Laura Brown named senior vice provost

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John Carberry
Laura Brown

Laura Brown has been named senior vice provost for undergraduate education, effective July 1.

Brown is in her fourth year as Cornell’s vice provost for undergraduate education and holds the John Wendell Anderson chair in the Department of English.

“Laura Brown has been tremendously effective as vice provost for undergraduate education, bringing her leadership experience and personal commitment to teaching excellence to a variety of programs that support and raise the undergraduate academic experience at Cornell to even higher levels,” said Provost Kent Fuchs. “As senior vice provost, I know she will continue her collaborative efforts and share a broad vision of an engaged ‘One Cornell’ across the campus.”

Brown’s office coordinates campuswide undergraduate initiatives. Recently, with the support of Fuchs, several programs have been reorganized or developed:

  • The Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives (OADI), directed by Associate Vice Provost A.T. Miller, supports the academic achievement of students from underrepresented backgrounds at Cornell. OADI was reconceived in 2011-12 and now oversees the McNair Program, the Gates Millennium scholars, the New York State Opportunity Programs and, collaboratively with the College of Arts and Sciences, the Posse Program. OADI has been “very effective in attracting major grants this year,” Brown said.
  • Engaged Learning + Research, directed by Richard Kiely, founded in 2011-12 to enhance Cornell’s commitment to service learning and community-based research, has become “very visible and active among students and faculty,” Brown said. The center recently held an open house in its redesigned Caldwell Hall offices.
  • The University Courses initiative, managed by Elliot Shapiro, is now in its second year and offers a common academic experience for undergraduates through a cross-disciplinary curriculum of about a dozen courses. It arose out of “the felt need to provide undergraduate students with an experience of Cornell as ‘one university,’” Brown said. One of this past year’s courses was the popular “Hip-Hop: Beats, Rhymes and Life,” that hosted DJ Afrika Bambaataa on campus.
  • The New Student Reading Project, in its 12th year, continues to engage all new students in small-group discussions with faculty and staff facilitators, and now also provides for events including faculty presentations, special exhibits in the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art and connections with archival materials in the Cornell University Library.
  • Also under Brown’s purview is the Center for Teaching Excellence, directed by Theresa Pettit; the Office of Undergraduate Research, directed by Laurel Southard; and Cornell’s living/learning programs, managed by Carol Grumbach, that include the West Campus House System’s house professor/deans and the North Campus faculty-in-residence.
  • A new addition will be Cornell Abroad, which will join these programs on July 1. “We’re expecting that Cornell Abroad will find connections across the campus with the colleges and with other universitywide initiatives,” Brown said. “Our group of programs and directors will provide a strong support system. We’ve all gained in creative thinking and effective execution as we work together.”

The evolution of the office speaks to an ongoing engagement effort at Cornell, Brown said – one that is “defined in the broadest way – engagement across the world through international education and global service-learning; engagement across the campus through cross-disciplinary learning; engagement through undergraduate research; and engagement with the community of teachers and students in the residence halls.

“It’s also about engaging individuals and groups who aren’t like ourselves and enabling the institution to build its excellence on the interface, the interaction, the dialogue of many different kinds of people, perspectives and ways of knowing and understanding,” she said.

Brown is an active member of Cornell’s University Diversity Council and is the university’s director of institutional diversity planning; in that role, she is responsible (along with Lynette Chappell-Williams, associate vice president for  inclusion and workforce diversity) for the “Toward New Destinations” diversity planning effort.

Brown, who received her Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, joined the Cornell faculty in 1981 and is a former chair of the Department of English and director of the English graduate program. She studies 18th-century British literature, and her scholarly books include works on the representation of animals, the literary origins of modernity, the role of women in the emergence of imperialist thought, the poetry of Alexander Pope and the development of dramatic literature in 18th-century England.

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