We started working on this issue of the magazine on the same mid-March day that Brown transitioned to remote operations. That morning, in our first-ever Zoom team call, we looked at the story lineup we’d assembled and realized we should throw most of it out. It no longer spoke to our new world.
The exception: Our summer spotlight on seven graduating students, culled each year from recommendations we solicit across campus. It felt more important than ever to capture experiences from this graduating class, who left campus in March to return, if they’re able, for a Commencement ceremony now tentatively scheduled for 2021. What emerges clearly from their stories is how starkly socioeconomic gaps have widened. Some students have weathered the changes in relative privilege. Others have limited internet access at home, or were forced to get jobs after parents became ill or were laid off, making it difficult to complete coursework. One told us how he struggled to finish his senior thesis while writing in the same room where his grandmother lay dying of cancer, then stayed on to help his grandfather care for his cousin, who has autism. He and his fellow graduates make their passage into the toughest economy in generations. In the month this magazine will spend at the printer before it reaches your homes, I hope the economic and public health pictures improve for us all. What I do know is that these students—those we profile here, and many more—will be the ones to lead the world forward in the decades to come. The BAM doesn’t usually fundraise for Brown. But we’ve suspended our own fundraising in these difficult times, and I hope those of you with the capacity to help will be interested by the options described by President Christina Paxson on page 1 for supporting students affected by the pandemic.
These students will be the ones to lead the world forward.
On a separate topic, I must share a change coming to the magazine. As you may know, BAM is among the many magazines nationwide that continue to face difficult financial realities. Our plan to safeguard the magazine’s financial sustainability, developed pre-COVID-19, means that going forward, BAM will mail five print issues a year instead of six and dedicate resources toward growing our digital presence. This is not a decision we’ve reached lightly, but growing print production costs and declines in ad revenues and donations were driving factors. We are working on plans for a monthly email newsletter, which we hope to launch this winter to provide more options for digital access to the BAM, and we’d love to hear ideas for what you’d like us to include. In the meantime, we’re posting more and more content on our social media pages; please consider visiting us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. We are committed to creating stories, across all media, that sustain the Brown alumni community.
I’ve taken comfort from the outpouring of service, scholarship, sacrifice, and innovation from Brunonians during the compressed blur of these first months of COVID-19, and from the strength and durability of Brown as an institution. Wherever you are, I hope you too are able to take some comfort, and most of all, are able to stay safe and well.