About the Brown Institute

Established in 2012, the David and Helen Gurley Brown Institute is a collaboration between Columbia University and Stanford University, designed to encourage and support new endeavors in media innovation. At Stanford, the primary focus is on media technology, and the Institute is anchored in the School of Engineering. At Columbia, the primary focus is on content, and the Institute is anchored in the Graduate School of Journalism.

To achieve its goals, the Brown Institute operates as an academic venture forum. Once per year, we invite the Columbia and Stanford communities to submit proposals for Magic Grants. We look for ideas that are original and have the potential to bring true innovation in the media world. Typically, a Magic Grant supports a small team of graduate students or postgraduates who are expected to demonstrate the relevance and viability of their ideas by implementing a prototype or creating an innovative media product. Successful projects might continue as business ventures outside the universities.

The Institute also awards fellowships; Brown Fellows are postgraduate or graduate students who support the Institute together with their peers and the directors, while working towards engineering prototypes, creating innovative media products, or carrying out related research. Brown Fellows are appointed annually for the academic year; their terms can be renewed.

The Institute was established in 2012 with a generous endowment gift from longtime Cosmopolitan magazine editor and author Helen Gurley Brown. It is inspired by the memory of Ms. Brown’s late husband, David Brown, a graduate of both Stanford University and the Columbia School of Journalism. David Brown, who along with partners Richard Zanuck and Steven Spielberg created such classic American films as Driving Miss Daisy, The Verdict and Jaws, was also a former journalist, publisher and, late in his career, a stage producer whose credits included the musicals Sweet Smell of Success and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

At Stanford, the Institute is led by Prof. Maneesh Agrawala. At Columbia, the Institute is led by Prof. Mark Hansen.

In addition to its founding endowment, funding for the Brown Institute is also provided by the Pussycat Foundation, the Stephen Birnbaum Foundation, PBS FRONTLINE, the Collaboratory at Columbia University, the Sloan Foundation, Microsoft Research, Lila Gault and Bill Arp, The Fledgling Fund, and Richard Witten. The Brown Institute is serving as an incubator for the Columbia Journalism School’s Local News Initiative funded by the Dolan Family Foundation. Project funding for the individual work of Professor Mark Hansen comes from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.