Organization: Brown University

Location: Providence, RI

Express Interest

Brown University seeks an experienced, strategic, and communicative leader to serve as Vice President for Human Resources (VPHR). Reporting directly to the Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration, the VPHR has responsibility for providing overall strategic leadership for human resources, and the management and operation of Brown’s University Human Resources (UHR) Office. With a highly collaborative leadership team and an engaged and knowledgeable staff, the incoming VPHR will drive the implementation of HR strategies and initiatives that align with Brown’s mission, and will position the institution as an employer of choice by instituting best practices from within the field of human resources and organization development.

About Brown University:

Located in historic Providence, Rhode Island, Brown University is the seventh-oldest college in the United States. Brown is an independent, coeducational Ivy League institution comprising undergraduate and graduate programs, along with the Warren Alpert Medical School, School of Public Health, School of Engineering, and School of Professional Studies.

Brown was founded in 1764 – the third college in New England. Originally located in Warren, Rhode Island, and called the College of Rhode Island, Brown moved to its current location on College Hill overlooking Providence in 1770 and was renamed in 1804 in recognition of a $5,000 gift from Nicholas Brown, a prominent Providence businessman and alumnus, Class of 1786.

Undergraduate education at Brown changed dramatically in 1970 with the introduction of what became known as the Brown Curriculum. The “Open Curriculum” eliminated core requirements shared by all Brown undergraduates and created specific departmental concentration requirements. This approach has defined the undergraduate academic experience at Brown ever since, demanding that students serve as the architects of their courses of study. Today, Brown’s vibrant, diverse community consists of 6,650 undergraduates, 2,280 graduate students, 520 medical school students, more than 5,000 summer, visiting, and online students, and over 1,100 faculty members. Students come to the university from all 50 states and more than 100 countries. Brown is frequently recognized for its global reach, many cultural events, numerous campus groups and activities, active community service programs, highly competitive athletics, and beautiful facilities located in a richly historic urban setting. Undergraduates pursue bachelor’s degrees in more than 75 concentrations, ranging from Egyptology to cognitive neuroscience. The university’s commitment to undergraduate freedom means students must take responsibility as architects of their courses of study. Graduate students study in more than 70 programs.

Brown is undertaking an ambitious $3 billion comprehensive campaign, BrownTogether, to realize the university’s strategic vision of advancing knowledge to help the community, nation, and world meet 21st-century challenges. BrownTogether has three areas of focus:

  • The diverse community of scholars – faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates – united in pursuing excellence
  • The ability to address critical questions from a multidisciplinary perspective.
  • The site of innovation, openness, collaboration, and sustainability.

This vision is articulated in the university’s strategic plan, Building on Distinction, which gives further definition to the mission of Brown University which is to serve the community, the nation, and the world by discovering, communicating, and preserving knowledge and understanding in a spirit of free inquiry, and by educating and preparing students to discharge the offices of life with usefulness and reputation

A key component of these initiatives is articulated in Pathways to Diversity and Inclusion: An Action Plan for Brown University (DIAP). The plan was initiated in February 2016 and acknowledges that institutions of higher education, including Brown, have traditionally failed to fully include people of all races, ethnicities, creeds, socioeconomic classes, gender identities, sexual orientations, and disability statuses. To confront this reality and its enduring legacies, Brown is committing to transform the policies, structures, and practices that have led to the exclusion – rather than the meaningful inclusion – of members of its community.

Brown employs 3,300 staff and 1,100 faculty, making the university one of Rhode Island’s largest employers. Approximately 15% of the staff participates in one of three unions, covering Dining Services, Facilities Management, Library, Mail Services, Public Safety, Service Response Center, and Transportation.

Brown is located in Providence’s East Side on the picturesque College Hill, surrounded by dozens of historic homes and landmarks. Close to campus are the vibrant Thayer Street, Wickenden Street, and Wayland Square, where students and residents find ample shopping, dining, and entertainment. The capital of Rhode Island and the second-largest city in New England, Providence combines the accessibility and friendliness of a small town with the culture and sophistication of a big city. With a thriving arts community, six institutions of higher learning, and a vibrant mix of galleries, theaters and museums, Providence deserves its reputation as the Creative Capital. Ranked a “Top Food City” by Travel and Leisure, the culinary scene in Providence is nationally known.  Easy to explore by foot and bicycle friendly, Rhode Island’s historic capital city boasts an impressive array of green space and recreational opportunities, including the four-acre Waterplace Park, focal point of Providence’s revitalized downtown. With easy train access to Boston and New York City, and beaches a short drive away, Providence offers something for everyone.

