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John Nicholas Brown Center for Advanced Study

John Nicholas Brown Center (JNBC)

Effective July 1, 2023, the JNBC will become a center for advanced study focused on promoting the broad public discussion and dissemination of academic research and scholarship across the full range of disciplines. This new plan expands the JNBC’s scope and mission significantly by transforming it from a center that offers programming and a degree in the field of public humanities to one that communicates the value of academic scholarship as such to the public at large. This new mission for the JNBC is designed to enhance Brown’s reputation and visibility as a research university in the thematic areas that are targeted for investment in the Building on Distinction strategic plan while also positioning it as a leader in the vitally important effort to communicate the significance of this academic work to the general public.

A key component of the plan, which is to be implemented over the next two years, is the creation of a new Visiting Faculty Fellows Program. The JNBC will provide space in the Nightingale-Brown House and time for scholars from across the full range of academic disciplines to pursue their research and to interact among themselves and with their peers at Brown over the course of an academic year. The Visiting Faculty Fellows Program will be open to faculty working in all of the Integrative Scholarship themes included in Building on Distinction, from the arts and humanities to the social, physical, and biological sciences. Programming by the JNBC will be organized in collaboration with Brown faculty working in aligned fields, including colloquia, a monthly public lecture by one of the visiting faculty fellows, and workshops with experts and journalists from digital media and trade publications.

The JNBC’s new mission to promote the public dissemination of academic research and scholarship in Brown’s specific areas of academic strength expands upon the JNBC’s long-standing tradition of public engagement and brings it into alignment with the Building on Distinction strategic plan as well as with the recently approved Operational Plan for Investing in Research. The transformation of the JNBC emerged out of discussions conducted over the past year about Brown's ambitious goals for increasing the strength of its research enterprise across the humanities and the social, physical, and biological sciences. The new plan for the center was presented to the Academic Priorities Committee and Faculty Executive Committee earlier this fall for comment.

The next two years of implementation of the new plan for the JNBC will be devoted to robust programming (colloquia, lecture series, etc.) involving prominent visitors, along with internal and external discussions about the future of the center. Applications to the new Visiting Faculty Fellows Program will be solicited starting in fall 2024 with the first cohort of Fellows in residence in fall 2025. As this new program is developed, the JNBC will continue to support scholarship on American cultural history, and to manage, preserve and afford access to the Nightingale-Brown House.

Since its founding in 1979 as the JNBC, the Center has had a history of evolving and transforming to remain at the cutting edge of changes in Brown’s approach to public engagement. This new plan for the JNBC represents the next chapter in the center’s pursuit of this mission that expands and builds on its focus on public humanities over the past two decades.  The JNBC had been home to a Masters of Arts degree in public humanities that was established in 2004. This program was paused at the end of the 2022-2023 academic year, with current master’s degree students completing their studies during this year.  The University will begin exploring the possibility of another institutional setting for this program over the next few years.

Starting July 1, 2023 the inaugural Director of the new JNBC will be Kevin McLaughlin, former Dean of the Faculty at Brown and George Hazard Crooker Professor of English, Comparative Literature, and German Studies.  As Dean of the Faculty from 2011 to 2022, Professor McLaughlin collaborated with the senior leadership team of the University to grow and diversify the faculty and focused consistently on enhancing the academic strength of departments, centers, and institutes across the University.  He will continue this work as the Director of the JNBC.

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