State of the University, Fall 2017

October 18, 2017

Dear Members of the BU Community,

Our fall semester is well underway, and we have begun the academic year with several notable announcements. Here are six of the highlights:

These, as well as other important advances, were achieved in an unsettled political environment resulting from new federal government initiatives that included executive orders to curtail visas for some international students and changes by the Department of Education in Title IX standards for dealing with accusations of sexual assault and harassment on campus. We also have seen the proposal from the Executive Office for dramatic cuts in funding of research to the National Institutes of Health and other agencies, proposed radical reduction in reimbursement to universities for facilities and administrative (F&A) costs for research, and restriction of universities’ latitude to use race as a factor in student admissions in order to achieve diversity. I believe each of these proposals is highly detrimental to Boston University and our mission. In part because of coordinated advocacy from the research university community, efforts to pass legislation to reduce research funding have been unsuccessful.

The challenges to research universities are likely to continue. These challenges are fueled by widespread public perception that higher education is failing middle-class Americans, both because we are seen as increasingly inaccessible due to cost (a phenomenon exacerbated by the income stagnation experienced by a majority of Americans) and because of skepticism about whether a college or university education truly prepares students to enter the workforce and succeed in an environment of accelerating change. I would argue that because we are in the midst of a knowledge revolution that is continuously altering the workplace of the future, quality higher education is needed more than ever by young adults who aspire to participate and lead in this ever-changing professional landscape.

Our best response to the skepticism is to continue to improve on the value proposition for our students. We are making progress on several fronts. The changes we have underway in our new undergraduate general education program—the BU Hub—are designed to prepare our students to be engaged and capable citizens and leaders in a fast-paced, globalized society. We are entering the critical implementation stage of the program. The governance process for approval of curricula is in place. Courses will be piloted this year, with the plan to implement the program as a requirement starting with the entering freshman class of fall 2018.

We also are investing in cocurricular initiatives for our student community. With the expansion of the Howard Thurman Center for Common Ground, we are offering expanded opportunities for all students to come together to discuss concerns about injustice, to better understand our historical legacies (good and bad), and to seek solutions through civil discussion and debate.

As you have read in BU Today, our freshman class of 3,484 students is the most diverse in Boston University’s history. The breakdown is:

  • Underrepresented minority students: 19.4%
  • Asian American students: 18%
  • International students: 22%

These numbers reflect the changing demography of our country and the globalization of higher education. We are especially proud of the socioeconomic diversity of the entering class. By substantially increasing Boston University’s financial aid commitment, 18% of the entering class is composed of Pell Grant recipients, a percentage that places us among the highest in our peer group. The additional support for Pell Grant recipients was substantially augmented by a gift from Trustee Richard Cohen. The recipients of the targeted Pell Grant aid packages are designated as Richard Cohen Scholars.

By our projections, the University will spend $235 million on undergraduate financial aid this academic year, up from $211 million last year. Our commitment to aid will grow as we continue this initiative through future incoming classes.

Building a diverse community of students, faculty, and staff is a high priority for the University. To advance this initiative, we have recruited Professor Crystal Ann Williams from Bates College as our first associate provost for diversity and inclusion. The diversity of our community is a cornerstone of Boston University. We will continue to strive to build a meritocratic community that is reflective of our nation and the world.

Undergraduate Admissions

The arrival of our freshman class of 3,484 students (slightly larger than the 3,400 students we expected) marked the opening of our academic year and the end of a highly successful recruiting year. In addition to being wonderfully diverse, the entering class is the most academically accomplished in our history. Only 25% of the applicants for a place in the class received an offer of admission. The students enrolled in our degree-granting schools and colleges had an average 2-test SAT of 1406 (out of a possible 1600) and a high school GPA of 3.69.

Our incoming freshmen were joined by 726 transfer students coming from other universities and community colleges across the country. All have been successful in college, with the cohort having an average college GPA of 3.58. Nearly 20% of these students are transferring from community colleges; with the transfer option, we are expanding access to Boston University for students who previously would have had more limited higher-education options.


