News

President Brown Looks to the University’s Future

P-BrownAs President Paul Brown wraps up his first academic year at the University, he continues to prepare and manage the strategic planning process that will continue to enrich academic programs, campus facilities and funding opportunities.

As the University's Head Hawk, Brown strives to achieve his goals of gaining more visibility and increasing diversity at the institution in the upcoming years.

"So far, my first year as president has been great," said Brown. "The first year, for me, was about understanding how the University operates as well as knowing the culture, and I feel pretty good about having a sense of that."

According to Brown, he has interacted with approximately every full-time employee on campus and thousands of students in order to feel submersed in the University and the people who comprise the heart of it.

Michael Maiden, Assistant Vice President of Communications and University Relations External Affairs, said Brown has fully encompassed himself in the University for months prior to becoming the eighth president of the University on August 1, 2013. Brown spoke to former President Paul Gaffney, members of the Board of Trustees, community leaders and faculty members in order to prepare for his term as president.

"He didn't just walk into a dark room and flick on a switch," said Maiden. "He was well-prepared, and not just with information presented to him; he, himself, was asking questions that nobody had thought to ask."

Brown spends most of his days engaging on the campus, either publically at sports games, ceremonies, and events, or privately through discussion with trustees, alumni, cabinet members, staff, professors, elected officials, or students.

Additionally, Brown focuses on cultivating fundraising and building relationships with local leaders and key stakeholders through external affairs. But one of the most important tasks, according to Brown, is planning for the future. "I never think in terms of the current semester," Brown said. "I think in terms of a year from now."

Maiden believes that Brown aspires to create the best University that the institution can possibly be, which takes a certain type of leadership – a quality that he believes Brown embodies. "If you jumped in a time machine now and stepped foot on campus five years from now, I think you would be really surprised," Maiden said.

During his presidency, Brown plans to showcase how the University offers the best educational programs and their uniqueness in comparison to other institutions to better serve students. Brown plans to intertwine this central idea into the "comprehensive, inclusive, and transparent" strategic planning process, according to Petra Ludwig, Director of Public Affairs.

Brown has involved the whole campus in the strategic planning process and one of the key facility decisions was the $40 million multi-year commitment to the science facilities. "We are about halfway through the process right now, and I feel so pleased that we are far along in our process," Brown said.

Maiden said the planning for the science facilities carefully considered how students will use the laboratories, how to make it more welcoming, and how students will use it for recreational purposes outside of the classroom.

Another facility accomplishment Brown implemented was the $15 million upgrade to the football stadium.

Additionally, the construction of Pozycki Hall and the second-year residence hall, which were inherited from Gaffney, are still underway. Brown expects the construction to be complete by the end of 2015 or the very beginning of 2016.

"The strategic planning is as important as any physical changes to the campus," said Maiden. "Anybody can come out with a plan. It is how you turn the plan into an action. It comes from the community (teachers, students, faculty, admin, staff, and facilities) and makes it into something that can transform us into a better institution."

Maiden said Brown is blending various perspectives in order to gain a deeper understanding of what the University means, in a broad, yet inclusive, manner. Under Brown's leadership, the University is essentially going to remarket itself.

During Brown's strategic planning process, he hopes to reinforce the University's strong points. According to Brown, one of the strengths of the University is the comprehensive set of academic programs that are offered. "I love that we have a plate of opportunities," he said.

Mary Anne Nagy, Vice President for Student Life and Leadership Engagement, said, "At the heart of every University campus, we would not exist if it were not for our purpose of educating students and preparing you not just for career, but for life. And the heart of that is the academics mission."

Brown also hopes to address the weaknesses of the University and transform them into strengths. "Our biggest challenge is we are too regional... [the University] is not as well-known as I think it could be," said Brown. He wants to reposition the University in the media and host relevant programs that will attract the community.

Brown believes the visibility will increase diversity by inviting more underrepresented applicants from different backgrounds.

"Our diversity issue is defined by location," Brown said. "I love New Jersey, but I don't want 90 percent of our students from New Jersey – that doesn't serve us very well." According to Brown, approximately 70 percent of current students reside in New Jersey.

Brown feels fortunate that he is surrounded by faculty, administrators and cabinet members who are leaders. "My role is to let them lead. I have to guide and I have to help provide some context, but my job is choosing and/or retaining good leaders," he said.

Brown said he is inspired to achieve greatness by his daughter, who is currently finishing her first year at college elsewhere. "These approximate 4,600 something students running around could be my daughter," he commented.

Joseph Dellera, Senior Class President, said, "President Brown has his own style and brand of charisma that people adore. By the time his tenure as President is up, he will leave his own legacy."

Brown said, "Higher education can make a difference in the life of a student, I am truly convinced of that. So when I can see a student growing and changing, learning, and interacting, it is very satisfying.

PHOTOS COURTESY of Jim Reme