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The Scarlet & Black

Brown appointed Director of Intercultural Strategic Analysis and Engagement

Narren Brown had been serving as the Interim Director since May 1, 2013. Photo by Oanh Vu.
Narren Brown had been serving as the Interim Director since May 1, 2013. Photo by Oanh Vu.

On Nov. 1, Narren Brown was announced as the new Director of the Office of Intercultural Engagement and Leadership (OIEL).

Since May 1, 2013, Brown had been acting as the Interim Director of the Office, after previous director Michael Benitez announced his plans to depart at the end of the semester. His official title will be Director of Intercultural Strategic Analysis and Engagement.

Brown, who holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership and policy studies from Iowa State University, believes his academic background, in conjunction with his lived experiences and identification as man of color, will serve him well for this position. Although he does not have formal diversity or social justice training, he believes that he will be able to effectively serve in his position regardless.

Poonam Arora, who was appointed as Associate Dean of the College for Diversity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer in July 2013 has been working closely with Brown since her arrival on campus and feels he has exhibited a clear understanding of and sensitivity to several of the issues surrounding diversity on Grinnell’s campus.

“He can speak to [students], he can address them in a way that [shows that] he understands what they’re going through,” Arora said. “He has the empathy that we need in that position.”

Moving forward, Brown expects to bring about improvement in several key areas. In his position as Interim Director, one of Brown’s tasks was to oversee the Peer Connections Pre-Orientation Program (PCPOP); while he thought that the 2013 program was successful, he aims to bring improvements to next year’s program. Significantly, Brown hopes to facilitate communication and dialogue between students and the administration.

“One of the things that is still probably haunting this office is communication and though I think I’ve done a lot to improve it … I’ve still got a long way to go,” Brown said. “We want to help spark engagement with the institution, but we also want to help develop the students as leaders.”

As the Director of Intercultural Strategic Analysis and Engagement, Brown’s position also requires him to analyze student feedback from different events, especially surrounding various aspects of diversity. Engaging in statistical analysis is expected to enable the College to better identify and subsequently address issues surrounding diversity.

Moving from Interim Director to Director, Brown foresees several more opportunities for affecting change, including increased programming that encourages and supports diversity on campus. One idea was to organize poetry nights for men of color.

Officially installed in a permanent role, Brown feels he will be positioned to start making these changes happen.

“In a lot of ways my hands were tied as the Interim Director, [I’d] fix what I could, but I didn’t want to provide a structure for someone else who might come in and be the director,” Brown said. “Now I can really start hammering on that structure,” Brown said.

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