The University continues to recruit and promote talented faculty. This year we welcomed 154 new faculty members with 71 joining schools and colleges on the Charles River Campus and 83 added on the Medical Campus. Promotions were awarded to 67 faculty: 29 promoted to the rank of professor, 38 to associate professor, and 20 awarded tenure. The promoted faculty members are listed in the appendix to this letter along with faculty members who have received recognition for their accomplishments in research, scholarship, performance, and teaching.

Of special note are our two colleagues from the College of Arts & Sciences: Bonnie Costello (Department of English) and Azer Bestavros (Department of Computer Science and director of the Hariri Institute for Computing and Computational Science & Engineering), who in the spring were named as the latest William Fairfield Warren Distinguished Professors.

Sadly, one of our most distinguished colleagues, Howard Eichenbaum, William Fairfield Warren Distinguished Professor in the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences, passed away suddenly this summer. Howard was a pioneer in the neuroscience of memory and an esteemed leader of our academic community. He will be missed.

Finally, I am pleased to note that Professor Dana Robert of the School of Theology was elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences this spring.

Leadership Transitions

Later this academic year, we will welcome two new deans to our leadership ranks; both were selected through national searches.

Jorge Delva, School of Social Work
Dr. Jorge Delva will assume the deanship of the School of Social Work in January. He joins us from the University of Michigan, where he currently serves as Siefert Professor of Social Work and director of the Communities Engagement Program. He is widely recognized for his work to reduce health disparities and improve the lives of low-income and racial and ethnic minority populations.

Harvey Young, College of Fine Arts
Dr. Harvey Young will take on his responsibilities as the dean of the College of Fine Arts in January. He comes to Boston University from Northwestern University, where he is professor and chair of the Department of Theatre in the School of Communication. He is an internationally recognized theatre historian and advocate for the arts.

As you will have noted in my letter to the community about our merger agreement with Wheelock College, contingent on execution of the merger on June 1, 2018, Dr. David Chard, currently president of Wheelock, will become dean ad interim of the proposed Wheelock College of Education & Human Development at Boston University and lead the transition and integration process.

As I mentioned earlier in this letter, Crystal Ann Williams has joined us (this month) as associate provost for diversity and inclusion and professor of English. Professor Williams was associate vice president for strategic initiatives and professor of English at Bates College, where she was the lead diversity officer. She is an accomplished poet who holds an MFA from Cornell University.

This summer we named Christine McGuire vice president and associate provost for enrollment and student administration. As most of you know, Christine served for many years as our associate vice president for enrollment and student affairs, as well as executive director of financial assistance; she had stepped in as interim vice president last fall when her predecessor, Dr. Laurie Pohl, moved to the School of Education as a professor.

This past August, we named Kelly Walter as associate vice president and dean of admissions, an adjustment of her title that reflects her experience, her standing among colleagues, and most importantly, her repeated successes in leading our efforts to recruit ever more accomplished undergraduate students.

Research Enterprise

The last year has seen some exciting developments in our research enterprise. In April, faculty, students, and staff began moving into the Rajen Kilachand Center for Integrated Life Sciences & Engineering on Commonwealth Avenue. The Kilachand Center is the home of interdisciplinary research efforts in synthetic biology, systems neuroscience, and sensory communication and emerging neural technology; these efforts currently involve 15 faculty members and 158 students and staff. At capacity, we expect the number of researchers to double (to approximately 300). As of this writing, there are two new faculty recruits who will have their laboratories in the center.

Our research efforts at the nexus of life sciences and engineering will be greatly enhanced by the transformational gift of $115 million from Trustee Rajen Kilachand to name the center and to establish an endowed fund to support research in these areas. In the months ahead, we will announce the criteria and selection process for awards from this fund.

More validation of the quality of our faculty in life sciences, materials science, and biomedical engineering came with the announcement in September of the award from the National Science Foundation of $20 million to establish an Engineering Research Center at Boston University. The center will be led by Professor David Bishop, chair of the Division of Materials Science & Engineering. The grant, which is renewable for a total of 10 years and up to $40 million, is designed to accelerate the bioengineering of functional cardiac tissue.

