January 28, 2013
Dear Members of the Union Community,
The Board of Trustees of Union Theological Seminary has been pleased with the ways in recent years in which assessment and a culture of intentional improvement are part of many aspects of all that happens at Union. Included in this has been an annual performance review of the President’s work, and the Board is looking carefully at its own role and responsibilities and how well it is fulfilling these. Effective partnership of President and Board is critical to assuring the strength of our great Seminary in carrying out its core mission of educating people for leadership in religious communities and in the broader world, engaging the Christian church and other faith traditions in the new millennium.
To this end, the Board discussed with President Jones and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB) the desirability of undertaking a "Comprehensive Presidential Assessment" at Union, a best practice now engaged in to great effect by a large number of institutions of higher education in this country, usually 3-5 years into a presidency.
The Board has approved such an engagement, conducted by a consultant from AGB during this academic year, Serene Jones’s fifth year as President. Working closely with President Jones, the Board looks forward to a constructive, strengthening engagement for both the President and the Board.
To move this forward, a committee of trustees, which I chair, will be overseeing the process. The committee’s first action was to select and engage, through AGB, an independent consultant with deep experience in higher education, Dr. Paula Brownlee. She earned her undergraduate degree and doctorate in chemistry from Somerville College, Oxford University, and then came to the United States. Dr. Brownlee has served as President of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, President of Hollins College, dean and professor of chemistry at both Union College and Rutgers University, and on the boards, in some cases as board chair, of many colleges, universities and associations in higher education. She has also served on the Council of the College of Preachers at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. and on the board of the Association for Religion and Intellectual Life (CrossCurrents). Her biography is attached.
After a thorough review of Union’s institutional documents, beginning February 10 Dr. Brownlee will visit campus and will be conducting a good number of completely confidential interviews with trustees, faculty, administration, and student and alumni leaders. Unfortunately, it will not be possible for her to interview everyone. Those invited to meet with Dr. Brownlee will be contacted to schedule a convenient time. Of course, such interviews are entirely voluntary, but we hope that you will want to participate.
Dr. Brownlee’s goal will be to gain as comprehensive an understanding and appreciation as possible of the Seminary, its accomplishments and challenges as well as the work of the president since her arrival. The assessment of the President’s effectiveness will be set in the context of what happens on campus and the Seminary’s place in the broader world. The partnering relations between the President and the Board will also be evaluated.
Dr. Brownlee will revisit campus to review her findings and recommendations with Dr. Jones and the Board in April. The Board will then communicate with the community.
Thank you very much for your participation in this important undertaking.
Wolcott B. Dunham, Jr.
Chair, Board of Trustees
Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York
Dr. Paula Brownlee
Paula Brownlee consults actively with presidents and boards of trustees on institution-wide planning, board and presidential evaluation, board structure, and roles and responsibilities, and with campuses on educational reform initiatives and leadership development. She undertakes a variety of institutional reviews, campus consulting, and speaking engagements. As a consultant and facilitator for AGB, she leads board retreats and presidential and board assessments.
Brownlee served as co-Chair of the board of Academic Search Inc., and Vicechair of the board of the American Academic Leadership Institute (AALI), formerly the Academic Search Consultation Service (she chaired this board for 4 years); likewise, she served on the board of Wilson College (PA) and on the National Advisory Council of Maryville College. She is on the Board as life trustee of the University of Rochester. She has worked for the NASA/UNCF Minority Fellows program for several years, leading curriculum and candidates’ reviews, and as speaker. For many years she served as facilitator and mentor in the American Council on Education (ACE) Fellows year-long program.
She retired as president emerita of the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), after eight years leading this higher education organization of member institutions. Previously, Brownlee was president and professor of chemistry at Hollins University for nine years. Before moving to Hollins, she served Union College as dean of the faculty and professor of chemistry. Previously, she was at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, as a dean and tenured faculty member in chemistry.
She has chaired the boards of the Educational Testing Service (ETS) and of the American Association for Higher Education (AAHE). She served on the National Association for Independent Colleges and Universities’ (NAICU) board executive committee. She has served on the Council of the College of Preachers at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. and on the board of the Association for Religion and Intellectual Life. Prior to joining AAC&U, Brownlee served on a range of corporate, hospital, symphony orchestra, and science museum boards. She was involved in CEO searches and CEO performance evaluations on several of these boards.
Brownlee received her bachelors and doctoral degrees in chemistry from Oxford University and held a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Rochester before working briefly in chemical industry. She holds 21 honorary doctorate degrees and is an elected honorary fellow of Somerville College, Oxford University.