University News

Faculty talk renovations, internship funding

Most recent faculty meeting covers search committees, U.’s international reputation

Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Three floors of the Sciences Library will likely undergo a renovation in the next few months, said Provost Mark Schlissel P’15 at a faculty meeting Tuesday.

Faculty members and administrators announced the composition of the Provost Search Committee, and discussed the dean of the College search as well as research funding and grants, new undergraduate internship funding andan expansion to the University’s postdoctoral programs. They also talked about agenda items to be presented to the Corporation, the University’s highest governing body, this weekend.

The SciLi renovation is expected to begin in the coming months, and the renovated floors will house the Laboratory for Educational Innovation, the Language Resource Center, a Computing and Information Services instructional classroom, offices for Instructional Technological Group staff and a social science research laboratory. The repurposing will also “free up” additional space, Schlissel added.

Due to the digitization of academic journals, it is no longer necessary to “fill a 14-floor building with books,” Schlissel said.

The language center is a “technologically-aided way to reinforce the study of foreign languages,” he said, adding that the center will house CIS and ITG staff as well as two hired language specialists.

The Laboratory for Educational Innovation will be “home for online content for Brown courses,” including those taught online and in traditional format, Schlissel said. The center will track the progress of the University’s online course content, he added.

The social science research laboratory will invest in advanced computers for experiments in subjects such as behavioral economics and political science, Schlissel said.

President Christina Paxson said the Provost Search Committee will include Professor Ruth Iris Bahar, chair of the Faculty Executive Committee, and Peter Friedmann, professor of medicine and health services, policy and practice and chair of the Medical Faculty Executive Committee. Eight additional faculty members, one PhD student and one undergraduate will also join the group.

Schlissel announced that Paxson will take over the leadership of the dean of the College search committee after his departure to become president of the University of Michigan in July. The committee has received over 60 applications so far from both internal and external candidates, he said.

Schlissel also gave a report on external research funding and grant volume for fiscal year 2013. External funding declined by about 17 percent, though the University continues to hire laboratory scientists and staff.

The research grant volume increased by nearly 7 percent in fiscal year 2014, but has decreased 20 percent overall since fiscal year 2011, Schlissel said.

The volume is “down more than the federal budget is down,” he added.

Responding to a question from a faculty member, Schlissel said the size of the faculty has grown steadily across all subjects since 2011 despite the research funding decreases.

Paxson also reported on her visit to a White House summit on higher education last month. “Over the next four years, every Brown student will have at least one Brown-supported internship,” Paxson told The Herald. The University will help students find internships as well as provide financial support for low-paid or unpaid internships, if necessary, she added.

The University hopes to “expand the pool of internships for all students” and match students to opportunities in their fields of academic interest, Paxson told The Herald. The University will also provide more support to students looking for internships in fields with more limited opportunities, such as the arts, she added.

Paxson also announced plans for a “reputational survey” to investigate perceptions of Brown around the world, which will begin in the next couple of months. The survey will provide “metrics and measures” for the University’s strategic planning initiatives.

The University has hired a planning firm to explore opportunities for expanding performing arts at Brown, Paxson said. Faculty members and students from numerous departments will be involved in the process, which will begin this spring, she added.

The internship initiative, reputational survey and performing arts expansion are among the items that Paxson will present to the Corporation at its meeting this weekend, she said.

Paxson also said she will possibly teach a sophomore seminar next spring. The pilot program for sophomore seminars on diversity and social justice, one of the strategic planning initiatives, began this semester.

Schlissel announced a Presidential Management Fellows pilot program, which aims to enhance competitiveness in the University’s graduate education. The program includes 20 three-year doctoral fellowships with stipends of $30,000 per year, which will be awarded to the Graduate School’s top admitted students.

While the fellowship’s stipend is lower than normal graduate stipends, the program will free up resources that “can be used at the discretion of the program director,” Schlissel said. The fellowship applies to all graduate programs on campus, he added.

Dean of the Faculty Kevin McLaughlin P’12 announced a new three-phase postdoctoral program aimed at diversifying the faculty. The University is currently working toward hiring more faculty members in the early parts of their careers to increase diversity, The Herald previously reported.

McLaughlin said this program is a “seed experiment” in various centers and programs. The University will seek to obtain support for up to eight postdoctoral fellows from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, an organization that provides higher education grants.

The initiative will support two-year postdoctoral fellowships, and departments will be responsible for finding financial support to keep the fellows in tenure-track positions at the University, McLaughlin said.


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