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BrownTogether sees early alumni support

Initiatives related to diversity, Med School generate conversation amongst alumni leaders

Many alums have reacted with support for and pledged donations to BrownTogether, the University’s $3 billion comprehensive campaign, since it launched Oct. 23, said Preston Calvert ’76 MD’79, president of the Brown Medical Alumni Association.

As the University’s largest fundraising campaign to date, BrownTogether more than doubles the original $1.4 billion goal of the previous comprehensive campaign, under former President Ruth Simmons.

“The first thing you say is, ‘Wow, that’s a lot of money,’” Calvert said, adding that $3 billion “is an enormous number.”

“But change only happens through substantial giving,” he said. “It’s about more than the money. It’s about the commitment to the community and the educational ideals of Brown.”

The campaign will finance the initiatives outlined in President Christina Paxson’s P’19 operational plan. Theses initiatives fall into four key areas: integrative scholarship, educational leadership, academic excellence and campus development.

The diversity initiatives outlined in the operational plan have sparked conversation among some alums. The operational plan’s section on “Developing and Sustaining Diversity” notes the University’s forthcoming Diversity Action Plan, which Paxson announced in a community-wide email Monday will be a “plan for diversity and inclusion at Brown.” The plan will be released Friday as a working document, she wrote.

“I do a lot of alumni work for the University, so I’ve had a lot of conversations about the tenets of what BrownTogether really stand for, especially around issues of diversity,” said Ryan Grubbs ’10, president of Brown Transgender, Bisexual, Gay and Lesbian Alumni. “People are dedicated to seeing Brown as a place for students, faculty and staff of all walks of life.”

Grubbs said he is enthusiastic about the increased attention to faculty and student diversity, though he would have liked to “see a little bit more of a breakdown when it comes to diversity initiatives.” The operational plan was “a bit broad” in this area, which “can be good and bad,” he said.

The plan’s sections on “Understanding the Human Brain” and “Deciphering Disease” have also generated some alumni support.

Calvert said he is “excited about the vision for advancing the (Alpert Medical School) and bringing the hospital faculty together with Brown faculty.” The “Deciphering Disease” section of the operational plan notes the Med School’s seven affiliated teaching hospitals and calls for “synergies with faculty across the campus and at our partner hospitals.”

The plan’s suggestion of growing the Division of Biology and Medicine will lead to “a big advance for the city, Rhode Island, the University and the Medical School,” Calvert said.

Calvert also expressed satisfaction with the plan’s proposal to make the Brown Institute for Brain Science a top-10 research program, adding that “this is where we need to go.”

But Calvert said he wishes the University had demonstrated a greater commitment to increasing financial aid in the operational plan. The plan suggests increasing aid for low- and middle-income students but makes no commitment to implementing need-blind admission for international and transfer students.

“Ultimately, it would be desirable for all students to come to Brown without any concern for funding their education,” said Calvert, who served in the Army to pay for his Brown education.

Many Brown alumni clubs are actively involved in encouraging donations, such as the Brown Club of Fairfield County, Connecticut, which urged its members to “please consider participating in this meaningful capital raise for our campus” via the club’s Facebook page shortly after the BrownTogether campaign was announced.

“From the alumni perspective, it’s exciting to see that Brown is setting sights so high and taking the steps we need to attract the most talented faculty and students,” said Kate Sheehan ’00, co-president of the Brown Club of Cape Cod and the Islands.

BrownTogether represents the “cornerstones of what makes Brown special and how Brown will remain relevant for the future,” she added.

Calvert, Grubbs and Sheehan all said they plan to donate to BrownTogether. A recent study by researchers at the Teachers College at Columbia found that alums with “high levels of trust in their institutions were more likely than others to say they would donate and give at higher levels,” the Chronicle of Higher Education reported Nov. 6.

“Brown was the most formative time in my life,” Calvert said. “As an alumnus, it’s not just people asking for money. It’s a continued relationship with the Brown community.”



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