July 1, 2015
Although I have come to know many of you since arriving at Brown in 2013, I write today to introduce myself to those of you I have not yet had a chance to meet in person and to describe some of my initial thoughts and goals as I begin my service as provost. I joined Brown two years ago, attracted by the University’s mission and core values, commitment to exceptional teaching, scholarship and service, and distinctive approach to advancing knowledge by forging connections across disciplinary boundaries. I was particularly inspired to join the University at a period of clear strategic direction and growth, as outlined in Building on Distinction. These are the same factors that today make me profoundly enthusiastic about serving as Brown’s provost.
Brown is an exceptional institution. Serving as the director of the Watson Institute and a member of the faculty and working with students and colleagues from across the campus, I have come to genuinely appreciate the qualities that characterize and distinguish our community. The University has made enormous strides in recent years, attracting and retaining the most promising scholars and creating an intellectual environment to fulfill our mission at ever-higher levels. Our size and scale allows us to do this work deftly, and in a highly personalized way with a deep sense of community.
As provost, I look forward to working with President Paxson, the faculty, students, staff and broader University community to take advantage of our significant assets to achieve the goals outlined in our plan. This will be challenging work: Our ambitions are appropriately bold, and we must be thoughtful and responsible in our allocation of resources. Progress will require discipline and focus, as well as the active engagement of our community. To move forward in the year ahead, I plan to focus specifically on the following priorities, for which I will need your support:
Academic Excellence. The Building on Distinction strategic plan offers an exciting vision for Brown’s future. I look forward to continuing the planning work that is underway and to collaborating with members of the senior administration and faculty to translate the broad framework and ambitious goals into concrete actions and investments. Central to our success is empowering our talented, creative faculty to pursue intellectual inquiry in potentially transformative ways. Doing so means continuous and strategic investments in people, infrastructure, technology and other scholarly tools and resources.
Community. Brown’s culture is defined by its sense of community — a community that is informed by a tradition of promoting justice, fairness and the open exchange of ideas. Cultivating and strengthening this sense of community is essential in achieving our greatest aspirations. Working with faculty and senior leaders, I am committed to ensuring that Brown is a model institution and employer that respects and draws upon the talent and skills of all our students, faculty and staff. I want members of our community to approach their work bolstered by the confidence that they are contributors to the University’s larger, critical mission.
Financial strength. Brown has enviable resources. President Paxson has reported strong fundraising results this year as we prepare for an eventual campaign; our endowment, while modest compared with some of our peers, is robust and growing; and we are preparing a plan to tackle our operating deficit in manageable ways. To continue to invest in the people, policies, space and infrastructure needed to enhance academic excellence and build community will require new, and in some cases, reallocation of existing resources. As provost, I will work with colleagues in the faculty and administration to operate an efficient and effective organization. We will eliminate our operating deficit and grow our revenue in fair and sustainable ways that will not undermine our academic programs or our community values. As a first step, we are reviewing the considerable feedback received in response to the recommendations from the Deficit Reduction Working Group. This input will inform an overall action plan, which I will discuss with the community early in the fall semester.
I am grateful for the tremendous support I have received thus far in gaining a more comprehensive understanding of the significant work underway across the University. I look forward to meeting with many members of the faculty and staff over the coming months, to visiting your departments, labs and classrooms, and to working with you in the years ahead.
Richard M. Locke