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Watson Institute expands size, scope of Student Advisory Committee

Reforms intend to increase student involvement, Institute’s campus presence

The Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs has expanded the size and scope of its Student Advisory Committee, which will organize events, provide student input on changes at the Watson Institute and build the Institute’s presence on campus.

This semester’s expansion “is part of the natural evolution of the Institute to be more integrated with campus and student life at Brown,” said Director of the Watson Institute Edward Steinfeld P’20. “We want students to feel that they can physically spend their time here, with the new building, and that they have a voice. … We want student input to decide what speakers to bring in, but also to develop some new activities, including career advice.”

With the expansion from seven members last year to 24 this year, the committee is now more representative of students across different class years and concentrations, said Kathryn Dunkelman, director of communications and outreach at the Watson Institute. “The breakdown is pretty even across all four years, with concentrators and non-concentrators, which is excellent.”

In addition to its event-planning role, the committee is structured to involve students in decision-making at the Watson Institute. “Now that students have a voice through this committee, they can be more actively involved in life here, not just an audience,” Steinfeld said. “Our expectation is that the life of the Watson will increasingly meet the expectations of the student body.”

Shantal Hernandez ’23, a member of the committee, agreed that it will give students a greater voice in the Watson Institute. “Our role is to let directors know what we want from the Institute and help decide future changes,” she said. “The goal is to get as much student input as possible so that professors can learn from our opinion regarding the affairs that are going on in the Institute.”

Hernandez also hopes that the committee will be able to engage more students in activities at the Watson Institute. “We want to create events that students are actually interested in and will go to,” she said.

The committee’s first meeting last Thursday “was laying the groundwork for the near future,” said committee member Alexandra Martinez ’22. “There is still a lot of flexibility” in what the committee will do.

To solicit applications for membership, “forms were put out campus-wide, open to any student who had an interest” in joining the committee, Dunkelman said. “The review process was conducted by our Diversity and Inclusion Committee, which went through all the applications.”

Though the committee is only in its second year, Associate Director of the Watson Institute Steven Bloomfield said he hopes the group will continue to operate in the long term. “I would be disappointed if, say 20 years from now, a similar organization didn’t exist.”



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