Josiah H. Brown is the inaugural executive director of the statewide Connecticut CASA organization, part of the national CASA movement for children who have experienced abuse or neglect and are in need of court-appointed special advocates. Prior, he was the first associate director of the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute. He worked with New Leaders for a summer during its start-up and was responsible for researching prospective partner cities

Below he shares how his involvement with Dwight Hall and his affinity for Yale and New Haven helped shape his life. 

Why Yale?
The residential colleges, faculty attention to undergraduate teaching, and Yale's location in an urban setting with a community scale all appealed to me. 

What is your most enduring memory of your time at Yale? 
As a history major, I was grateful to learn from Professor David Brion Davis in a seminar (where fellow students happened to include Rhiannon Patterson, daughter of renowned Harvard Professor Orlando Patterson, one of whose books we read in that seminar). It was also memorable to be in Professor David Montgomery's own discussion section, as well as in his larger course on labor history.

If you could relive your time at Yale, what would you do differently?
I might have made a greater effort to meet students outside of my classes and residential college (Morse). Subsequent reunions have provided an occasion to meet classmates I would have welcomed getting to know earlier.

What would you do exactly the same?
I would participate again in Directed Studies, which offered not only an intense academic experience but also a way to meet students across Yale College through that shared experience. Several of them remain friends today.

What is your favorite place in New Haven, past or present? 
I proposed to my wife on the top of East Rock, a dozen years after I graduated and two years after returning to New Haven.

What is your favorite spot on campus?
At the center of Old Campus, Dwight Hall is a place of particular significance, in relation to my extracurricular interests and subsequent engagement with good people, the New Haven community, and career path. Aesthetically, Beinecke Library is a favorite quiet indoor space.

What's your favorite pizza place in New Haven?
A favorite is Yorkside, where my family has enjoyed many meals – including before attending Yale basketball games nearby!

Who is another Yalie who inspires you? Why?
One among many is Earl Martin Phalen ’89,  a serial social entrepreneur, most recently leader of the turnaround schools named for his (adoptive) parents, as well as a founder of other educational organizations such as BellXcel.  A Yale BA graduate in Political Science who played varsity basketball, he received a 2014 Silver Anniversary Award from the NCAA 25 years after his graduation. Earl also happens to be a member of Connecticut CASA's Advisory Council.

What have you gained from your alumni engagement with Yale?
Josiah on Reunion panelI have enjoyed seeing old friends and meeting new ones at reunions, including regular on-campus events, as well as a collective 50th birthday party we held in NYC in early 2020, weeks before Covid-19 precluded such gatherings for a year.

As a Saybrook associate fellow/college adviser for 15 years, I've enjoyed meeting dozens of Yale undergraduates from all over, with many disciplinary interests. Yale has an even more inclusive, international, and excellent student population than was true decades ago.

Steve Blum and colleagues have impressively built STAY and Cross Campus, through which I have had the opportunity to meet additional students and to reconnect with fellow alums like OrLando Yarborough ’10 Ph.D. and Patricia Melton ’83.

Similarly, Dwight Hall has held various productive events that convene alumni, students, and staff with community, public service, and social justice areas of focus.

How did your time at Yale shape the person you are today?
Yale fueled my inclinations as a lifelong learner, as the coursework and academic community were fertile ground for deepening knowledge, curiosity, and ways of knowing. I received valuable mentoring and made some great friends as well as numerous friendly acquaintances, from whom I continue to learn.

Through Dwight Hall activities and a senior-year internship in the local office of a Congresswoman, then in her first term and now a senior Member of Congress, I began connecting to the New Haven community and to a range of public issues with which I remain engaged.

Finally, my affinity for New Haven shaped my decision to return a decade after graduating. Then I met my wife, and we remain here raising our family two decades after that!

What is your hope for the future of the Yale alumni community?
Josiah at ReunionsI hope that through initiatives such as STAY, Cross Campus, 1stGenYale, etc. as well as individual actions, students and alumni can continue engaging fruitfully with one another and the broader world – including alumni on all continents. We can strive to fulfill the potential for, as the University's mission describes, Yale to prepare additional “aspiring leaders worldwide who serve all sectors of society.” 

What advice would you give to current students? 
Academically, balance large lecture courses with smaller ones, including seminars, and seek out professors during their office hours. Explore potential internships, in New Haven and beyond, in advance. Don't hesitate to ask faculty members and others (e.g., residential college advisers like me) for advice and introductions. Develop a LinkedIn profile. Complement such academic and pre-professional priorities with fun, extracurricular opportunities with friends. Make adequate sleep, health, and well-being an additional priority. Cultivate gratitude for where you are, all you have, and how you can help.

How would you answer? Share your responses with the YAA and they might be featured in an upcoming edition of "Getting to Know You." 

And be sure to check out all the Q&As in the series by visiting our Getting to Know You page.

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