PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — After six years of extensive accomplishments at Brown, and an impressive career spanning more than 35 years leading administrative operations in education, Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration Barbara Chernow will retire at the end of the summer.
Chernow is a Brown Class of 1979 graduate who returned to her alma mater in 2015. As the senior member of Brown’s executive team responsible for the vast majority of non-academic operations, she has led significant improvements in areas including financial planning, human resources, the internal audit function, facilities, transportation, dining, auxiliary services, information technology and business operations.
In a campus letter announcing Chernow’s decision to retire, President Christina H. Paxson said Chernow has led with innovation, creativity and a commitment to cultivating staff as both individuals and as collaborators who contribute their talents to strengthening the University.
“Barbara has played a pivotal role as Brown has worked to ensure the highest levels of excellence in its administrative and business operations to align with Brown’s long-standing commitment to academic excellence,” Paxson wrote. “At the same time, one of her strongest attributes is her commitment to investing in and supporting the people who help Brown function every day.”
Paxson noted that among the most enduring accomplishments of Chernow’s tenure at Brown is her work to strengthen the University’s financial processes. She unified disparate finance units on campus, worked with the Finance team to retain Brown’s stellar bond rating, and integrated systems across multiple departments.
As part of her efforts to enhance Brown’s financial strength, she partnered with Provost Richard M. Locke to implement a zero-based budgeting process with the goal of ensuring an increasingly predictable budget that reduces reliance on tuition revenue. Locke said Chernow’s strategic leadership of administrative and financial operations has played an essential role in enabling Brown to fulfill its academic mission.
“Our ability to make a positive impact on the world depends on sustained investment in world-class research and teaching, and support for students and scholars across campus,” Locke said. “Barbara has been an instrumental partner on both fronts, working to advance operational excellence across nearly every facet of the University. She leaves a deep legacy of continuous innovation and improvement in finance and administration.”
Chernow said whether she’s working with staff in Facilities Management, University Human Resources or Dining Services, success in improving operations on campus is rooted in building a culture of caring and a collaborative team of leaders committed to helping Brown grow, improve and fulfill its mission.
“When I think of operational excellence, I think of the people across campus who run the institution and how we can make it better — whether it’s by providing more training, more technological tools or ensuring that employees have a voice to share ideas,” she said. “That’s how I spend my day. That’s what a leader has to focus on.”
As she looks forward to a retirement of travel, time with family and championing causes in which she believes, she said she is fortunate to have been part of an incredible team helping Brown to pursue its mission.
“I will profoundly miss Brown’s incredibly collaborative spirit and vigorous sense of purpose,” Chernow said. “More than six years ago, those qualities, as exemplified by the work of Christina Paxson and employees across campus, were pivotal in my decision to return to Brown. Leaving the University twice — once after being a student, and now again after serving as an administrator — will truly be bittersweet.”
A record of accomplishment
Since arriving at Brown from Stony Brook University in March 2015, Chernow has truly transformed Brown’s administrative operations, Paxson wrote.
Under her oversight of Business and Financial Services, Brown implemented new parking management and reporting; the Transportation Office staff played a key role in addressing pedestrian safety issues in the Jewelry District and delivering improved shuttle, RIPTA and Zipcar services; and the division assumed responsibility for management of vehicles to better align with Brown’s goals for fiscal and environmental sustainability. On Thayer Street, the Brown Bookstore has continued to enhance customer satisfaction and work with the Dean of the College on special initiatives, while reducing costs and improving margins.