Brown’s new president reflects growing academic interests of students (with graphs)

Brown’s Chancellor Tom Tisch announced yesterday to an impromptu horde of students and staff in Sayles Hall that Princeton economist Christina Paxson would replace Brown’s President Ruth Simmons at the end of the year. A professor of Economics and Public Affairs, Paxson is also dean of Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. She chaired Princeton’s Economics department from 2008-2009.

Paxson might not be on the types of high-profile boards outgoing president Simmons sat on (Goldman Sachs, Pfizer, and Texas Instruments), but she has been elected to serve a year-long term as vice president of the American Economic Association and is a director of the non-profit social research group MDRC.

She is in the top 5% of the world’s economists ranked by citations (#401) according to RePEc‘s rating system. Her areas of interest according to her Princeton bio are health policy, child well-being, and economic development. (When I have more time, I hope to look over some of her papers, listed at the RePec link above.)

Ties like hers to economic research organizations are new for Brown’s presidency, but with a quarter of Brown undergraduates concentrating in Economics or International Relations, it seems that Paxson is a fitting choice. Not long after the announcement came out, I heard at least two comments from students seeking to get recommendations to the Woodrow Wilson School from Paxson. As best I can tell, she is the first Brown president to call herself an economist, judging by Brown’s biographies of past presidents and other online sources.

Plus, from what she said in her acceptance speech in Sayles yesterday, she seems already familiar with the Brown way:

“My big brother, this clean-cut, studious kid, went off to Brown and came back at Thanksgiving vacation to Pittsburgh,” she said. “He had long hair, he was listening to new music and he argued with my mother about the ethics of eating meat.”

Below are a few quick-n-dirty graphs of Brown Econ(-related) and IR concentrations completed by year; data is from Brown’s Institutional Research Office.