The Initiative on Cities, which we launched in 2014 with the late former Mayor Tom Menino (Hon.’01) as co-director with Graham Wilson of the Department of Political Science, is rapidly earning a national and international reputation as a convener of high-level meetings and forums and for the research and information projects that have been conceived and initiated by the Initiative’s staff. In January, the Initiative released the results of the third annual Menino Survey of Mayors, which is based on interviews with more than 100 mayors nationwide, with continuing support from Citigroup. In partnership with the Questrom School of Business, the Initiative’s staff created a new executive education program for Arup, the global design and engineering firm. The Initiative on Cities is part of three federal grants the University has won, aimed at forging new ties between BU climate researchers and urban practitioners.

Notwithstanding the challenging federal funding environment, our faculty continue to do well in winning contracts and grants. Last year, research awards to our faculty rose to $407 million, up 9% from the year before.

Campaign for Boston University

As I write this letter, our campaign total stands at approximately $1.3 billion, with approximately two years left to reach our increased campaign goal of $1.5 billion. During the last fiscal year, we added $236.2 million to this total and received cash gifts of $157.5 million. In addition to the magnificent gift from Trustee Rajen Kilachand, in March we announced the gift from our Trustee Stephen Zide and his wife, Jan, to name our new studio theatre on Commonwealth Avenue as the Joan and Edgar Booth Theatre, in honor of Jan’s parents. We are planning the official opening of the theatre in December.

Our alumni continue to inspire us with their generosity. Giving to Annual Funds across our schools and colleges grew by 8% to $21 million last year. With continued support, we are looking to reach and exceed our campaign goal in the next two years.

Budget and Capital Planning

Fiscal Year 2017 ended with the University generating $180 million of reserves, up by 14.5% from FY2016. This excellent result was driven by slightly larger undergraduate enrollment than we expected, by an increase in the number of professional master’s degree students, and by careful budgeting and execution throughout the year. Compared to the previous fiscal year, overall revenue growth was 4.3%, compared to expense growth of 3.4%. I am very grateful to all of our academic and administrative leadership who have helped the University achieve these results.

Of the reserves that were generated, $26 million went directly back to schools and colleges, according to revenue-sharing agreements; $113 million was designated to ongoing or future major capital projects. Allocations to academic initiatives, such as faculty hiring and the development of a new student information system, amounted to $41 million.

Driven by gains in worldwide equity markets, our endowment also produced positive returns. The University’s endowment assets on June 30, 2017, were $1.96 billion, which represented a 19% year-over-year increase, with an investment return of 13%. In this fiscal year, the endowment is projected to distribute $61 million to the budget of the University and account for approximately 3% of our total expenses.

An important part of our budgeting and financial planning is focused on the capital budget for renovating and expanding facilities and on developing or improving software systems. We continued to make important progress on both fronts. As I noted earlier in this letter, we completed and opened the Kilachand Center. We have two other major capital projects currently underway; both are on schedule and approaching completion. The first phase of the two-year project to renovate and restore Myles Standish Hall has been completed, with students moving into the renovated portion of the building this fall. The second phase of work is ongoing and will be completed next summer, in time for occupancy in fall of 2018.

As mentioned above, the Booth Theatre will open in December. The new production facilities for the School of Theatre (located on Dummer Street, behind the Booth Theatre) opened this fall in time for classes. With the completion of the theatre, all facilities for the School of Theatre will be contiguously located on Commonwealth Avenue.

Planning is underway for the expansion and renovation of the 100 East Newton Street facility for the Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine; we expect that construction will start in spring of 2018. Several other major capital projects are in the planning stage; as is our practice, we continue to energetically solicit gifts and grants that can help us realize these plans.

In addition to these major commitments, approximately $49 million was spent on smaller renovations as we continue to make progress on needed modernization and expansion of our facilities. Even with this level of expenditure, there is always more to do.


I finish writing this in a month in which we have witnessed another horrific national tragedy—the mass shooting in Las Vegas—and in a period in which our national discourse is rich in intemperance. It is easy to be pessimistic. But I believe we sometimes forget that every period of human history, including those seen as calm (or calmer), has experienced alarms and calamities. We cannot control external events—although we do weigh in as appropriate (we make the case for federal research funding with confidence and regularity). But in our corner of the world, we can work creatively and energetically to do those things that make Boston University the great institution that it is and that justify even higher aspirations. We have enjoyed a successful year on all fronts and Boston University is financially sound and continually improving in quality and stature. That reality is testament to the combined and committed efforts of a great community of scholars, researchers, students, and staff.

