U. to lose its director of institutional diversity

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Associate Provost and Director of Institutional Diversity Brenda Allen will leave her position at the end of this semester to become the provost at Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina.

“It is certainly a great loss. She will be sorely missed,” said Provost David Kertzer ’69 P’95 P’98.

Although her six years at Brown were “very satisfying,” Allen said, the move to the position of provost “seems like a logical progression.” Allen held teaching positions at Yale and Smith College before taking administrative posts at Smith and Brown. She has a nine years of experience in administration and ten years in teaching under her belt.

Looking out onto the Main Green, her office on the fourth floor of University Hall is decorated by posters of diversity forums, meetings of the University Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice and other evidence of her influence at the University. She was the first person to hold the position of director of institutional diversity, and her work has helped to define a new area of focus for the administration.

She has worked to implement the Diversity Action Plan, which seeks to increase diversity among Brown’s faculty. “It’s one thing to value diversity,” she said, “but it’s another thing to actually identify goals and get them done.”

Diversity figures among faculty, both in terms of gender and race, have increased over her six years, she said.

Her remaining time will be spent “dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s of projects,” she said, gazing out at a piles of binders, boxes and papers on her desk. There has been no discussion yet of who will take over after her leave, Allen said.

Winston-Salem State, a historically black university, will present a very different set of goals and challenges, she said.

Allen represents “a very important part” of a new leadership team at Winston-Salem State, where she will also serve as vice chancellor of academic affairs, said the school’s chancellor, Donald Reaves. He said he was looking for “an academic, not an administrator,” and that Allen was the ideal candidate for such a post.

Allen chose to teach a psychology class at Brown, a move that some administrators might view as an overload, she said. Allen said was constantly stimulated by interactions with the Brown student body.

“If I ever felt discouraged, I just went to the classroom,” Allen said.

Due to the current financial situation and efforts to “streamline the administration,” the University will be evaluating Allen’s position before hiring someone to replace her, Kertzer said.

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