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The University is looking to identify and support several "signature areas" in shaping Brown's academic strengths under new President Christina Paxson. Potential areas of emphasis could include "environment and society" and "digital society," said Provost Mark Schlissel P'15 at Tuesday's faculty meeting. 

Further discussions within the Academic Priorities Committee will identify three or four target areas to support. Schlissel said the University is looking to expand support and resources across the faculty but will devote significant resources to identifying and strengthening interdisciplinary areas where Brown may already have an advantage.

Faculty members also heard an update on the proposed school for public health, which was unanimously endorsed by both the biomedical faculty council and the APC.

In addition to her new strategic planning process, Paxson outlined eight priorities, including financial aid, that the University had already identified before her administration began. Addressing these priorities should cost $500 million, Paxson said. 

As part of those eight priorities, the University will continue to prioritize growth in brain science, the Humanities Initiative and the schools of engineering and public health. The Faculty Executive Committee is expected to vote later this month on the proposal to create a school of public health, said Mary Louise Gill, FEC chair and professor of philosophy. Pending that approval, the proposal will come for a full faculty vote. 

Paxson said the University must support research funding and professorships in brain science, the Humanities Initiative, engineering and public health. She added that the school of engineering has no space to expand and, as a result, has difficulty recruiting and retaining faculty.

Schlissel discussed the recently announced committees for the Paxson administration's strategic planning process and stressed the importance of faculty input on these committees. Jack Hermance, professor of geological sciences, expressed concern that the planning initiatives evolved over the summer with very little input from the faculty. In response, Schlissel noted that each committee has a faculty majority and will solicit faculty input with the idea that the faculty is important to committee discussions.

Schlissel described the goals central to the strategic planning committees, which included financial support for a diverse student body and increasing the University's local and global impact. In particular, Schlissel described collaboration with other institutions as a way to "leverage Brown's strengths." 

Paxson also discussed ongoing residential renovations, the first phase of which was completed this summer. The second phase is expected to be completed next summer, but it will not commence until the University pays for all of last summer's renovations. 

Paxson called athletics a continuing priority, highlighting efforts to improve fields and locker rooms, as well as to create endowments for teams and coaching chairs.

Gill also announced a faculty forum to discuss the state and availability of faculty resources. The forum will likely be held sometime in December, she said.


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