Building on Distinction

Educational Leadership

Brown is deeply committed to providing outstanding education to undergraduate, graduate and medical students and has long held a place as a leader in educational innovation.

The Brown Curriculum prepares undergraduates for productive lives by cultivating critical thinking, independence, and creativity through exposure to a rigorous curriculum in the liberal arts and sciences. Brown graduate and medical students are provided with the courses, mentoring, and opportunities for research, teaching and professional development critical to their success.

In the coming decade, we will strengthen our position as a leader in education. We will continue to emphasize close interactions between students and faculty in an environment that inspires students to carve their own intellectual and creative paths. In addition, we will enhance our capacity in the creative use of online technologies to increase the quality of education, strengthen the curriculum in key areas, and expand opportunities for Brown students to connect their academic experiences to the world outside of Brown. We will further enhance career counseling and related services to help all our students prepare for a productive and fulfilling life after Brown. We will create innovative new programs for master’s, medical, and doctoral students that build on Brown’s strengths and expand the professional training and mentoring that is invaluable for these advanced students.

Our plans include:

Brown is committed to its open undergraduate curriculum. Analyses conducted as a part of the planning process indicate that our students study widely across the curriculum and they leave the University with an education that is both deep and broad. Continuous adjustments are required, however, to maintain a strong curriculum that meets the ever-changing needs of students. We have identified several areas of curricular growth. One priority is pre-medical and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education, with a focus on integrated, problem-based learning that will enhance science education for all students, regardless of their concentrations. Another is to expand course offerings that relate to Brown’s liberal learning goal of embracing diversity. We propose to develop new sophomore seminars, modeled on the successful first- year seminar program, that provide students with small, discussion-based classes addressing critical questions of identity, equity, and justice. We recognize that students require excellent academic advising to take full advantage of Brown’s open curriculum. Brown’s advising system has been strengthened in recent years. We are committed to sustaining and building on these improvements.

Higher education is in the early stages of a grand experiment in the creative application of online and other digital technologies. There is still substantial uncertainty about how online courses will affect the higher education marketplace and much to be discovered about the potential applications of digital technology to teaching and learning. Our plan calls for aggressive experimentation in new modes of education, testing new ideas, assessing their efficacy, and adapting them as necessary. This work will be supported by a new Laboratory for Educational Innovation within the Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning that will help faculty generate online educational content, experiment with innovative teaching methods that incorporate online elements into residential education, train faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates in the use of new educational technologies, and evaluate the results of experimentation. We are especially excited about the prospect of involving undergraduates and graduate students in the creation and assessment of courses that include online components and using technology to serve students while they study and conduct research abroad.

The massive explosion in data availability has profound implications for how we should educate students to be leaders in the 21st century. An increasing number of fields require an understanding of how data are collected, stored, analyzed, and visualized. The growth of “big data” also poses numerous ethical and policy challenges that range from privacy to data security to the protection of intellectual property. Brown must ensure that all members of the Brown community – not only those in fields that have long emphasized data analysis – have the resources needed to become fluent with data. At the undergraduate level, we will support data fluency as a learning goal with a new menu of courses offered in a range of disciplines. Graduate and medical students, faculty, and staff also require education and support in the applications of data within their respective disciplines. The humanities represent an area of pressing need and remarkable opportunity. We will develop a new entity gathering the capacities of the University Library, the Center for Computation and Visualization, and Computing and Information Services to provide intensive support for these groups in the collection, analysis, storage, and visualization of data.

Consistent with our mission to serve “the community, the nation, and the world,” learning that connects academic and real-world experiences is central to the undergraduate experience at Brown. As an established leader in this area, Brown is in a position to define the “second wave” of integrative approaches to engaged learning. We plan to implement a suite of new programs that will provide Brown students with opportunities to work with faculty and community practitioners on pressing local and global issues and provide students with expanded access to summer internships and research experiences. We will also develop “Brown in the World” courses that integrate coursework with international experiences. These programs will take advantage of the expertise of the Swearer Center for Public Service and be connected by an overarching Program in Engaged Scholarship in which participating students develop an integrated plan of curricular and off-campus experiences including Undergraduate Teaching and Research Awards (UTRAs) as well as paid and unpaid summer internships. We will consider changes to the academic calendar that will facilitate opportunities for students to conduct research or undertake internships away from campus in times other than the summer.

Brown’s aspiration to be an innovator in education extends to its graduate and professional students. We plan to enhance our commitment to graduate education with new master’s programs in selected areas that will also benefit both undergraduates and doctoral students. They will be attractive to Brown undergraduates who may choose to remain in Providence for a fifth year, leaving with both a bachelor’s and master’s degree. In addition, doctoral students can apply for support to add a master’s degree in a second discipline to their Ph.D. training; we are committed to expanding this program. We will also involve doctoral students from all disciplines in working with faculty to develop new modes of teaching that make creative use of online content, thus better preparing them for the academic job market of the future. Finally, we will create a new track in Primary Care and Population Health for students in the Warren Alpert Medical School. This program will enhance the Alpert Medical School’s long-standing role as a leader in innovative medical education. Already under development, the new program has attracted national attention for its goal of providing a cadre of physicians with the understanding of medicine and population health needed to be effective leaders in our evolving health care environment.