University News

Faculty approves new master’s program, teaching excellence changes

Meeting also includes dept. name change, update on Presidential Fellows program

University News Editor
Thursday, May 8, 2014

Faculty members voted unanimously to establish a new joint Executive Masters of Business Administration program with the IE Business School in Madrid at a faculty meeting Tuesday.

The faculty also voted to change the name of the Department of Egyptology and Ancient West Asian Studies and to amend the Faculty Rules and Regulations to clarify teaching guidelines. Administrators also discussed the Presidential Fellows program, graduate student funding and copyrights for online teaching.

Dean of the Graduate School Peter Weber presented an update on the new Presidential Fellows program, which offers funded fellowships aimed at recruiting top applicants to Brown graduate programs.

The University received 103 nominations from departments for applicants to receive the three-year, $30,000-per-year fellowships, Weber said. Thirty-five initial offers were made, with 7 additional offers made later.

The acceptance rate of the offers was lower than the University hoped, Weber said. The rate differed by discipline, hovering around 50 percent for the humanities, 33 percent for the life sciences, 19 percent for the physical sciences and 56 percent for the social sciences. Only departments in the humanities and social sciences met the target enrollments in the fellowships. In the physical sciences, 13 out of 16 offers were declined.

The University will aim to be more competitive with graduate recruitment with the Presidential Fellows program in the future, Weber said.

The new joint M.B.A. program will expand the current relationship between Brown and the IE Business School to provide a shared degree offering, said Angus Kingon, professor of engineering and chair of the program.

The University currently offers the IE Brown Executive M.B.A., a 15-month program in which students alternate their time between the two campuses. Though Brown and IE offer the program collaboratively, only IE currently awards the degree.

“The missing elements in business executives are the humanities, which Brown so richly provides,” Kingon said, adding that both the Graduate Student Council and Academic Priorities Committee had already approved the new program.

Faculty members also voted unanimously to rename the Department of Egyptology and Ancient West Asian Studies as the Department of Egyptology and Assyriology.

“The current name is cumbersome and misleading,” said John Steele, professor and chair of the department.

“Assyriology is the study of the language and culture of ancient Mesopotamia and its neighbors,” which more accurately reflects the department’s targeted subjects, Steele said. He added that there are currently more Egyptology than Assyriology graduate students, which is likely due to the current title of Ancient West Asian studies.

Iris Bahar, chair of the Faculty Executive Committee and professor of engineering, led a discussion of the committee’s work this semester to promote teaching excellence, which resulted in the formation of a three-phase plan.

In its first phase, the committee will update the Faculty Rules and Regulations’ Statement of Faculty Responsibility to outline teaching responsibilities more clearly. The change will summarize a baseline of teaching practices, including updating syllabi and “keeping current in one’s field.”

“There is no real problem” with the quality of teaching at the University, Bahar said. “This is about starting a dialogue with colleagues in different departments.”

The next two phases of the FEC plan will encourage departments to adopt teaching workshops and peer review programs and update the Handbook of Academic Administration.

Faculty members passed the motion to amend the rules and regulations with one opposing vote.

Weber also updated the faculty on funding for sixth-year graduate students. The University currently offers guaranteed funding for five years, but graduate students needing extra time to complete their dissertations may apply for an additional year of funding. The denial of funding to some applicants has sparked graduate student protests in recent weeks.

This year, graduate students submitted significantly more proposals for sixth-year funding than last year and requested 39 percent more funds overall, Weber said. After holding an open forum last week that 150 graduate students attended, the University was able to accept 86 percent of the proposals, which is “in line with previous years,” Weber said.

Provost Mark Schlissel P’15 also presented a new document addressing “frequently asked questions” about faculty copyrights. After speaking with their counterparts at peer institutions, University administrators have determined that “we’re in good shape and don’t need to change our policies,” Schlissel said.

Faculty members own their original material but cannot sell lectures for University courses online, Schlissel said. He added that though the University is expanding online course offerings through Coursera, the administration does not have any plans to commercialize Brown courses.

Schlissel also updated the faculty on procedures for establishing centers within University departments.

Some groups of faculty members have received grants designating their research as being conducted by a “center,” causing many unofficial centers to form, Schlissel said. The University currently has up to 70 centers, but only about a dozen have undergone the formal process.