I am grateful for all you do, and I hope you take pride in our shared progress.

With best wishes,
Robert A. Brown signature

Robert A. Brown

Faculty: New Appointments, Honors, and Awards

A number of outstanding senior faculty have joined the University, including:

  • David Boas — Professor of Biomedical Engineering, College of Engineering
  • Deborah Carr — Professor of Sociology, College of Arts & Sciences
  • Ji-Xin Cheng — Theodore Moustakas Professor of Photonics & Optoelectronics and Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering and Biomedical Engineering, College of Engineering
  • Louis Chude-Sokei – Professor of English and George and Joyce Wein Chair in African American Studies, College of Arts & Sciences
  • Adriana Craciun — Emma MacLachlan Metcalf Chair in Humanities and Professor of English, College of Arts & Sciences
  • Andrew Emili — Professor of Biology & Biochemistry, College of Arts & Sciences and School of Medicine
  • David Greer — Chair and Professor of Neurology, School of Medicine
  • Nicole Huberfeld — Professor of Health Law, Policy & Management, School of Public Health
  • Patrick Kinney — Beverly A. Brown Professor for the Improvement of Urban Health and Professor of Environmental Health, School of Public Health
  • Daniel Kleinman — Associate Provost for Graduate Affairs and Professor of Sociology, College of Arts & Sciences
  • Jennifer Tseng — Chair and Professor of Surgery, School of Medicine
  • Peter Wysocki — Professor of Accounting, Questrom School of Business

Our faculty members continue to garner external recognition. Awards and honors bestowed on them over the past year include:

  • Assistant Professor Ahmad (Mo) Khalil, Biomedical Engineering, College of Engineering, and Associate Professor Adam Rose, General Internal Medicine, School of Medicine, were each awarded a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.
  • College of Arts & Sciences Professor of Physics Kenneth Rothschild was selected for a National Academy of Inventors fellowship.
  • Associate Dean of the Faculty, Mathematical & Computational Sciences, and Professor of Computer Science Stan Sclaroff, College of Arts & Sciences, was named Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the International Association for Pattern Recognition (IAPR).
  • Assistant Professor Ahmad (Mo) Khalil, Biomedical Engineering, College of Engineering, was awarded a New Innovator Award by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
  • School of Theology Professor Dana Robert was elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.
  • Professor Pnina Lahav, School of Law, was honored by the Association for Israel Studies (AIS), in cooperation with the Israel Institute, with their Lifetime Achievement Award.
  • Three professors were elected fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS): Professor Catherine Costello, Physiology & Biophysics and Biochemistry, School of Medicine, and Chemistry, College of Arts & Sciences; Professor Benjamin Wolozin, Neurology and Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics, School of Medicine; and Professor Xin Zhang, Mechanical Engineering, College of Engineering.
  • Professor Mark Horenstein, Electrical & Computer Engineering, and Professor Xin Zhang, Mechanical Engineering, College of Engineering, were each named an Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineering (IEEE) Fellow.
  • The Society for Neuroscience awarded Professor Nancy Kopell, Mathematics & Statistics, College of Arts & Sciences, with the Swartz Prize for Theoretical and Computational Neuroscience.
  • Assistant Professor Andrew Liam Fitzpatrick, Physics, College of Arts & Sciences, was named a 2017 Sloan Research Fellow by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
  • Professor John Clarke, Astronomy, College of Arts & Sciences, was named an American Geophysical Union Fellow.
  • College of Arts & Sciences History of Art & Architecture Associate Professor Emine Fetvaci was selected as a School of Historical Studies Member at Princeton University’s Institute for Advanced Study.
  • School of Law Professor James Fleming was awarded a fellowship in the Program in Law and Public Affairs at Princeton University.
  • The following faculty members received Fulbright Scholar Awards: Assistant Professor Jillian Goldfarb, Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science & Engineering, College of Engineering; Professor Katya Ravid, Medicine and Biochemistry, School of Medicine; and Professor Adam Seligman, Religion, College of Arts & Sciences.
  • Assistant Professor Kirill Korolev, Physics, College of Arts & Sciences, was selected as a Simons Investigator in the Mathematical Modeling of Living Systems by the Simons Foundation.
  • Professor Robert Pollack, Mathematics & Statistics, College of Arts & Sciences, was selected as a Fellow in Mathematics by the Simons Foundation.
  • School of Law Professor Linda McClain was awarded a Laurance S. Rockefeller Visiting Fellowship from Princeton University’s Center for Human Values.

