'It's academic' for Dorothy Brown

Hang around Dorothy Brown for a while, and you're bound to hear her say, "It is what it is." She's even got a sign with the phrase in her office in Suite 404.

What it is when it comes to Brown is a no-nonsense, straight-talking, savvy, and funny administrator. Those adjectives aren't often used in combination to describe an administrator and tax lawyer, but Brown is anything but typical. She's got a broad swath of experience as a Wall Street investment banker, U.S. law clerk, political appointee to HUD, law professor at three universities, and, yes, an administrator. Currently she is vice provost of academic affairs and professor of law at Emory.

Brown quotes the late Amy Winehouse in describing her first response to an offer to work in administration: no, no, no. Previously she served as associate dean for research at Washington and Lee, and she thought, "quite frankly, once was enough." But the opportunity to work on all facets of the academic life of the university made her change her mind.

Brown -- who holds a JD and LLM (tax) -- nurtures the intellectual life of Emory faculty all the way from recruitment through emeritus status. She oversees the Center for Faculty Development and Excellence, Center for Women, Center for Community Partnerships, Equal Opportunity Program, and the Emeritus College.

"Throughout my career, I've always been interested in issues of higher education," Brown says, "but never more so than now when higher education is undergoing a significant transformation."

When she's not working on academic affairs, Brown can be found in the classroom, teaching a class on tax law or a seminar on race and law. "I enjoy teaching," she says. "It's the one part of my job that I would do for free."