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Barrett Hazeltine: Brown’s Most Beloved Professor

Tuesday, September 07, 2010


Barrett Hazeltine, PhD is one of Brown University's most popular and busiest professors... a near-legend to legions of graduates. 

A faculty member at Brown University since 1959, Hazeltne teaches courses in management and in engineering and has also served as Associate Dean of the College. While the list of his achievements is one of the most impressive around (and can be found here), it does not fully emcompass his positive impact on campus with students, alums, and other faculty alike.

“Professor Hazeltine has touched the lives of so many Brown students over the years," said John Stamler, Brown University alum and investment professional at Wayzata Investment Partners "I always looked forward to attending Professor Hazeltine’s classes knowing they would be thought provoking, interesting and challenging. His passion for his subject and commitment to all of his students made him extra special. He is a true asset to Brown University.”

This view is quite common actually, just ask any Brown student or alum; many of them will tell you that their favorite professor is Barrett Hazeltine.

GoLocalProv: Firstly, what do you think has made you such a popular member of the Brown community? 

Hazeltine: The response called for, of course, is that I did not realize I was popular. A sage once commented that the secret of life is “to outlive your tormentors.” Sorry I cannot be more helpful.

GoLocalProv: What do you think about the relationship between Brown University and the Rhode Island community?

Hazeltine: Do you know the expression “Where you sit determines where you stand?” The Mayor thinks Brown is not paying its fair share. Shop owners prosper on Brown student spending. Some of my neighbors are worried about noise from student apartments. Local landlords worry that not enough Brown students live off campus. I know lack of parking around Thayer Street is important to some people but Thayer Street would not be so attractive if Brown students did not support the shops there. (I ride a bike so parking is easy.)  I think relationships are actually fairly good. Local people go to lectures and athletic events. Many Brown students are doing useful things in the community. I cannot remember a snide remark about Brown students from non-Brown friends.

GoLocalProv: What do you think could be improved? 

Hazeltine: One improvement would be a more active mechanism for enabling Brown students to do internships or similar activities in the community. A great educational resource is being neglected.

GoLocalProv: What has kept you here? What do you like about this place? Both Brown and Rhode Island? 

Hazeltine: I like Brown students because they are concerned, passionate, and want to be helpful. I like my faculty colleagues because they are stimulating and supportive. I also like Brown because it is flexible, allowing faculty members like myself to move into unfamiliar fields of study. I like Providence and Rhode Island for the standard reason - it is big enough to offer the attractions of a city but small enough to be a community. I like to be able to walk to the RISD museum or to Brown athletic events. I like seeing people I know, a former US senator, for example, on the street. 

GoLocalProv: Paul Krasinski, Chief Operating Officer of Ando Media LLC, and one of the founders of GoLocal is quoted saying, "Barrett Hazeltine has a unique ability to engage a classroom with his passion and energy for the subject matter. I remember each day leaving the classroom and spinning on how to best solve the case, never wanting to let Barrett down in class. Possibly more importantly than his energy in the auditorium, his ability to truly connect personally with each and every student differently is a gift. Not only would he know your name, but your interests and could tailor his conversation to what was important to you.  And that, is a sign of leadership.  We all felt important and I thank Barrett for that, even today."

Clearly this view is not only felt by Krasinski, how are you able to personally connect with just about every student that you come across? 

Hazeltine: It is very kind of Paul to say such nice things. Brown has an atmosphere where students want to connect. Brown students have done, or are doing, remarkable things. It is really exciting to discover these interests and accomplishments.  Listening to passionate people is underestimated as a learning experience.

GoLocalProv: It is clear that you inspire many students on campus, but what inspires you? 

Hazeltine: Probably many things but the success of students is certainly one. A former student called yesterday to say (I am simplifying) that he is leaving his job as an investment banker to go to Tanzania and observe alternative energy projects. I am inspired when I see what Charlie Kroll has done with Andera or Clay Rockefeller with The Steelyard.

GoLocalProv: What was your most memorable experience at Brown? 

Hazeltine: There are too many to select one. Certainly on the list was the last class in May, 1977, when, after being detained by a student, I walked into Engin 90 to see everyone in the class wearing a T-shirt with my picture and a favorite remark. Seeing the new curriculum passed was another. Being part of the first TWP was certainly memorable—impossible to explain how different Brown and the United States were then. 

GoLocalProv: What is the most valuable piece of advice that anyone has ever given you?

Hazeltine: An Assistant Dean at the University of Michigan, when I was a graduate student, told me to take the job at Brown. In the academic world you can only go down so start off high - if you do not like where you are, you can move. Coming from Brown could open doors.

GoLocalProv: What piece of advice do you have for students today?

Hazeltine: Don’t forget that you will probably live another 75 years so no need to settle in on one thing now. Especially in the United States, you can change jobs and careers at 25, at 35, at 45, even at 55. Some things are easier to do when you are 22, without a house, mortgage, young children, than at 32.

GoLocalProv: Thank you for giving us your time today, Professor.

Hazeltine: You’re welcome. Thank you for thinking of me. Best wishes.


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