Boston University granted many faculty awards and honors over the past year, which include:

  • Two William Fairfield Warren Distinguished Professorships were bestowed in 2017. The recipients were Professor Bonnie Costello, English, College of Arts & Sciences, and Professor Azer Bestavros, Computer Science, College of Arts & Sciences.
  • Associate Professor Carrie Preston, English, College of Arts & Sciences, was appointed Arvind and Chandan Nandlal Kilachand Professor.
  • Gustavo Mostoslavsky, Associate Professor of Gastroenterology, School of Medicine, was named 2017 Innovator of the Year.
  • Peter Paul Career Development Professorships were awarded to Rory Van Loo, Associate Professor of Law, School of Law; Daniella Kupor, Assistant Professor of Marketing, Questrom School of Business; and Travis Bristol, Assistant Professor, School of Education.
  • The University Provost’s Career Development Professorship was awarded to Xi Ling, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, College of Arts & Sciences.
  • Allyson Sgro, Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering, College of Engineering, received the Moorman-Simon Interdisciplinary Career Development Professorship.
  • Emily Whiting, Assistant Professor of Computer Science, College of Arts & Sciences, and Miloš Popović, Assistant Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering, College of Engineering, were each awarded an Innovation Career Development Professorship.
  • The Gerald and Deanne Gitner Family Innovation in Teaching with Technology Award was given to College of Arts & Sciences Senior Lecturer Amber Navarre, World Languages & Literatures.
  • Jennifer Balakrishnan, Assistant Professor, Mathematics & Statistics, College of Arts & Sciences, received a Clare Boothe Luce Assistant Professorship.
  • A Paul E. Farmer Professorship in Social Work and Health was awarded to Professor Sally Bachman of the School of Social Work.
  • The Travis M. Roy Professorship in Rehabilitation Sciences was awarded to LaDora Thompson, Professor and Chair of Physical Therapy & Athletic Training, College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences: Sargent College.
  • The University Lecture in fall 2016 was presented by Richard Primack, Professor of Biology, College of Arts & Sciences, titled “Walden Warming: Climate Change Comes to Thoreau’s Woods.”
  • The winner of the 2017 Undergraduate Academic Advising Award for Faculty was Assistant Professor of Film & Television Christopher Cavalieri of the College of Communication.
  • Professor Amie Grills, Counseling Psychology & Applied Human Development, School of Education, was awarded the 2017 United Methodist Church Scholar/Teacher of the Year.
  • The 2017 Metcalf Cup and Prize Recipient was Professor Naomi Mann, School of Law, and the 2017 Metcalf Award Recipients were Professor Sophie Godley, Community Health, School of Public Health; and Professor Gary Lawson, School of Law.

The following faculty members were promoted to the rank of professor:

