University News

In welcome address, Paxson encourages student engagement

UCS President Maahika Srinivasan ’15 urges students to be confident in their questioning and curiosity

By
University News Editor
Tuesday, September 2, 2014

“I love talking to students; so do my two poodles. So please stop and say hello,” President Christina Paxson said in her welcome address to first-years and parents Sunday.

Paxson spoke to a crowd assembled on the Main Green beneath a muggy, overcast sky.

Besides urging students to approach her during her daily walks with her dogs across the Main Green, Paxson also encouraged students, parents and alums to take part in the virtual office hours she will begin hosting through the University’s  Facebook page this semester.

Adopting a more serious tone, Paxson highlighted several initiatives in her strategic plan, which outlines her agenda for the University over the next decade.

“Just as you will change, Brown will change while you’re here,” she said. “You’ll see the strategic plan come to life over the next four years.”

Members of the class of 2018 can look forward to the growth of the TRI-Lab, an initiative that brings together students, faculty members and community partners to confront social issues, Paxson said.  While last year’s inaugural TRI-Lab centered on healthy early childhood development, this year’s program will explore healthy food access, and next year’s lab, set to begin this spring, will focus on climate change and environmental justice.

The class of 2018 will benefit from a “more robust” internship and research program to be unveiled soon, Paxson said. At a White House summit on higher education in January, Paxson announced the University will fund at least one unpaid internship or research opportunity for each student receiving financial aid.

The Engaged Scholars program, which incorporates community service into courses and research, will have seen considerable expansion by the time members of the class of 2018 are upperclassmen, Paxson said. Though the pilot phase of the program will include only four concentrations — anthropology, engineering, environmental studies and theater arts and performance studies — the program is set to “spread campus-wide,” she added.

Prior to Paxson’s remarks, Dean of the College and Professor of History and Judaic Studies Maud Mandel addressed the crowd, drawing from a metaphor in which she compared navigating a Brown education to charting a course on a map.

Mandel presented three pieces of advice. First, students should not be discouraged by “wrong turns” or “dead ends.” Second, students should chart their “own ways.” And finally, students should “ask for directions” from multiple sources, including peers, faculty advisers and Meiklejohn peer advisers.

This marked the first time Mandel spoke publicly to the campus community since becoming dean of the College July 1.

Undergraduate Council of Students President Maahika Srinivasan ’15, whose speech concluded the event, told members of the class of 2018 to embrace their uncertainty.

“I’m still trying to figure out how to make my Brown experience meaningful,” she said. “It’s okay not to know.”

Srinivasan stressed the importance of advising, which she made a central part of her platform when campaigning for the UCS presidency last spring. Advisers are the “safety nets that will catch you every time you fall,” she said.

Sitting in the front row was Amelia Khoo ’18, who said she appreciated all the speakers but that Srinivasan resonated with her the most.

Erika Banuelos ’18 felt similarly about Srinivasan, who is her Meiklejohn. “The fact that she herself is puzzled yet curious about what she wants to do in life is something I really liked,” Banuelos said.

The welcome addresses fell on the second day of orientation, which continues through this week. The program of events kicked off Saturday, including events like the annual ice cream social on the Main Green, and will conclude Sunday.

Orientation has been “overwhelming” and “nerve-wracking” so far, Banuelos said. “But I think that’s what everyone’s feeling, to be honest.”

  • John Miller

    Dear New Brown University students, You will discover that Chris Paxson’s poodles have more substance than Chris Paxson. But hey, enjoy the nice fall days on the Main Green, Chris Paxson or not.

    • RC

      Or we could let them form their own opinions. Perpetuated myths like yours are why one of the University’s most useless presidents was celebrated as a demi-god for years (and to this day) after it was clear she was an empty suit.