Internationalization agenda moves ahead with seed grants for faculty

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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Six faculty groups will receive a total of $85,000 in seed funds for internationally oriented projects from the Office of the Provost, the University announced Tuesday.

The grants are part of the University’s internationalization initiative, which aims to bolster Brown’s global profile and build relationships with institutions abroad. Intended to support work to be carried out in 2008, the grants will fund faculty members’ collaboration with researchers and universities in China, France and Brazil for projects in fields ranging from computational mathematics to gender studies.

The seed funding initiative is the first concrete step in the broadly defined internationalization initiative first announced by President Ruth Simmons in September 2006. The Internationalization Committee released a report in September outlining ways to expand the scope of Brown’s international activities, and in October the University announced that Harvard Law School professor David Kennedy ’76 will serve as the first vice president for international affairs.

“The fact that there were over 40 proposals shows how much interest there is in this initiative,” Provost David Kertzer ’69 P’95 P’98 said of the seed-funding selection process.

A proposal for a global health initiative, to be developed by faculty members who served on the Internationalization Committee’s Global Health Working Group, received one of the six seed grants. Co-chaired by Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology Susan Cu-Uvin, Professor of Community Health Stephen McGarvey and Associate Professor of Anthropology Daniel Smith, the group hopes to submit a detailed proposal by the end of this academic year.

“The ultimate goal (of the global health initiative) is to improve the health of the global population,” Smith said. “The impact of Brown’s initiative will be measured in how it helps improve the health of poor people around the world.”

Among the other winning projects, two will use the grant money to strengthen ties with China’s Nanjing University.

One project is a collaboration between Nanjing’s Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities and Social Sciences and Brown’s Pembroke Center for Women, Cogut Center for the Humanities and Department of East Asian Studies. Together, researchers from both universities ultimately hope to develop a scholar exchange program, a conference on female film directors to be held in Nanjing and a new Chinese scholarly journal focusing on gender studies. The seed funds will allow the group to publish the proceedings of the Nanjing conference in both English and Chinese.

A second collaboration with Nanjing University will strengthen existing connections between Brown’s Division of Applied Mathematics and Nanjing’s department of computational mathematics. Professor of Applied Mathematics Chi-Wang Shu said the funds will support a continuing faculty and Ph.D. student exchange program, a program at Nanjing University next summer that will include lectures for graduate students and faculty. Those funds will also support efforts to cultivate the reputation of Brown’s Division of Applied Mathematics abroad in order to attract top applicants to Providence for graduate school.

Next year, the grant will help the division host Nanjing’s Professor Jianxian Qiu, an expert in computational mathematics. This would have been difficult to accomplish without the University’s support, Shu said.

“There will be significant scientific benefits from this exchange, but more importantly, we’re trying to get more students and faculty over there to know about Brown,” Shu added.

Also thanks to the seed funding, a group of faculty members from the departments of visual arts, theater arts, music and modern culture and media will establish a program to host international artists whose work threatens their safety in their own countries. The program, modeled on the successful International Writers Project, will provide the artists-in-residence with a safe place to work.

Another project will connect scholars at Brown, Stanford and Durham universities with counterparts at the Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art/Universite de Paris to study the beginnings of modern science. The project aims to post these early writers’ texts online to stimulate further research.

Finally, in a project sponsored by the Watson Institute for International Studies and the departments of sociology and economics, a team of Brown professors will work with Brazil’s leading social science research institution, the Centro Brasileiro de Analise e Pesquisa, to study the development of slums in urban Brazil.