Brown has always attracted students who want to use the insights they gain in the classroom to solve real-world problems, locally and globally. Furthermore, many students do not want to wait until graduation; they want to roll up their sleeves and get involved before they leave College Hill.In many cases, students are creating these opportunities for themselves. The Open Curriculum (itself the result of a student-led initiative in 1969) offers many ways in which students can shape their own educations. Collaboration is one approach. For the Solar Decathlon project, Brown students recently joined with students from RISD and the University of Erfurt in Germany to design a house that uses 90 percent less energy than a typical house. But it was far more than an academic exercise: the students studied the problem from both engineering and design perspectives, then raised capital for the project, worked with suppliers, built the house, and shipped it from Providence to France for an international competition.
The University can also do its part to integrate classroom learning with real-world experience. Brown has started two new programs that build on this energy and the desire of students to combine theory and practice. The Engaged Scholars Program will help undergraduates incorporate their coursework with off-campus learning experiences, including community service, internships, and research. In 2015–16, it will be piloted in four academic departments: anthropology, engineering, environmental studies, and theater and performance studies, building on courses, faculty expertise, community partnerships, and student-led initiatives that embody the ideas of engaged scholarship. The program will also incorporate TRI-Lab (Teaching, Research, Impact), an interdisciplinary initiative now in its second year, which brings together students, faculty, and practitioners from multiple fields to study such complex social issues as early childhood development, access to healthy food, climate change, and environmental justice.
BrownConnect is another new program designed to bring our campus to the world. The newest addition to the CareerLAB (Center for Careers and Life after Brown), it will vastly expand the range of services we offer to students seeking research opportunities and internships. BrownConnect’s website will offer “one-stop shopping” for undergraduates to tailor opportunities to their interests and locations, including a wide variety in the nonprofit and public sectors. We will offer financial awards for those who need assistance in order to take low-paid or unpaid internships. “Bruno” internships will connect the expertise of Brown alumni and parents with the talents of undergraduates, and we will greatly expand the role of alumni mentoring as our students take these all-important first steps into the outside world. Alumni and parents can learn more about how to participate in BrownConnect at brownconnect.brown.edu.
These new programs are only a few examples of how we are seeking to innovate even as we remain true to an old ideal at Brown. They are well-aligned with our mission to apply teaching, research, and service in ways that promote more just, peaceful, and prosperous societies, and to prepare our students for lives of “usefulness and reputation.”
Christina Paxson is Brown's president.