University News

Paxson meets with admins, faculty in first visit since selection

By
News Editor
Thursday, March 22, 2012

Christina Paxson’s campus visit included a stop at the School of engineering.

President-elect Christina Paxson made her first visit to the University this week since the announcement of her selection as the University’s 19th president March 2. The visit, during which Paxson met with senior administrators and faculty members, marked her first step in learning more about the University, said Russell Carey ’91 MA’06, senior vice president for Corporation affairs and governance.

Paxson’s visit, which lasted from Saturday to Wednesday, consisted mostly of one-on-one meetings with senior staff, Carey said. Paxson also toured the John D. Rockefeller Library, the Sciences Library and the John Hay Library and visited the School of Engineering.

Paxson said she will likely visit one more time before Commencement, though the dates for a subsequent visit have not yet been finalized. On her next visit, she said, she hopes to meet more with student leaders on campus.

“It’s really part of an ongoing process,” said Marisa Quinn, vice president for public affairs and University relations.

Meeting with senior administrative staff and academic administrators was “a very important part of the visit,” Paxson said, adding that she was not able to do so fully when she was named.

“These are people whom I’m going to be working with on a day-to-day basis,” she said.

During her visit, Paxson also had dinner with the Faculty Executive Committee, the steering committee for faculty issues, which she called “a really important group.”

“Brown is a campus where the faculty are quite engaged, and they have a large role in governance, so it’s important for me to learn about that and understand and appreciate it,” she said.

Paxson said she also had a chance to discuss general academic priorities with the administrative staff, though “nothing concrete” was established.

“These are the very first conversations you have with people that are going to continue and deepen over a period of time,” she said.

The conversations involved the ongoing initiative to establish a school of public health, Paxson said. Though she said the Corporation has not made a decision on the impending proposal, the discussion was a “good chance” to catch up on ongoing discussions.

Paxson also expressed interest in engineering, noting that “it’s clear they’ve had a lot of growth, but they’re very tight on space.”

While visiting, Paxson spoke with Steven King ’91, senior vice president for University advancement, about potential fundraising campaigns in the context of the University’s upcoming 250th anniversary.

“These were very general first conversations,” Paxson said. “When I start in July, it will really be time to start in earnest to see what are the main priorities for the coming year.”

Loan-free aid ­- an area Paxson has previously discussed – was not a specific topic, but Paxson said that “doesn’t mean it wasn’t really important.”

After meeting with senior administrators, Paxson said it is “too early to tell” whether she will bring in new staff or in any way revise the administrative structure. But she said she was impressed by the quality of the administrators she met.

“I’m not prepared to make large or swift changes until I really see a need to do that,” she said.

The visit was also a chance for Paxson and her 14-year-old son to become better acquainted with the University, she said. Paxson’s son came with her for the first two days of the trip so he could learn about Brown as a campus and a community.

“We walked all over campus, and he really liked it,” she said.

Carey said Paxson and President Ruth Simmons are “spending a lot of time together,” which he said is important in facilitating a smooth transition. During Paxson’s visit, the University briefed Paxson on ongoing projects at Brown, and Simmons hosted a reception for Paxson with members of the University senior staff.

Carey’s office is coordinating the logistics of the presidential transition, which Quinn said helps the University “provide an initial perspective” while other administrators look to Paxson’s longer-term plans.