Timothy Brown ’79
Timothy Brown ’79
Managing Director, Asia Faculty of Arts and Sciences
Why did you choose Empire State College? What do you think is the best thing about the college?
The journey of intellectual growth is always a complicated and highly individual process. Not everyone including me is ready to benefit from study at the collegiate level at age 18. A multitude of factors including finances, previous education, maturity, discipline, desire, curiosity, willingness to be challenged intellectually, all must align for personal growth to blossom.
In 1977 I was 26 winding up a brief, but earnest attempt to carve out a career as a performing artist (classical and modern dance) in New York when I learned about ESC as the new non-traditional branch of SUNY. After a visit to the Metropolitan branch in Manhattan where I met mentors Mel Rosenthal and Tom Grunfeld, it seemed I found the perfect solution to my desire to extend my formal education. Indeed, I knew immediately ESC was a safe place where I could extend myself, take risks, and above all where my own ideas and imagination were valued.
I had reached a point in my life where I no longer felt comfortable joining a traditional cohort of college freshman straight out of high school. ESC’s audacious and pioneering program to identify and accept credit for experience and the flexibility that allowed me to study independently and shape my studies to address my own combination of interests made ESC an obvious choice.
While ESC itself had little by way of infrastructure, I was set free to take advantage of the great libraries, museums, performing arts spaces and other institutional assets both public and private that the great city of New York had to offer. From the incomparable New York Public Library to the vast course offerings at CUNY; from the archives at Lincoln Center to the great outdoor spaces of Central or Prospect Parks or the abundant and varied cultures and languages found in all the burroughs of the City for me ESC was not only the key to the city but the key to maturing as a productive citizen of the world. How could I not have chosen ESC?
How did Empire State College help you shape your personal and professional goals?
Having lived overseas as a child I developed a life long interest in international relations, culture and politics. Studying under the mentorship of Mel Rosenthal and then Tom Grunfeld I had the most naturally gifted teachers who opened my mind to worlds I had only dreamed of. Through their guidance, I made great progress and gained confidence in my writing and my ability to think and communicate critically. ESC prepared me first to think about and then to apply successfully to graduate school where I earned an MA in International Affairs at American University in Washington DC.
What is your career highlight or proudest career moment to date?
In 2000 my own family and I moved to Beirut Lebanon where I worked for the Dean of Medicine at The American University of Beirut. I helped the dean reestablish the clinical and research practice in medicine that had suffered greatly from the then recent sixteen-year civil war. It was a difficult but fulfilling opportunity. I returned to the U.S. in 2002 to work for John Hopkins University on a joint venture project with Nanjing University called the Hopkins-Nanjing Center that offered a graduate certificate program in Chinese or American studies and then to Harvard University where I represent the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences in the Asia-Pacific raising funds for transformational educational opportunities and research.
What advice would you give to a current Empire State College student?
I suggest thinking about SUNY Empire as the key to your world rather than as an inclusive place where you go to study independently of the rest of your life. This college opens doors and creates possibilities that you may not be aware of unless you try putting your own imagination to work. Don’t be a passive learner, be proactive, even aggressive about pursuing your questions. Think about your own life as a composition that you are creating and SUNY Empire as a great tool to make your life choices fulfilling and productive.
Why do you give back to Empire State College?
I hope the above conveys how ESC made a difference in my own intellectual journey. By supporting the College I intend to make similar magic possible for others. I owe ESC at least that much for the helping to restart my career and life.