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Paxson picks provost search committee

Committee includes eight faculty members, one graduate student and one undergraduate

The search committee for Provost Mark Schlissel’s P’15 replacement will comprise eight faculty members, a graduate student and an undergraduate, President Christina Paxson announced in an email to the Brown community yesterday. Paxson will chair the committee.

The University reached out to faculty members in order to select people who would represent the diverse interests of the Brown community, said committee member David Rand, professor of biology and chair of the department of ecology and evolutionary biology.

The committee includes two faculty members representing each major academic discipline: the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences and physical sciences. Two are also administrators. Crystal Ngo GS is a PhD candidate in American studies, and Daniel Pipkin ’14 is an international relations and Hispanic studies concentrator.

Paxson selected Pipkin, who was one of three candidates recommended by the Undergraduate Council of Students. All undergraduates had the opportunity to apply to UCS for the position, and the Council received 10 applications last week.

Multiple sources said the committee will likely consider both internal and external candidates for the position, though an explicit policy has not been finalized.

Both Rand and Jack Mustard PhD’90, professor of geological sciences and environmental studies, said they do not automatically prefer either external or internal candidates.

“I think we’ll consider a lot of people, and usually it’s pretty clear who the best fit for Brown is at the current time,” Rand said.

“I’m looking for someone who has a clear understanding of where they want to take the University,” Mustard said, adding that one cannot categorically eliminate candidates based on the type of university at which they previously worked.

Upon Schlissel’s announcement last month, Professor of Computer Science John Savage wrote in an email to The Herald that the University should hire a physical scientist to maintain disciplinary balance among the University’s top three administrators.

But Rand, Pipkin and Mustard said hiring a physical or natural scientist is not a priority.

“One would evaluate the candidates on their own merits,” Rand said. “If there’s someone from humanities or social science who everyone feels has the right vision and leadership skills, then that would be fine.”

“My job is to look for someone who loves Brown and who will love Brown — someone who loves undergrads and will build the University,” Pipkin said, adding that the candidate’s field of expertise was secondary to these and other characteristics.

“It’s really about the person, right?” Mustard said. “If someone who happens to have a degree in economics came on the team and you could just see that this person got it, … I don’t think disciplinary balance should be a factor in our decisions.”

Pipkin said the candidate must empathize with the Brown community and be able to communicate with various campus groups, including the faculty, UCS and the Graduate Student Council.

He would prefer a candidate who “has the capacity to be forward-thinking and to be a consensus builder,” he said.

Rand also emphasized the importance of a candidate who sees the big picture.

“You want someone who understands Brown, where we’re trying to go, has vision and leadership skills, who everyone likes to work with,” he said.

The next provost will likely be tasked with the implementation of Paxson’s strategic plan, which Schlissel played a large role in crafting. Operationalizing the strategic plan will require knowledge about growing the Graduate School and research infrastructure while maintaining the strong undergraduate teaching for which Brown is well known.

Growing the Grad School and research programs should have benefits for both undergraduates and graduate students, Pipkin said, adding that the new provost must seek to “incorporate undergraduates (at) every step of research.”

Grad School development “provides not only the scholarship but also the partnership that graduate students have with undergrads,” Mustard said. “The learning that goes on with that experience is like nothing you would get with just an undergraduate program.”

The other search committee members are Wendy Edwards, professor of visual art and the department’s chair; Sharon Krause, professor of political science and the department’s chair; Charles Larmore, professor of the humanities and philosophy; Glenn Loury, professor of the social sciences and economics; Kimberly Mowry, professor of biomedicine and biology and chair of the Department of Molecular Biology, Cell Biology and Biochemistry; and Kavita Ramanan, professor of applied mathematics. Assistant to the President Kimberly Roskiewicz will staff the committee.


A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the committee would include two administrators and eight faculty members. In fact, two of the faculty members are also administrators. There are no non-faculty administrators on the committee. The Herald regrets the error.


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