  • Daniel Alford, General Internal Medicine, School of Medicine
  • Kecia Ali, Religion, College of Arts & Sciences
  • Betty Anderson, History, College of Arts & Sciences
  • Sara Bachman, Social Research, School of Social Work; Health Law, Policy & Management, School of Public Health
  • Alisa Bokulich, Philosophy, College of Arts & Sciences
  • Jack Clark, Health Law, Policy & Management, School of Public Health
  • Gheorghe Doros, Biostatistics, School of Public Health
  • Uri Eden, Mathematics & Statistics, College of Arts & Sciences
  • Sergio Fagherazzi, Earth & Environment, College of Arts & Sciences
  • Iván Fernández-Val, Economics, College of Arts & Sciences
  • Tony Godfrey, Surgery, School of Medicine
  • Tarik Haydar, Anatomy & Neurobiology, School of Medicine
  • Robin Ingalls, Medicine in Infectious Diseases, School of Medicine
  • Prakash Ishwar, Electrical & Computer Engineering, College of Engineering
  • Douglas Kriner, Political Science, College of Arts & Sciences
  • Jennifer Luebke, Anatomy & Neurobiology, School of Medicine
  • Michael McClean, Environmental Health, School of Public Health
  • Susan McGurk, Occupational Therapy, College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences: Sargent College
  • Carey Morewedge, Marketing, Questrom School of Business
  • Tuhina Neogi, Medicine in Clinical Epidemiology Research & Training, School of Medicine
  • Fallou Ngom, Anthropology, College of Arts & Sciences
  • Harold Park, Mechanical Engineering, College of Engineering
  • Marie-Helene Saint-Hilaire, Neurology, School of Medicine
  • Scott Schaus, Chemistry, College of Arts & Sciences
  • Stephen Scully, Classical Studies, College of Arts & Sciences
  • Michael Silverstein, General Pediatrics, School of Medicine
  • Pamela Templer, Biology, College of Arts & Sciences
  • Richard West, Computer Science, College of Arts & Sciences
  • Claire Wolfteich, Practical Theology and Spiritual Studies, School of Theology

The following faculty members were promoted to the rank of associate professor:

  • Ross Barrett, History of Art & Architecture, College of Arts & Sciences
  • Monica Bharel, General Internal Medicine, School of Medicine
  • Taylor Boas, Political Science, College of Arts & Sciences
  • J. Scott Bunch, Mechanical Engineering, College of Engineering
  • Vipul Chitalia, Nephrology, School of Medicine
  • Catherine Connell, Sociology, College of Arts & Sciences
  • Kathleen Corriveau, Applied Human Development, School of Education
  • Yvette Cozier, Epidemiology, School of Public Health
  • Keith Ericson, Markets, Public Policy & Law, Questrom School of Business
  • Stefania Garetto, Economics, College of Arts & Sciences
  • Megan Gerber, General Internal Medicine, School of Medicine
  • Simone Gill, Occupational Therapy, College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences: Sargent College
  • Courtney Goto, Religious Education, School of Theology
  • Jacob Groshek, Emerging Media Studies, College of Communication
  • Xue Han, Biomedical Engineering, College of Engineering
  • Melissa Holt, Counseling Psychology, School of Education
  • Katherine Iverson, Psychiatry, School of Medicine
  • Gabrielle Jacquet, Emergency Medicine, School of Medicine
  • Barbara Kamholz, Psychiatry, School of Medicine
  • Patricia Kavanagh, General Pediatrics, School of Medicine
  • Xinning Li, Orthopaedic Surgery, School of Medicine
  • Benjamin Linas, Infectious Diseases, School of Medicine
  • Mark Logue, Psychiatry, School of Medicine
  • Alisdair McKay, Economics, College of Arts & Sciences
  • Manjari Miller, International Relations, Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies
  • Daniel Miller, Human Behavior in the Social Environment, School of Social Work
  • James Moses, Pediatrics in Hospital Medicine, School of Medicine
  • George Murphy, Hematology & Medical Oncology, School of Medicine
  • James Pokines, Anatomy & Neurobiology, School of Medicine
  • Joseph Rezek, English, College of Arts & Sciences
  • Madeleine Scammell, Environmental Health, School of Public Health
  • Johannes Schmieder, Economics, College of Arts & Sciences
  • Remi Trudel, Marketing, Questrom School of Business
  • Allan Walkey, Pulmonary, Allergy & Critical Care, School of Medicine
  • Christopher Walsh, English, College of Arts & Sciences
  • Jared Weinstein , Mathematics & Statistics, College of Arts & Sciences
  • Renda Wiener, Medicine in Pulmonary, Allergy, Sleep & Critical Care, School of Medicine
  • Paul Withers, Astronomy, College of Arts & Sciences
  • Erika Wolf, Psychiatry, School of Medicine