Meet assistant dean Thomas Browne

As we celebrate Black History Month, we also want to celebrate members of our CALS community making history and a difference now and in the future.

Meet Thomas Browne!

What department do you work with? What is your position? 

I am an Assistant Dean in the Office of Academic Affairs in CALS. I am the Supervisor for the Recruitment, Retention, and Inclusion unit. 

How long have you been at UW? 

I have been at UW-Madison as an employee since June 2000, but did all of my undergraduate and graduate work here, so other than a few years of working as a high school Guidance Counselor, I have been associated with UW as a student or employee since 1987.

What are you most proud of in your work? 

I am most proud of being in a position to be an advocate, resource and support for many individuals to serve whatever needs they bring to the table. I am gratified that I have made a good faith effort to let students, but also faculty and staff, know that I care about their circumstances and will do whatever is in my power to aid. Specifically in CALS, I believe we have made progress in raising the profile of diversity, equity and inclusion, and I would like to think I played a role in that.

How has your identity shaped the work that you do? 

It was always a goal of mine to be an advisor, counselor, or teacher; some kind of role in the education system that would allow me to use my position or influence to help create a better experience for those I served. Most of this is because my experiences growing up in school, where I spent a great deal of my time, was not always positive, and I am mindful of how perceptions and structural systems played into this. However, I very much remember those individuals who took a direct interest in my well-being and provided encouragement along the way. Although not all of these people were Black, I recognize the power and role model potential I have as someone who beat the odds for those who might feel undervalued or marginalized by their race, gender or other identity-based affiliations. I want to spend time in these outreach spaces to provide that level of encouragement, and educational settings are my chosen vocation because these are places, although not the only ones, where disparities often take place and future outcomes are formed. 

In what ways can people help celebrate diversity? 

People can help celebrate diversity by taking the time ON THEIR OWN to learn more about an ethnicity or culture, and spend time in proximity getting to see and touch people and build relationships. There are a lot of community-based organizations and groups in the Madison area that have engagement opportunities. Giving time and resources to support these activities are great, but not being a stumbling block through creating artificial barriers until a person is “brought up to speed” is probably even more impactful. Part of the fatigue generated for those who do this work is the resistance, sometimes active but often passive, where time and energy is spent trying to “explain” the reasons why diversity is important for all of us. Please understand that meaningful culture and climate change can only be achieved by everyone playing a role. We see glimpses, but have not completely achieved this. But, I have hope.