Brown Reports on Past Year’s Progress, Announces Thrive Scholarship

In his annual State of the College and Conservatory address, delivered in late November, President Roger Brown reflected on the past year’s progress following a difficult moment for Berklee. He also shared an exciting new initiative to help students realize their full creative and academic potential.

Brown began by reminding faculty and staff of the events surrounding last year’s address, which unexpectedly became the site of student protests and sparked important discussions about sexual assault on campus. Since that watershed, Brown said, Berklee has worked to address the issue on several fronts: It has created a campuswide working group to examine the problem and developed strengthened policies that cover everything from how to deal with reports of sexual assault to what relationships Berklee considers inappropriate. Brown also emphasized Berklee’s commitment to empowering women, and cited the elevation of women into leadership positions and the formation of the Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice as examples.

Brown spoke about “using our common creativity and artistry as the vehicle for change, influence, and inspiration,” adding that “each one of us has a role to play.” Berklee, he said, is committed to improving the experiences of its female students by providing increased training for faculty and staff on subjects such as sexual harassment and assault.

The second half of Brown’s address turned to other challenges Berklee faces, particularly affordability, which Brown called the institution’s “Achilles’ heel.” Although graduation rates have risen appreciably over the past several years, many students still are not able to complete their degrees due to financial reasons. Brown pointed out several ways in which Berklee is working to cut costs for students, including adding more online courses and allowing students to receive more credits by exam. He also pointed to a 450 percent jump in scholarships since 2004, but acknowledged that sometimes the current resources aren’t enough. “What do we do to get better?” he asked.

One answer is the Thrive Scholarship, a new initiative aimed at helping upper-semester students at the College receive the support they need to finish their academic course work without undue financial strain. The scholarship, which Brown announced at the address, is one part of a three-pronged initiative to support students as fully as possible during their time at Berklee. The other aspects of the strategy include strengthening Berklee’s approach to advising and expanding student health and wellness offerings to support current students, and preparing students for sustainable and successful careers. The Berklee Career Center has increased its on-campus programming and the number of internships offered for academic credit, and has launched a new Career Communities website to provide students with more resources as they consider different career paths.

To be eligible for the Thrive Scholarship, students must demonstrate academic achievement and financial need, and have a workable plan in place to manage their commitments in both areas. In December, 76 students at the College were notified that they qualify for the Thrive Scholarship and were awarded an average annual grant of $17,846. Berklee will focus its fundraising efforts on financial support for both College and conservatory students, and look for ways to trim its budget next year to funnel more dollars toward student financial aid.

For more on the Thrive Scholarship, see