Faculty, administrators and student leaders pointed to Christina Paxson's scholarship and experience as indicators of her ability to continue the University's momentum as its 19th president. Specifically, they noted her leadership positions at Princeton and her background in public health and international studies — disciplines that the University is looking to expand.
Though Brown is a "different kind of institution" from Princeton with a "different financial situation," Paxson seems committed to ensuring that "she really understands what she's going to be inheriting," said Beppie Huidekoper, executive vice president for finance and administration.
"I don't think she would be taking the job if it wasn't a good challenge," Huidekoper said.
Provost Mark Schlissel P'15 called Paxson "very impressive." She has "expertise that's relevant to both the social sciences and efforts in public health and the medical school," and is "used to working with interdisciplinary teams," Schlissel said.
With Paxson at the helm, Schlissel pointed out that the University's top administrators will be well-rounded — Paxson is an economist, he is a biologist, Dean of the Faculty Kevin McLaughlin's P'12 background is in English and Dean of the College Katherine Bergeron is in music.
"The top several positions at the University actually form a great team," he said.
Paxson will also be vital in the University's efforts to start a school of public health, Schlissel said.
McLaughlin said Paxson's selection is especially timely as the University prepares to appoint a director of the Watson Institute for International Studies.
"It's interesting that the committee has very distinctly focused on someone who looks at a number of areas that we will be focusing on in the next five to 10 years," he said.
Vincent Mor, professor of medical science, said Paxson has "a very strong academic and research base in the world that I know, which is research on aging and health care." Mor, who chaired the Department of Community Health from 1998 to 2010, said he "received lots of congratulations" from colleagues across the country.
Faculty members and administrators also lauded Paxson's work on international issues.
Matthew Gutmann P'14, vice president for international affairs, said he has received emails from colleagues at Princeton telling him "we're so lucky."
"She has worked on international questions and led one of the most important centers for international studies in the world," he said. "All this bodes very well for Brown."
Roberto Serrano, chair of the economics department, called Paxson a "wonderful choice for Brown" in an email to The Herald. "As a scholar, she is a first-rate economist with important work on health, development and public policy."
"As a dean, she has demonstrated key leadership at the Woodrow Wilson School," he wrote. "We should all look forward to working under her leadership."
Newell Stultz, professor emeritus of political science, said he had not heard of Paxson before the announcement, but "the positions she has held seem eminently appropriate." The University will enjoy the distinction of having two female presidents in a row, he noted. "If she is as successful as her predecessor, it will be a great day for Brown."
McLaughlin noted that university presidents have to spend a lot of time both with senior administrators and representing the University to the public.
"It will be for Christina to decide for herself what kind of profile she's going to have on campus with the faculty, the students," McLaughlin said.
Student leaders also told The Herald they look forward to working with Paxson.
Ralanda Nelson '12, president of the Undergraduate Council of Students, said Paxson is "definitely someone that can move things forward, and that's what Brown needs." Nelson said she is interested in partnering with Paxson to sponsor a forum where students can freely ask questions to "get a sense of where Brown is going with its new leadership."
Matteo Riondato GS, president of Graduate Student Council, said he thinks there is "still room for improvement and expansion in the Graduate School," and that Paxson seemed receptive when he spoke with her briefly.
"You can start big projects that perhaps were postponed because of the news that Ruth was stepping down," he said. "It's almost like a new starting point."
— With additional reporting by Aparna Bansal, Lucy Feldman, Margaret Nickens and James Rattner