To learn more about Brown University, visit:

University Leadership:

Christina H. Paxson, President

Christina Paxson became the 19th president of Brown University and professor of economics and public policy on July 1, 2012. Prior to her appointment as president, Paxson served as dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of International and Public Affairs and the Hughes Rogers Professor of Economics and Public Affairs at Princeton University. Paxson’s most recent research focuses on the relationship of economic factors to health and welfare over the life course, particularly on the health and welfare of children. She has been the principal investigator on a number of research projects supported by the National Institutes of Health, including a study of adversity and resilience after Hurricane Katrina. She has authored or co-authored numerous journal articles, was elected vice president of the American Economic Association in 2012, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

A 1982 honors graduate of Swarthmore College, Phi Beta Kappa, Paxson earned her graduate degrees in economics at Columbia University (MA, 1985; PhD, 1987). She began her academic career at Princeton University in 1986, becoming assistant professor of economics and public affairs the next year. She became a full professor in 1997 and was named the Hughes-Rogers Professor of Economics and Public Affairs in 2007. While at Princeton, Paxson also served as associate chair (2005-2008) and chair (2008-2009) of the Department of Economics and was the founding director of a National Institute on Aging Center for the Economics and Demography of Aging. In 2000, she founded the Center for Health and Wellbeing, an interdisciplinary research center in the Woodrow Wilson School. The center established multidisciplinary graduate and undergraduate certificate programs in health and health policy. She served as the center’s director until 2009.

Richard Locke, Provost

Richard M. Locke was appointed Brown University’s 13th provost in July 2015.  Locke is an internationally respected scholar and authority on international labor rights, comparative political economy, employment relations, and corporate responsibility.  Working with leading firms like Nike, Coca Cola, Apple, and HP, Locke and his students have demonstrated how corporate profitability and sustainable business practices can be reconciled. Prior to his arrival at Brown in 2013, Locke served for 25 years on the faculty at MIT, holding the Alvin J. Siteman Chair in Entrepreneurship and later the Class of 1922 Chair in Political Science and Management. Locke pioneered the Global Entrepreneurship Laboratory at MIT’s Sloan School of Management in 2000, for which he received the MIT Class of 1960 Teaching Innovation Award in 2007 and the Jamieson Prize for Excellence in Teaching in June 2008. He also served as chair of the MIT Political Science Department and deputy dean in the Sloan School of Management.

Locke earned his Bachelor of Arts from Wesleyan University, a Master of Arts in education at the University of Chicago, and a PhD in political science, with a specialty in political economy, at MIT. He has held visiting faculty positions in Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Brazil and has received fellowships from the German Marshall Fund, the Social Science Research Council, the Hewlett Foundation, and the Sloan Foundation.

Barbara Chernow, Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration

Barbara Chernow joined Brown in March 2015 from Stony Brook University where she was senior vice president for administration since 2012. Chernow’s career in the administration of education began at the New York City Board of Education in 1982 as director of the Office of Pupil Transportation.  In 1989, she moved to the New York City School Construction Authority as director of management services, becoming vice president in 1992. In 1998, Chernow began working in higher education as assistant vice president for entrepreneurial programs at Stony Brook University. As assistant vice president for facilities and services (2003), she developed and supervised a capital plan, managed campus transportation and parking, and presented university plans and projects at meetings with state and local legislators and community groups.  Chernow was promoted to vice president for facilities, services, and special initiatives in 2006 and became senior vice president in 2012. Ms. Chernow is a 1979 Brown University graduate in economics.

The Opportunity:

The Vice President for Human Resources is responsible for comprehensive and strategic leadership in all aspects of the human resources function for the university. The VPHR will join a team of just over forty individuals, with six direct reports covering the areas of Benefits, Employment and HR Services, Compensation and Organizational Services, Labor and Employee Relations, Training and Employee Programs, Wellness, Workday Program and Management Initiatives, and the Brown Business Center. The VPHR will be called upon to provide strategic and organizational consultation and guidance to senior administrators and institutional leaders and managers on human resource issues, as well as leadership and overall direction for human resource planning and administration for the entire university.

While Human Resources is centralized at Brown, a number of the larger academic and administrative units within the university have independent administrative functions, some of which include a human resources component. Further developing and optimizing the levels of service experienced across campus will be a priority for the incoming VPHR.

Communications and technology are changing rapidly and Brown is actively involved in understanding and implementing the best ways to engage its large and diverse community by developing a university-wide digital communications strategy. Since going live in July 2012, Workday has changed the way Brown conducts business by automating, streamlining, and standardizing current business processes in human resources and financial management.  The VPHR will be a credible and influential leader, mentor, and developer of strong cross-functional teams, and will promote innovative problem solving, possess active listening and strong communication skills, embody trust, confidence, and respect, and lead others by influence and example.

The VPHR will provide leadership in advancing the quality of work life for all employees, as well as develop the policies and best practices necessary to maintain a positive, supportive, and fair working environment that attracts, supports, and retains a qualified and diverse workforce.

The VPHR will work collaboratively across campus to support all members of the community; onboarding, supporting, and developing staff and faculty, as well as recruiting and retaining staff of the highest quality. As a partner with the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity, and in close collaboration with unit directors and managers creating and managing Diversity and Inclusion Action Plans, the VPHR will serve as a thought leader and driver for fostering a community that proactively welcomes and honors all its members.

The VPHR will be a leader of and for human resources, promoting its ability to function as an effective, efficient, and flexible resource while creating opportunities for an exchange of ideas and promoting customer service, education, and ease of access for all employees and potential employees. The VPHR will foster an environment within human resources of strategic thinking and planning, consulting with users and integrating human resources throughout the university to support and build on the highest qualities of the faculty and staff. Working with the EVP, the VPHR will assess all human resource functions and systems to maximize the efficiency of resource allocation. The VPHR will balance the priorities and be open to redesigning functions and processes thoughtfully, and work with colleagues to utilize existing technology to implement human resource metrics for use in decision making and problem solving throughout the university. The VPHR will also work with senior leaders to increase Brown’s ability to recruit and retain faculty and staff through best practices, competitive benefits and compensation, talent development, and a more overt commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Starting from a position of strength and depth, the VPHR will encourage the development of a highly competent and agile Human Resources Department, characterized by a deep customer-service orientation, strong morale, and the highest standards of ethics and integrity, which promotes the utilization of technology and efficient business practices to deliver data, service, and support to the full range of constituencies in support of Brown’s educational mission and vision.

The VPHR will manage an operating budget of just over $6 million and will supervise the management of a benefits program of approximately $100 million.

Candidate Profile:

The successful candidate will have extensive human resources leadership experience at an executive level. The candidate must also have demonstrated success and knowledge of current human resources best practices, extensive experience in organizational behavior, employee relations, compensation, benefits and employee development, a demonstrable commitment to diversity and inclusion, a record of success in managing organizational change, talent recruitment, development and retention; the ability to foster innovative and creative problem solving, strong listening and communication skills, a presence that engenders trust, confidence and respect, and the ability to lead by influence and example.

In addition, the incoming VPHR will possess many of the following abilities, attributes, and experiences:

  • Ability to think creatively and strategically, to build consensus and collaborate with others, and to articulate and implement human resources programs that reflect organizational goals;
  • Strong analytical and critical thinking skills, and the ability to organize, analyze, summarize, and effectively tailor and present initiatives to a diverse group of constituents;
  • Experience leading system-wide and expansive talent recruitment and retention initiatives. Success in building a “best in class” talent management and development process which actively invests in high-potential talent identified through a disciplined performance management and succession planning process;
  • Demonstrated track record leading, implementing, and communicating large-scale change management initiatives in complex organizations;
  • A record of attracting, mentoring and retaining high-quality talent and building vibrant, empowered teams from ambitious, individual contributors;
  • Unparalleled personal integrity, ethics, and drive. Strong commitment and passion to lead ongoing organizational transformation; and
  • Strong listening and communication skills; a presence that earns trust, confidence and respect; and the ability to lead by influence and example.

A bachelor’s degree is required, and a master’s or other advanced degree is preferred. Also required is a significant tenure of progressively responsible human resources management and leadership experience, with time spent at the senior management or executive level, in an academic or similarly complex organization. Final candidates will be required to complete a background check successfully.


Brown University has engaged Koya Leadership Partners to help in this hire. Please submit a compelling cover letter and resume to Liz Neumann, Amy Sugin, and Kristine O’Brien here.

Brown University is committed to fostering a diverse and inclusive academic global community; as an EEO/AA employer, Brown considers applicants for employment without regard to, and does not discriminate on the basis of, gender, race, protected veteran status, disability, or any other legally protected status.

About Koya Leadership Partners:

Koya Leadership Partners is a national retained executive search and human capital consulting firm that works exclusively with mission-driven organizations, educational institutions, and social enterprises. We deliver measurable results, finding exceptionally talented people who truly fit the unique culture of our client organizations and ensuring that organizations have the resources and strategies to support them. For more information about Koya Leadership Partners, visit