From the Presidents

By Christina Paxson / March/April 2014
March 13th, 2014

In January, I joined more than 100 university and college presidents at a higher education summit at the White House. In order to attend, each of us had to make a new commitment toward the goal of expanding educational opportunities for lower-income students.

Pete Souza/White House
President Obama delivers remarks during the College Opportunity Summit on Jan 16.
Brown’s commitment aims to level the playing field for access to internships and research opportunities. These experiences enrich students’ educations and are increasingly important to success upon graduation. Currently, unpaid or inadequately compensated summer internships are out of reach for many of our students. Within the next four years, we will ensure that all students who receive financial aid—43 percent of the Brown student body—have access to at least one University-supported internship or research opportunity while at Brown. We will expand the number of UTRAs (Undergraduate Teaching and Research Awards), waive the summer earnings requirements for students who accept internships that pay little or nothing, and identify paid internship opportunities for Brown students.

This new commitment is part of a broader effort to enhance internship and research opportunities for all Brown students. We are developing a new University-wide program called BrownConnect, which will focus on three areas: (1) increasing the number of summer job opportunities for all Brown students, emphasizing fields currently underrepresented at Brown; (2) increasing award funding to support more students seeking to work in low-paying or non-paying jobs; and (3) improving connections between students and alumni for mentoring and career support. BrownConnect will include a website that will make it easier for students to connect to internships, for employers to connect to students, and for alumni, parents, and friends to support undergraduate career development. I have formed an Advisory Council made up of Brown alumni and parents who will help lead this effort. BrownConnect is now in a pilot phase, and the full program will be rolled out in the fall of 2014. We look forward to working with alumni, parents, and friends of Brown to make this new program a success.

Through initiatives like BrownConnect, we can increase the value of a Brown education for all Brown undergraduates while furthering our goal of enhancing educational opportunities for lower-income students.

The expansion of internship and research opportunities is just one piece of a larger commitment to attract and support the most promising students, regardless of economic circumstance. Thanks to the generosity of Sidney Frank ’42 and countless others, we are one of a very small number of universities and colleges in America to accept first-year domestic students on a need-blind basis and to meet their full demonstrated financial need. Our admission office makes heroic efforts to identify spectacular low-income students from across the country. Consider the class of 2017: 17 percent are first-generation college students, and 17 percent receive Pell grants. Behind these statistics are stories of remarkable young men and women who are thriving at Brown.

While Brown has made significant strides over the last decade, more than doubling investments in financial aid, we know there is more to do to ensure that we bring the most talented minds to campus. Our goal, as expressed in “Building on Distinction,” is to expand our current commitment and move to need-blind admission for all students, including international students and students in our Resumed Undergraduate Education program, and to improve financial aid for students from middle-income families.

These programs, designed to attract exceptional students and provide them with opportunities for academic success, make Brown a stronger and more vibrant university. They prepare students for lives of meaning, and they contribute to advancing economic mobility in an increasingly unequal society. They reflect the University’s mission and values and are something of which we can all be proud.

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March/April 2014