Dear Members of the Brown Community,

In Fall 2020, I charged an ad hoc committee of faculty, staff, administrators and students with developing recommendations to promote the long-term financial health and sustainability of the University. The Ad Hoc Committee on Promoting Financial Health and Sustainability, chaired by Provost Richard M. Locke, was created to address persistent economic vulnerabilities facing Brown and other institutions of higher education, such as our heavy reliance on tuition to sustain our research and teaching.

At the same time, an Education Innovation Committee charged by the provost in spring of this year continues its work to build on the lessons learned from teaching innovations developed during the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes aligning initiatives with attention to access, flexibility and equitable assessment in the educational opportunities Brown provides on campus, locally and globally.

Today, I write to announce a new Program on Innovation and Financial Sustainability arising from the work of both of these committees. The program will bring together academic and administrative employees across the University with a shared commitment to educational innovation and ensuring Brown’s financial sustainability. They will collaborate on implementing solutions through work groups that will oversee an array of changes in Brown’s academic and administrative operations that aim to yield real and lasting impact. Their work will be based on the recommendations developed by the two committees, which you can explore in detail on a new website established for the program:

Visit the Program on Innovation and Financial Sustainability online:


At its inception, the program will comprise nine work groups: (1) administrative support networks; (2) information technology; (3) strategic sourcing; (4) travel management; (5) event management; (6) fully online programs; (7) master’s and executive programs; (8) winter, summer and pre-college programs; and (9) educational innovation and undergraduate enrollment. The program will be overseen by Brown’s executive administrative leaders: Provost Richard M. Locke, Executive Vice President for Planning and Policy Russell C. Carey, new Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration Sarah Latham, and me.

The work groups, which will include representatives of faculty and staff, will be charged with considering how to operationalize the recommendations of the original two committees in a timely manner. While the work of the Educational Innovation Committee is ongoing, the Ad Hoc Committee on Promoting Financial Health and Sustainability shared its draft recommendations with the campus in early summer. The committee’s final report — outlining ways to slow Brown’s spending growth and diversify sources of revenue supporting the University’s research, teaching and operations — reflects feedback gathered from the community, and I have accepted all of the recommendations. I invite all community members to read the final report and its recommendations in full; it’s now available on the Program on Innovation and Financial Sustainability website.

The committee offered recommendations on initiatives relating to personnel, strategic sourcing and purchasing, non-personnel, diversifying revenue, and undergraduate student body growth. Some of the recommendations call for updating or establishing new policies and procedures. Others call for creating or expanding models that support operational excellence. And others involve developing plans to grow academic offerings and the size of the student body through new initiatives. In addition, the committee also recommended that the University develop a mechanism to ensure that Brown continues to strive to be the most efficient and effective University possible as we advance innovative and consequential teaching, research and service.

Importantly, the intent of the committee was not to reduce spending in light of COVID-19. Rather, the committee was charged with engaging in the kind of long-range planning that is necessary to reduce Brown’s reliance on tuition and fees and ensure continued growth in the quality of our academic programs. This cannot be done without working to address the continued COVID-19 deficit and to eliminate Brown’s small but persistent structural deficit that impedes the University’s ability to make more investments in faculty, staff and students.


The work groups of Program on Innovation and Financial Sustainability will develop action steps and initiatives that will benefit all faculty, staff and students. For example, one recommendation from the committee on financial health and sustainability that the working group will implement involves creating “centers of excellence” through which departments engage a pool of shared staff who are skilled in completing specific transactions. This shared services model will help to create communities of professionals doing similar work and will potentially allow employees who excel in particular functions in their current roles to focus their attention in these key areas.

Another recommendation to reduce University travel and the number of in-person, non-critical events will promote access, reduce travel time on and around campus, and enhance the quality of critical in-person events. A separate recommendation to grow academic offerings, including expanding pre-college programs through online enrollment, provides an opportunity to further expand Brown’s offerings to high school students across the U.S. and internationally.

The ad hoc committee worked for several months to develop the recommendations that now serve as a roadmap for operational excellence and ensuring Brown’s financial sustainability. I want to thank the committee members for taking on this important work that is central to all that we do. Their work took place as complex issues — public health crises, climate change and social and political unrest, among others — demonstrated that the role of research universities such as Brown is more critical than ever.

I look forward to the efforts of the work groups, and I have no doubt that these efforts will contribute to making Brown a stronger and more resilient university and community.


Christina H. Paxson