed next year and, together with the Granoff Center and other arts facilities, will position Brown as a leading center of arts education and innovation. We are committed to expanding the impact Brown has on our city and state — by investing in college access for Providence public school children, working to improve health and health care for Rhode Islanders, and spurring local economic development.

None of Brown’s past and future accomplishments would be possible without the dedicated support and innovative ideas of Brown’s brilliant faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends. I am truly grateful to have the privilege to move these and other initiatives forward with a community of people who are both “good” and “great.”

Please accept my thanks for your collaboration, ideas, advice and support over the past decade. I look forward to working together and continuing to strengthen Brown at a time when the world needs the talent, education and research that we have to offer more than ever before.


Christina H. Paxson