Founding Director Receives Presidential Award of Excellence

Donna Brown, Ph.D.The Presidential Award of Excellence recognizes outstanding performance in a position and significant dedication to—and concern for—the University of New Hampshire community. Donna Brown, Ph.D., former Director of the Hamel Center for Undergraduate Research, dedicated her professional life to serving the University of New Hampshire, and was awarded the Presidential Award of Excellence in 2010. (You may read the official announcement here.)

Beginning with her arrival at UNH in 1972, Donna learned the strengths and needs of this University, first as a lecturer in the political science department and later as an assistant dean in the College of Liberal Arts and a coordinator for the interdisciplinary humanities program. Seeing the University vertically, from departments through colleges, she intuited and then researched how well the university could be served by a more horizontal perspective, a university-wide undergraduate research program. In 1987 (at a time when relatively few universities sponsored such programs), Donna became the founding director of the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), which that year funded a modest total of 28 students. In 1997 Donna and Prof. Cathy Frierson of the Center for International Education (CIE) submitted a proposal to the U.S. Department of Education, and the International Research Opportunities Program (IROP) was born, a first-in-the nation program that has thrived long past the expiration of the three-year federal grant. Forging alliances, working tirelessly, and staying on message, Donna built a domestic and international program that has, to date, funded 1600 undergraduates and attracted significant contributions from major donors.

In 2006 UROP became the Hamel Center for Undergraduate Research, thanks to a generous endowment from Dana Hamel. The Hamel Center provides a range of opportunities for students and faculty from all disciplines to exchange ideas and support each other. As director of the Hamel Center, Donna advertised UNH to the country and the world through presentations at many national and international conferences along with the initiation of an online undergraduate research journal, Inquiry, the only online undergraduate research journal among New England land-grant universities. (

A careful administrator and meticulous steward of UNH’s resources, both human and financial, Donna still found time to advise individual students on how best to write a research proposal, and to attend the research presentations that without her would never have existed. Few have done more, single-handedly, through a lifetime’s dedicated service, to unite the teaching and research missions of the University of New Hampshire. She retired from the University of New Hampshire in December 2010 and is sorely missed by of all her friends and colleagues at UNH.