Leading this quirky group is now the responsibility of Professor of Sociology and Community Health Mary Fennell, who in June became dean of the faculty, a position vacated by Kathryn Spoehr '69 when she was promoted to provost in November ("The Shoo-In Provost," Elms, January/February).
Fennell, a specialist in the delivery of health care to the elderly, came to Brown from Penn State in 1995. She quickly became one of those rare faculty members eager to take on administrative work. During her brief time on College Hill, she has served on various committees and subcommittees that have addressed such issues as retirement and academic priorities. She was also instrumental in developing the external academic review process that's likely to lead to the creation of more collaborative initiatives like the Brain Science Program, which joins the work of more than eighty faculty members.
As dean, Fennell is the faculty's representative to the senior administration and has ultimate oversight over spending and tenure decisions. One of her greatest challenges over the next few years will undoubtedly be in helping implement the findings of the external academic reviews now under way. Because the goal of these reviews is to identify both the University's academic strengths and its weaknesses, their recommendations are likely to be controversial.
"How do you make the endgame for these reviews work?" Fennell asks. "How can we use these reviews to have one discipline connect to another so that synergy can happen? How can Brown position itself? After all, there's no going back to the box as it was defined twenty or thirty years ago."