Brittini R. Brown, Ph.D, an alumna of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff’s regulatory sciences program, grew up in Augusta. Throughout her formative years, there was no question of where she would one day enroll in college.
Attending UAPB led her down a successful career path, and now Brown is associate vice provost for student engagement and dean of students for Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
“My entire family went to UAPB – my mother, aunts and cousins, to name a few,” she said. “Not only was graduating from UAPB a family legacy, but it’s also a legacy of my hometown. Most Black teachers in Augusta also graduated from UAPB. So, it was never a question for me. I wanted to follow in the footsteps of my family and the teachers who shaped me.” Brown credits her guidance counselor, the late Gwendolyn Stevenson, with giving her invaluable advice that would shape her education at UAPB and future career. Stevenson suggested that she look into UAPB’s regulatory sciences program and also apply for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)/1890 National Scholars Program.
“Thanks to her advice, I applied for the scholarship program and was accepted,” Brown said. “The scholarship covered full tuition, fees, books and room and board. As part of the program, I gained experience at USDA internships every summer. Mrs. Stevenson was also right about the regulatory sciences program, which opened many doors for me.” During her education at the UAPB School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences, Brown most appreciated that faculty, staff and administrators knew the students by name and were actively involved in their education.
“For example, it meant a great deal that Dr. Jacquelyn McCray, who was then dean of the School, would check in on me and ask how things were going,” she said. “Then there were instructors such as Dorothy Holt who helped me set my goal of graduating with a 4.0 GPA.” Being a member of UAPB’s MANRRS Club (Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences) introduced Brown to the concept of postgraduate education. She would go on to earn a master’s degree in industrial and agricultural technology at Iowa State University and a doctoral degree in youth development and agricultural education at Purdue University.
After completing her master’s degree, Brown was hired as a program analyst — evaluation and assessment of food safety programs for USDA. During her employment, she received an unexpected job offer that would greatly shape her career.
“In government, you occasionally have the chance to do a ‘detail,’ which is essentially a professional development opportunity to work in another agency for a fixed amount of time,” Brown said. “One day, I received a call from someone in Arkansas who asked if I was at all interested in working with 1890 historically Black land-grant universities. Soon after, I learned that I was appointed as the interim director of the USDA/1890 National Initiative.” Brown suddenly found herself managing all the USDA liaisons employed at the nation’s 1890 land-grant universities. The group that reported to her included the late George Richardson, UAPB’s USDA/1890 Program liaison who knew and advised Brown during her studies at UAPB.
“The liaisons would get together and meet with me a few times a year,” Brown said. “Mr. Richardson would comment about me to his peers, ‘She used to be my student, and now she’s my boss.’ He was so proud that he showed me the way. It was truly rewarding to work with Mr. Richardson and the other liaisons in that capacity.” When she was interim director of the USDA/1890 Program, she worked with the presidents of 1890 land-grant universities to increase opportunities for minority and historically underserved students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.
“One of my favorite parts of the job was making calls to students who were accepted into the USDA/1890 National Scholars Program,” she said. “Getting to be the one to tell them that they had earned and would receive a full scholarship was very fulfilling, especially since the experience of receiving the scholarship years earlier was so life-changing for me.” Brown said a challenging aspect of government detail assignments is that they end.
“Once my assignment as interim director ended and I went back to being a program analyst, the job didn’t seem challenging enough,” she said. “Working with the 1890 universities brought me back into the world of higher education, and I realized I wanted to continue making a difference in the lives of students. My career goals were suddenly realigned.” Brown’s career in higher education began in 2013 at Purdue University, where she served as coordinator for HBCU outreach and later as coordinator of strategic planning, partnerships and development. In 2017, she began a seven-year career at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, where she served in a number of positions including associate vice president for student affairs and director for assessment, research and strategic priorities.
In July 2023, Brown was appointed associate vice provost for student engagement and dean of students for Johns Hopkins. In this role, she oversees student engagement and programming, student organizations and the student government association. She is also responsible for new student orientation, family engagement and civic engagement, which allows students to serve students and communities throughout the city of Baltimore.
“Johns Hopkins is well known throughout the world – the name alone draws students from all over the globe,” she said. “I want students to understand the value of a holistic student experience. This means not only learning in the classroom, but also engaging in civic service, meeting people of different backgrounds and joining student clubs. Enriching learning experiences occur when you take a step outside the classroom and outside your comfort zone and join the campus Bollywood Fusion Dance Team or perhaps the chess or Frisbee club.” She said one of her priorities is teaching students how to influence social change.
“For the last few years, media coverage has thrown protesting and the right to protest into public consciousness,” Brown said. “We want to educate students that while protest can occasionally be an effective tool, it is not the only way to make change. Sometimes change comes through voting, sometimes it comes through student government. My goal is to enhance dialogue between students and the community. We want to teach them to listen, articulate clearly and foster productive discussions.”
Will Hehemann is an extension specialist — communications at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences.