Brown Pushes Engineering

Brown University is taking steps to create a school of engineering

Brown University, the only remaining Ivy League institution without an autonomous school of engineering, is moving closer to the conversion of its existing division of engineering into a full school.

The proposal garnered faculty approval at a meeting on April 7, moving the final decision regarding the formal establishment of an engineering school into the hands of the Brown Corporation, the university’s highest governing body.

“This is the right first step,” said Venkatesh “Venky” Narayanamurti, former dean of Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Venky—who is renowned for pioneering the establishment of SEAS in 2007—sits on the Brown engineering advising council that is providing guidance in the planning stages of the proposed new school.

Members of the engineering faculty at Brown said in interviews yesterday that they hope the Corporation will approve the proposal at its May meeting.


The creation of a new school would require $100 million in fundraising efforts to pay for 12 new faculty members and 35,000 square feet of new and renovated facilities, according to Brown Engineering Professor Huajian Gao.

Brown hopes to focus the proposed engineering school on entrepreneurship, building upon the current divisional engineering program’s partnership with the university’s economics and sociology departments, according to Brown’s Interim Dean of the Division of Engineering Rodney J. Clifton.

“Brown will be able to define itself as a niche school in this way,” Venky said.

Unlike SEAS, the Brown School of Engineering will not feature the applied sciences—such as applied mathematics, applied physics, and computer science—and will focus on the engineering sciences, according to Venky.

The creation of a school would allow for a greater allocation of resources to the engineering sciences, which have been limited by the current division’s “unusually” small size, according to Clifton. For example, the division has been unable to expand its course offerings.

Brown’s engineering building, which was constructed in 1960, limits the division’s current programs amid “rapid developments in technology and science,” Gao said.

Preliminary plans for the new school include the construction of a 100,000 square foot building—35 percent of which would be occupied by the engineering sciences, according to Gao.

“This move will increase our visibility and attract students and faculty to Brown,” he said.

The preparation of the proposal for the establishment of an engineering school took a year and a half before its submission to the faculty, according to Clifton.

“This process always takes longer than you hope,” he said. “It actually has gone quite smoothly and should improve Brown and its education of the sciences.”

—Staff writer Gautam S. Kumar can be reached at