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New CLASS dean wants to increase options for students, invest in faculty

New CLASS dean wants to increase options for students, invest in faculty

New CLASS dean wants to increase options for students, invest in faculty
August 08
21:50 2019

College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences Executive Dean Tamara Brown is a first-generation college student and considers herself a lifelong learner with no plans on stopping, even though she already has a Masters of Divinity and a Ph.D in Clinical Psychology.  

“Even in this role as new as I am, I’m already thinking, ‘What classes can I take?’” Brown said. “I wonder if I can pursue a Masters of Public Health here.” 

Most deans would consider one degree track enough, but Brown loves the grind of learning new information. 

“In a university environment, it’s everywhere, it’s all around you. I want to absorb that,” she said. “I want to continue to expand my mind, I want to be all in.”   

When asked whether or not her funeral would involve a ceremony with dozens of masters and Ph.D degrees, Brown laughs at the suggestion. 

“My obituary’s going to be a booklet … I hope it’s not that bad, but Lord let me live long enough and keep my mental faculties, it might happen,” she said. “I’ll be looking at the curriculum here and figure out what I can begin to pursue.” 

Behind that laugh however, is something that Brown holds critical to the reason why she wants to excel as an executive dean for the campus’ largest college. 

Now as the dean of CLASS, Brown wants students to raise their gaze.  

Tamara Brown, the executive dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences at a VIP reception at the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference on July 20, 2019 in Grapevine, Texas. Photo by Kara Dry

“Just tilt your head up, just a little bit, let me show you, let me expose you, introduce you to possibilities you haven’t even thought of yet,” she said. “Because I think planting those types of seeds are transformational for people.”

Brown said students should have access to as many options as possible. 

“If you choose a particular path that’s a decision among many, then you’re making a decision,” she said. “If you choose that same path because that’s all you know, it’s a different type of decision. I want students to have a broader perspective.” 

Brown considers herself the result of investment from faculty and administrators who believed in her potential and now she wants to foster the same mentality in other students when it comes to getting them to see more opportunities.  

“There were people who had to do that for me when I was a college student,” she said. “I didn’t know anything about graduate school or even what that was or what that meant. It took teachers, administrators and others to see potential in me.”

Brown’s potential would take her to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where she earned her Ph.D in Clinical Psychology and a Masters of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary.

Brown is religious, but instead of viewing religion as something that can be opposed to a psychology field where atheism is a norm, she views both pedagogies as something that can co-exist within responsible practice.

Divinity provides an alternative glance at how humans experience life, Brown said.

“It gave me a deeper appreciation of the spiritual dimension of humanity,” she said.

Before coming to the University of North Texas, Brown spent seven years at Prairie View A&M, where she was interim dean of the graduate college, a dean and professor at the College of Juvenile Justice and Psychology and served as the executive director of the Texas Juvenile Crime Prevention Center.

“The term that I use today is servant,” Brown said of her work in academia. “I just have a servant’s heart, no matter what I’m doing my orientation is always ‘How can I help, how can I be of service?’”

Brown decided that one of the best ways to be of service was with her research in how to improve access in reducing stigmatization of mental health options within minority communities.  

Part of reducing that stigma also comes along with the mental health profession delivering services in a more appealing way that can relate to all cultures, Brown said. 

“There are a lot of helpers in our community,” she said. “Family members, friends we go to, religious leaders — all of those sorts of people, they help and they’re supportive. Sometimes our challenges are more than they know or can handle.” 

Brown wants to handle larger objectives for CLASS and those goals require investment into the faculty by giving them opportunities to pursue their interests, she said. 

“If I can create those opportunities, you’re going to do what you do and it’s just going to happen and you get enough of that going and suddenly you’re greater, you’re growing, people will be attracted to that magnetism of sudden lightning that you have.

It won’t be a job for you anymore, now you don’t come in when you have to, you’re coming because you want to,” Brown continued. “You put in the extra time not because I’m demanding it from you, but because you find it so gratifying. Suddenly we’ve got an increase, because I try to find a way to help you do what you want to do.”

Finding a way to connect with alumni goes along the same guidelines when it comes to creating a sense of purpose, Brown said. 

“Helping people who have passions for the things that we’re doing to connect with it and give of themselves, whether it’s mentoring our students, providing an internship placement for students, creating a scholarship for students, or pouring into our students in an area they are already committed to—that will be a big point of what I do as well,” she said.

Fostering a sense of community will be important for the college, Brown said. 

“The objectives that I have in my role as executive dean really centers on student success, faculty development and moving strategic initiatives for the college forward,” she said. “I don’t want us to do less because we receive less, so one of the priorities for me is to increase and diversify our revenue streams.” 

 Brown likened what she does to a relay race, where she builds things so that she can pass the baton to the next person.

“As I sit here now, executive dean of CLASS, it’s not something that I would have thought of back then,” Brown said. “So I try to pay that forward and do that for students.”

Featured Image: Tamara Brown, the Executive Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences in her office in the General Academic Building on August 2, 2019. (NT Daily Photo by Kara Dry) 

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Jelani Gibson

Jelani Gibson

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1 Comment

  1. Caitlin
    Caitlin August 09, 12:06

    If you are considering pursuing public health, I wholeheartedly recommend the dual degree program for Master’s in Applied Anthropology and Public Health!

    Reply to this comment

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