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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Leadership: New president shares goals, vision for univ

Published: January 21, 2011
Section: Front Page

PHOTO BY Alan Tran/The Hoot

Despite a busy travel schedule this year, university President Fred Lawrence said that student financial aid will remain “the top priority” of his administration.

Lawrence explained that aid to undergraduates and stipends to graduate students are crucial to the university.

“That is a major part of our fabric,” Lawrence said during an interview in his office Wednesday.

Lawrence will travel to meet with Brandeis alumni and parents in many cities this semester, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City, Washington D.C., Chicago, Philadelphia and Miami. Later in the year, he will also travel abroad to Canada, Israel, England, India, China and Brazil, according to a university press release.

He said he will not travel solely for purposes of fundraising or admissions recruitment, but rather to spread the Brandeis mission and discuss his favorite aspects of the university as a way to connect with all community members from students to parents to alumni.

“The answer is, it’s really a Brandeis trip,” he said.

Because this is his first year of presidency, “most of the trips will be intense and somewhat shorter,” to allow most of his time to be spent on campus, Lawrence said. Even when he travels, Lawrence said that he plans to spend at least two to three hours per day working on e-mails for campus specific issues.

“Courtesy of technology, even when you’re away, you really can be connected,” Lawrence said. He explained that in today’s society, he cannot imagine serving as a university administrator without a Blackberry.

On international trips, Lawrence said that the Brandeis message includes explaining to foreign students the rare combination of a small liberal arts college and a large research university. Also, at Brandeis, students are able to study in “maybe the single best city to be a student,” he said. The wide range of interests in student life is another aspect of the university he finds crucial to highlight.

In addition to searching for new senior administration and managing a multi-million dollar budget deficit, Lawrence stressed that student life will be a key part of his presidency. Since the university named him president in July, Lawrence has attended many student events, including a basketball game, a fundraiser for Pakistan relief efforts and a discussion on interfaith cooperation on campus.

“[My wife] and I have both felt really embraced by the student body,” he said.

Lawrence will deliver a lecture at a Manhattan synagogue on Friday evening, where he expects many Brandeis alumni will attend.

On Saturday evening, Lawrence will participate in “Battle of the Brandeis DJs,” an on-campus party in Levin Ballroom.

On Jan. 10, Lawrence spoke to more than 300 alumni and other members of the university community during a reception in Levin Ballroom. The formal inauguration is planned for March 31.

At Brandeis, however, he noted that fundraising includes interacting with donors who are both alumni and non-alumni.

During a busy week of department meetings, Lawrence said he anticipates working long hours, but similar to his work as an assistant U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York, he also expects to enjoy it.

As he reassembles his senior administration, including naming a new provost and a chief of staff for his office, Lawrence said that he wants people who will view their role at Brandeis as more than just a job.

“I want to [see] somebody’s eyes light up when they talk about Brandeis,” he said. “This is not a big company, this is a residential college.”