Tyson Brown Named First Presidential Fellow at Duke

Program looks to help train the next cohort of faculty leaders at the university

Tyson Brown
As a presidential fellow, sociologist Tyson Brown will work aside Duke senior leadership on issues related to the university and higher education.

Sociology and health policy scholar Tyson Brown has been named the inaugural Presidential Fellow by Duke President Vincent E. Price. The one-year, part-time fellowship is designed to prepare promising mid-career faculty members for future leadership roles and to engage them in the administration of the university.

Brown is associate professor of sociology and director of the Center on Health & Society. His research explores connections between social and health inequities. Most recently he has focused on identifying the structural and psychosocial mechanisms behind disparities in the health of older Americans.

During the 2021-22 academic year, Brown will work with members of Price’s cabinet, participate in leadership meetings and coordinate a project related to a university priority.

Price established the program to develop the talents of a diverse cohort of faculty leaders for Duke’s future. While much of the university’s academic leadership is drawn from the faculty pool, there are few means for young faculty to receive prior leadership training or first-hand observation of administrative decision-making processes.

“I’m excited to get a 360 view of the university and to do a deep dive on strategic initiatives,” Brown said. “I see this fellowship as a unique opportunity to learn from, and work alongside, President Price and the administration on a range of matters important to the Duke community.”

Although Brown comes with experience in leadership roles, including at the Center on Health & Society and leading a Bass Connections theme, he said he had little direct training in leadership skills and few opportunities to closely observe others in those roles. “I’m fascinated to be around highly effective leaders and see how they make decisions. That’s not something you automatically learn as a faculty member, and it’s not part of your training in graduate school.”

There are three components of the fellowship that attracted him, Brown said. The first involves learning about higher education leadership and the day-to-day operations of the university through regular one-on-one meetings with Price, serving on presidential and provostial committees, attending meetings with the Board of Trustees, and doing weekly rotations with leaders on campus to learn about key issues. 

“I also will be identifying and leading special projects—in collaboration with the Office of the President—that are of particular interest to me and that align with the university’s priorities,” he added.

A third element is what Brown can bring to these meetings and projects to make them more effective. “I look forward to providing a faculty perspective on key issues in discussions with the board, the president and other senior leaders of the university.”

Brown and future fellows will also receive funding to participate in leadership training programs and attend conferences focused on key issues in higher education.

“I am thrilled that Tyson Brown will be serving as the inaugural Presidential Fellow,” Price said. “Since arriving at Duke in 2016, Professor Brown has conducted vital research into the drivers of racial inequality in health, and he has been an emerging leader in helping Duke develop and support our faculty. I am grateful for his leadership, and I know that Duke’s administration will benefit greatly from his perspective in the months ahead.”

Price added that the program will help Duke grow a more inclusive cohort of faculty leaders – including chairs, division leaders and associate deans – and a diverse and robust pipeline of faculty to meet Duke’s ever-evolving leadership needs.

The fellowship is open to faculty across the university with candidates recommended by deans. Brown was nominated by Trinity College of Arts & Sciences Dean Valerie Ashby and was selected by Price in consultation with senior leaders.