Community Engagement

Community Engagement for Local Impact in Providence and Rhode Island

​​Brown University is deeply committed to working together with and in support of community partners to make a positive impact in Providence and across Rhode Island and the region.

Brown is building upon a decades-long commitment to stewarding strong relationships with organizations and individuals across Rhode Island to make a positive impact in local communities. We are dedicated to long-term, sustained community engagement that reflects Brown’s mission to advance teaching, learning and discovery while creating positive community outcomes.

Community engagement is fundamentally aligned with Brown’s mission. Doing this work well, in some respects, is about being a good neighbor. But, more than that, community engagement recognizes and deepens our understanding that Brown’s academic and research excellence is tied to the mutuality of benefit we achieve with the people and communities of Rhode Island.

- President Christina H. Paxson

A Framework for Community Engagement

From improving medical care and public health, to supporting local schools and contributing to the regional economy, Brown’s community engagement and commitment to the success of the local community is reflected in many ways. Our research, expertise, teaching and learning, anchor resources and investments, and inclusive pathways are the core domains that make up a five-part framework for Brown’s community engagement. Acting together, these domains can amplify mutual benefit by reliably connecting people, ideas and efforts – across campus, institutions and sectors.

The Providence and Rhode Island communities and the University are interdependent. Brown disseminates, offers and/or provides resources that can bring benefit to Providence and Rhode Island in each of the five domains. At the same time, community organizations, leaders and residents inform, offer and/or provide resources that can bring benefit to Brown University in each domain.

We consult Rhode Islanders as engaged practitioners and participants in research on the causes of and solutions to pressing societal concerns, generating and sharing useful knowledge that is responsive and beneficial to community stakeholders.
Through our network of faculty and staff, we offer community organizations, institutions, groups, and residents consultation and thought partnership on areas of shared interest and public concern.  
Teaching and Learning
We invest in holistic co/curricular student learning that develops foundational skills and habits to become informed, ethical, and engaged community members.
Inclusive Pathways
We invest in college access, workforce development, and local businesses to advance equitable educational outcomes and economic mobility for Rhode Islanders.
Anchor Resources/Investments
We contribute to local economic vitality, civic health, and environmental sustainability through areas such as employment, procurement, facilities, arts and athletics.

Community Engagement Initiatives

Each year hundreds of Brown University students, faculty, and staff work in partnership with local community organizations and groups throughout Rhode Island. These partnerships catalyze activities like after-school programming, tutoring, and mentoring young people; supporting refugees and people experiencing homelessness; providing healthcare; contributing to arts and cultural exhibits and performances, and much more to create positive impacts for Rhode Islanders.

Some of the many ways in which Brown programs and initiatives contribute locally are highlighted below.

College Access and Readiness

Investing in and creating new college access and readiness programs in partnership with Providence public schools is one of the central pillars of Brown’s community engagement initiatives. To strengthen college access, preparation and transition, these community programs provide guidance on the college application process, financial aid and scholarship opportunities while also providing academic support to help students improve their academic performance and increase their chances of success in college. 

The Brown Collegiate Scholars Program seeks to empower academically motivated public-school students who live and learn in Providence to explore their interests and strengthen their academic preparation in order to identify, select, pay for and attend colleges that align with their aspirations.
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This immersive one-day program brings Rhode Island high school students to the Brown University campus to experience a college setting and learn about their opportunities in higher education.
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Community Impact

For more than two and a half centuries, Brown has been deeply connected to the diverse and vibrant City of Providence – as a neighbor, employer and institution dedicated to a mission of education, research and service.
For decades, Brown has worked closely with school leaders in Providence to support K-12 education through teaching, training and mentoring, research, volunteer efforts and financial investments aligned with the priorities of those schools.
As a research university with the only schools of medicine and public health in the state, Brown contributes to world-class medical care, strong patient outcomes and innovative solutions for pressing health challenges facing communities across Rhode Island through its Warren Alpert Medical School, School of Public Health and affiliated programs.
Brown University plays a vital role in the economy of Providence and Rhode Island — as a top employer, community partner, and driver of economic vitality. With a deep and longstanding commitment to investing in the community it calls home, the University is the largest voluntary financial contributor to the city, injecting hundreds of millions of dollars into the local economy each year.

Connecting with Brown

Brown University is committed to engaging with and supporting our local partners.

If you have questions or want to learn more about community engagement at Brown University, please reach out to us at

If you have a project, event, internship or even an idea in its very early stages, we invite you to connect with us to share more!

Connect with us

  • Mary Jo Callan wearing a black blouse

    Mary Jo Callan

    Vice President for Community Engagement, Stark Family Executive Director, Howard R. Swearer Center for Public Service

    As the Vice President for Community Engagement and the Executive Director of the Swearer Center for Public Service, Mary Jo Callan leads a key institutional commitment to elevating the focus on effective, coordinated community engagement in Providence and Rhode Island. In partnership with campus and community stakeholders, Mary Jo cultivates a broader range of relationships aligned with Brown University’s core mission of serving society through education, research and partnerships. Learn more about Mary Jo

  • Wendy Wallace smiling confidently in a blue dress

    Wendy Wallace

    Director of Civic Engagement

    Wendy Wallace is the Director of Civic Engagement for Brown University. She is dedicated to nurturing Brown’s relationships with community partners, fostering student leadership, and advancing Brown’s mission of active citizenship and community. She is excited to continue building bridges, empowering individuals and inspiring collective action for a more just and equitable society. Previously, she served as Director of Engagement and Development for Brown University's National Student Support Accelerator, led an inter-agency team for the PrepareRI initiative at the state Department of Education, and was an Associate Director at Year Up Rhode Island.

  • endawnis Spears in a green checkered blouse

    endawnis Spears

    Practitioner in Residence for Tribal Engagement

    endawnis Spears (Diné/ Ojibwe/ Chickasaw/ Choctaw) is an educator working in the public humanities. She received her BA in Anthropology from the University of Denver and has worked for the Heard Museum, Museum of Northern Arizona, Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center, and currently serves on the board of the Federation of State Humanities Councils. endawnis is the Co-Director of the Upstander Academy, and a founding member of the Akomawt Educational Initiative, an Indigenous education and interpretive consultancy for museums, K-12 schools, and colleges/universities. She was the 2021-2023 Tribal Community Member in Residence for the Native American and Indigenous Studies Initiative at Brown University. Originally from Camp Verde, Arizona, she lives in South County, Rhode Island with her husband and their four children.

Central Engagement Offices at Brown

The Swearer Center catalyzes student learning and commitment to lifelong civic engagement, builds capacity among faculty and staff interested in community-engaged scholarship and action, and cultivates and stewards long-term partnerships with community organizations and groups.
Provides expertise and counsel to connect Brown University with the community and government. The OGCR provides strategic counsel to our Brown colleagues, represents Brown publicly in government and community forums, and is a hub for connecting and navigating Brown and external constituencies.