A letter from the dean

Dean Shankar Prasad provides insights into the significant ongoing initiatives at the School of Professional Studies and outlines key priorities for 2024.

Dear Members of the Brown Community,

I hope you’re well and settling into the new academic year. I write to offer updates on important initiatives underway at the School of Professional Studies (SPS) and to share priorities for the year ahead. Through the hard work and dedication of so many within and beyond the SPS, we have made substantial progress toward our goal of reaching new audiences of learners through rigorous and compelling online, hybrid and in-person degree and non-degree programs, and are planning for more in the year ahead.

Advancing Our Mission

It was just over a year ago that I began my tenure as dean of the School of Professional Studies. At the start of 2023, I laid out an ambitious strategic framework to advance our mission: Draw on Brown University’s commitment to academic excellence, intellectual freedom, and diversity, equity and inclusion to create and deliver programs that empower learners at all career stages to transform themselves, their workplaces and the communities they serve.

Together, we’ve made significant strides, including the following:

  • Diversified offerings with the addition of five new online open enrollment programs: Certificate in Applied DEI Strategies, Innovation Leadership, and Applied AI & Data Science (a collaboration with Simplilearn, one of the world’s leading certification training providers), Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy Teaching Certificate and Finding Peace in a Frantic World.
  • Welcomed the largest cohort of the Master of Science in Technology Leadership program.
  • Transformed the Master of Science in Healthcare Leadership program to expand access to early-career learners, incorporate topics of DEI and digital health, reduce time to degree completion from 16 to 12 months and lower tuition (due to decreased costs).
  • Launched additional cohorts of the online MPH program, which will now have three intakes a year. The program, a collaboration with the School of Public Health, has expanded access to learners around the world and includes first-generation as well as HUG students, and 70% of the cohort works full or part-time.
  • Designed and delivered custom leadership development programs for international organizations in multiple industries in various formats including in-person at Brown, online and hybrid.
  • Worked closely with the Alumni Advisory Council to Eliminate Anti-Black Racism to develop a charter, vision, and operating principles, followed by a comprehensive plan to enhance the Black student experience that we are in the midst of implementing.
  • Forged collaborations campus-wide to expand awareness of and access to our professional programs within the Brown University community, including enhancing the Brown Employee Education Program (EEP) benefit in collaboration with University Human Resources by extending access to our non-degree programs for eligible staff members, and launching the Brown Alumni Discount benefit with the Division of Advancement.
  • Produced impactful webinars and master classes addressing timely discussions in artificial intelligence and sustainability, including a three-part series entitled, Let’s Talk Climate Solutions, facilitated by Associate Provost for Sustainability, Stephen Porder, Ph.D. and Lessons in Leadership, a series that features Brown constituents including faculty, alumni, students and friends offering their perspective on a given topic. 

Investing in Master’s and Professional Education

In President Paxson’s opening letter to the community outlining priorities for the coming year, she recognized postgraduate education as an increasingly important part of the higher education landscape. We’re excited to work with Provost Frank Doyle and leaders across the University to lead efforts to scale our existing master’s and professional programs, develop additional modalities, degree types, and explore new programs.

This priority is essential to Brown’s mission to make a substantial and lasting impact, both within and beyond our academic community. As emerging professionals, master’s students are well-positioned to apply their acquired knowledge, skills, and fresh perspectives to effect meaningful change across an array of critical sectors. They advance our shared vision to make a difference in organizations, communities and society-at-large.

With the anticipated growth of master’s and professional programs, our team at SPS remains committed to making investments to attract and support talented and promising students. For example, this fall, we will welcome an assistant dean for student advising, and two new staff members to the career services team, including an associate director of career services and professional development.  

These roles will work with our diverse community of early-career and professional master’s students to offer a range of support services, such as one-on-one student advising, career readiness programs, alumni mentorship opportunities and more. I’ll delve deeper into the expansion of our student affairs team in forthcoming announcements. Stay tuned for more details on this exciting development!

On the Horizon

The talented SPS team is gearing up for 2024 and beyond. We’re actively nurturing relationships with Brown’s schools, institutes, centers, and academic departments to continue delivering compelling content to learners, organizations, and employers on a global scale.

As always, we extend an invitation for you to visit our downtown space at 225 Dyer Street, which offers spectacular views of Providence. Recently, we hosted a number of campus events, retreats and meetings. Now, the space is open to all master’s students to utilize as a study spot.

Over the past few years, we’ve witnessed this area of campus evolve, and we’re excited to be situated at the heart of the new developments. In addition to the new wet lab space on the 6/7th floors, soon we’ll observe the emergence of Brown’s Integrated Life Sciences Building. It’s a privilege to be a part of Brown’s engagement in the Jewelry District, and we look forward to making important contributions in the years to come.

I wish you all a joyous and successful year. I’m continuously amazed by the efforts of our dedicated faculty, staff and students to advance our vision to transform the way the world works for good. I’m grateful to be part of this fulfilling journey alongside all of you.



Shankar K. Prasad

Dean, School of Professional Studies

Vice President for Academic Innovation

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