Building on Distinction

Integrative Scholarship

Brown has a distinctive tradition of producing scholars who assimilate and integrate ideas in a multidisciplinary fashion.

The Brown Curriculum encourages undergraduates to explore widely across the curriculum and to draw connections across diverse areas of study. Brown’s collaborative environment supports research in areas that benefit from an integrative lens.

We will build on this strength by making focused investments in seven integrative themes that are important to society, now and in the future. The themes will build on current departmental and faculty strength, enhance the curriculum, leverage existing and new partnerships with public and private institutions locally and abroad, and foster creative scholarship that has a positive impact not only on the Brown campus but also in the community, the nation, and the world.

In most instances, investments in the themes will be made through existing departments, schools, and centers. Rather than creating new structures, we will coalesce and grow our current academic units in alignment with these themes. Brown’s existing interdisciplinary centers will play a crucial role in sustaining academic communities that bridge disciplines and support outstanding scholarship. The establishment of these themes, however, will not supplant Brown’s long-standing commitment to providing all its faculty, students, and staff with the resources and support required to excel at scholarship and education, nor will it entail a retreat from the strongest programs and areas of scholarship that were cultivated under the Plan for Academic Enrichment that continue to bring distinction to Brown.

Each theme will be built on the foundation of an integrated plan of scholarship and education, with opportunities for broad faculty and student involvement. Brown’s success in these areas will require the dedicated and focused efforts of faculty and staff as well as a commitment of new resources: new faculty in carefully chosen areas who will complement and strengthen our current faculty; seed funds for innovative new research and the development of new courses; fellowship support for graduate students; internship and research support for undergraduates; and (in some cases) renovated and new facilities.

Creative expression is used to explore human values and communicate new ideas, to challenge societies, and to draw disparate groups together. At Brown, the creative arts are tightly integrated into the liberal arts. We aspire to foster an environment in which artists operating at the highest levels of their crafts learn from and inform scholars in disciplines across the campus.

The study of the brain and its relationship to cognition, behavior, and disease is often described as the “last frontier” in biomedical science. This theme will support Brown scholars in their efforts to understand functions of the brain that distinguish us as humans, discover treatments for disorders that diminish our capacities, and create technologies to improve lives.

Environmental change can threaten global supplies of food and water, harm human health, and undermine the stability of societies around the world. We will build an academic program focused on the relationship of the environment to human societies combining the efforts of natural, physical, and social scientists, together with humanists, to understand the determinants of environmental change, alter norms of human behavior, consider ethical issues related to sustainability, and develop sound environmental policies. Work on this theme will complement ongoing efforts to improve sustainability on campus.

Economic, political and cultural development are as important as defense and diplomacy in establishing peaceful and just societies. Brown’s multidisciplinary approach to security within and across countries reflects this understanding. We will establish Brown as a leading center of international studies that integrates rigorous scholarship and education with active engagement in the world of international affairs, and we will support scholarship and public discourse on institutions and ideas that promote social justice and economic prosperity domestically and internationally.

Brown has a long and distinguished record of innovation in the humanities. Learning from the historical record, analyzing present conditions, and comprehending our future possibilities are fundamental to the University’s mission and its contributions to society. Investment in this theme will continue to develop a robust environment for the study of human experience in all its diversity throughout history and around the world. Specifically, it will build on the success of the Cogut Center for the Humanities and the Humanities Initiative to promote creative critical thinking and informed public dialogue about the most challenging questions facing humanity.

The development of new technology is critical to human progress, and Brown is at the forefront of discovery in areas such as computing, nanoscience and bioengineering. We recognize that the benefits of new technologies hinge on how well they ultimately align with societal needs. Our plan for enhancing the study of science, engineering, and technology will emphasize an interdisciplinary approach to innovation, grounded in a broad understanding of local and global needs and concerns.

Improving human health requires an integrated approach to understanding the causes of disease and translating that knowledge into new modes of diagnosis, treatment, and ultimately prevention — from bench to bedside to population. This theme will rely upon the close alignment of Brown’s Alpert Medical School and School of Public Health and synergies with faculty across the campus to create the knowledge on which population health can be improved, and educate skilled professionals to use this knowledge for the benefit of people in Rhode Island and around the world.