PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Recognizing her leadership in positioning Brown University as a driver of economic growth across the region, Providence Business News honored Brown President Christina Paxson with its 2018 Business Leadership Award on Wednesday, Nov. 7.
Paxson’s was one of 14 awards presented to business and nonprofit leaders from across the Ocean State at PBN’s 18th annual Business Excellence Awards ceremony, held at the Omni Providence Hotel.
Brown’s 19th president said she was “honored and humbled” to accept the award on behalf of the University community. She thanked PBN for delivering “accurate, reliable news about everything business-related in Providence and in Rhode Island.”
In presenting the honor to Paxson, PBN cited among other accomplishments Brown’s growth during Paxson’s tenure both on College Hill and in Providence’s Jewelry District.
Large-scale College Hill projects include a new Engineering Research Center, the expansion of the Watson Institute and a planned performing arts center to be built in coming years. In the Jewelry District, Brown was a key partner in the redevelopment of South Street Landing and is one of the building’s anchor tenants. The University will also be an anchor tenant for a soon-to-be-completed Innovation Center.
In her remarks, Paxson acknowledged the common a stereotype of universities as being “walled-off” and not seeing themselves as part of their local economies. That stereotype, she said, is unfortunately not without some truth.
“But I also think it’s fair to say that those days are over,” Paxson said. “Compelling research shows that cities with strong research universities grow faster. You see examples of this all over the country. You think of Pittsburgh, Raleigh-Durham and Palo Alto, where universities are working with their business leaders and the public sector to create jobs, attract investors and generate talent that stays in the region.”
That’s what Paxson wants Brown to continue to do, she said, through efforts such as Brown and the Innovation Economy, a new initiative aimed at expanding the University’s impact on economic growth regionally.
“Our efforts in Rhode Island follow this model, by aligning our intellectual resources with local economic, health and technology priorities in Providence and Rhode Island,” Paxson said. “These activities are not a distraction. Just the opposite: They are core to our mission of high-impact research and education.”
Paxson pointed out that collaboration is key to such efforts. South Street Landing, she said, would not have happened without a strong group of collaborators — Brown, the University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College and private developers — coalescing around a common goal.
“This is the new normal,” Paxson said. “This is universities working in partnership with the business community and the public sector to extend the impact of research, expand the skill and talent base of the economy, and to shape vibrant and strong 21st century economies.”
Beyond economic growth, she added, universities also play a critical role in civic engagement. Brown’s Swearer Center sends hundreds of students into community-building projects across Rhode Island. Brown provides access to summer programs that give local high school students a taste of the college experience. And as an active participant in the Building Futures program, Brown is helping to create opportunities for people to enter the building trades.
“I know I speak for all of us at Brown when I say that we’re enthusiastic about contributing on all of these fronts,” Paxson said. Brown is proud to play a role in “growing the innovation economy, collaborating with organizations from around the region and building civic engagement to make this region a strong and more vibrant place to live and work.”