“We want to streamline the process and make it easier,” Schlissel said.

Any group that wishes to designate itself as a center must write a proposal, present it to the Academic Priorities Committee for feedback and approval, and then seek final approval by its home department or institute, Schlissel said. Centers in interdisciplinary fields may also form under multiple departments.

President Christina Paxson updated the faculty on the progress of the Committee on the Events of October 29 and the formation of the new Task Force on Sexual Assault.

The committee will finish its final report in several weeks, addressing “how to make campus more inclusive,” Paxson said. The committee was formed in response to the planned lecture by former New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly that was shut down last fall due to protests.

“We’ve learned something from the Kelly episode,” Paxson said, citing the April 2 lecture by Israel Defense Forces Sgt. Benjamin Anthony at Brown/RISD Hillel, which took place with no interruptions but with significant protests outside.

The Brown University Task Force on Sexual Assault, which will comprise faculty members, students and administrators, is in the process of formation, Paxson said. An external reviewer will assess the University’s climate and policies over the summer in preparation for the task force’s work in the fall, she added.

“Brown should be a national leader in sexual assault prevention,” she said.

Chair of the Department of French Studies Lewis Seifert also read a memorial minute for Shoggy Waryn, senior lecturer in French studies, who died in February.


  1. johnlonergan says:

    Really? That’s it? This is clearly a faculty with no leadership and no direction.
    As a Brown alum, I’m disappointed by Cristina Paxson’s lack of vision.

    • That's it says:

      You’re an MBA, right? What are your thoughts on the new program? You probably aren’t a huge fan or think it is not enough or whatever you usually say, but I’m genuinely interested in hearing a more substantial comment from you.

      Also no comment on your core topic?: “He added that though the University is expanding online course offerings through Coursera, the administration does not have any plans to commercialize Brown courses.”

      • johnlonergan says:

        Thanks for your question. I hold a Harvard MBA, was a McKinsey consultant, and have started/invested in 23 companies, and have taught in the MBA programs at U of Mich and U of New Mexico. I’ve hired a lot of MBAs from US and European schools. I know IE in Barcelona, and have hired grads and worked with grads from there. It’s a good school–not IMD-quality, but not bad.

        Furthermore, as a Harvard MBA, I see a lot of activity on the Harvard B School side–I counsel their graduates on career choices, particularly in life sciences.

        It’s interesting that those of us Brown alums with substantial MBA and business experience are not involved in these decisions. We aren’t even notified that such things are happening. It suggests a lack of seriousness on the part of Cristina Paxson and the Brown faculty. Having it managed by the Dept of Engineering suggests that this is a poorly thought-out flyer, with little commitment on Brown’s part, and less chance of success.

        In regards to the ‘core topic,’ I contrast Brown’s approach with Nitin Nohra, Dean of Harvard B School. She’s just created an eMBA series of courses, sponsored by Harvard B School, to train non-business attendees prior to coming to Boston. She (rightly) decided to make it a Harvard-branded effort, rather than going through Coursera. Not only is this a money-saver, but it also enhances Harvard’s brand.

        For Cristina Paxson to authorize spending $300,000 for 2 Coursera courses, then claim that Brown is not ‘moving in that direction’ is less than serious–it shows a serious lack of understanding of how Brown must establish its online brand.

        From my perspective here in San Francisco, Brown’s moves are worse than tenuous. They are amateurish. Brown’s a sheep among the wolves, particularly when it comes to MBA programs.

        How can Brown turn this around? (1) Put together a serious business plan to enter the business education market, (2) Provide a meaningful differentiation–the USP (unique selling proposition) for Brown’s business program, and (3) do it online. I believe that Brown lacks the expertise in this area. It should, at a minimum, call on those of us alums who hire such people and participate in such programs to help get them there. It should also consider hiring McKinsey, Bain or others to help it get there.

        Will Cristina Paxson do these things? No, I don’t see the vision or the capabilities in her leadership.

        • Concerned Alum says:

          Agreed. Brown is really the poster child for an Ivory Tower institution. They are completely clueless. And worse, they are completely arrogant so their ability to change is limited. Pride and stupidity are a bad combo.

        • Robert Solomon '71, HBS '73 says:

          Dean Nitra at HBS is a he, not a she! John, did you really go to HBS?

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