Renee Brown is grateful to be leading what she loves. In late November, she stepped into her role as DePaul’s Chief Executive Officer after an extensive search process that included candidates from across the nation. When asked why she felt called to consider being DePaul’s CEO, Renee’s answer was simple.
“The people in and around DePaul and their passion and belief in our mission of hope and belonging,” said Renee.
Throughout her life, Renee’s path has crossed with the populations served and loved by DePaul. As a child, Renee watched as her mother, who held a Master of Social Work degree, made it her mission to help others. When she was 7 years old, Renee’s family adopted her younger brother.
“I grew up knowing that not all children had forever families and that love transcends biology,” said Renee.
As a teenager, she babysat children with special needs.
“I realized that their parents faced barriers just to find quality care,” said Renee.
Years later, she became the guardian of her son’s best friend as his mother faced significant mental illness and went through cycles of hospitalizations, changing housing, and financial strain.
“He was the first person in his family to graduate from high school; my family and his family were there together to celebrate his accomplishment,” said Renee. “What this showed me is that with support, even parents facing their own challenges can maintain healthy and positive relationships with their children—and that children who have experienced neglect can thrive in their communities when provided a village of caring individuals.”
Renee’s career journey includes working at her local community services board for years, currently serving on the Family Focused Treatment Association Board, and spending seven years as DePaul’s Vice President of Child and Family Services. Renee’s life, both personally and professionally, is shaped by her belief that love, care, compassion, inclusion, and support can change lives and change communities. In this way, she seems uniquely qualified to lead DePaul into the future.
“One of my hopes for DePaul is to increase the awareness of our work and to invite our communities to partner with us,” said Renee. “My dream is that we create a surge of energy and action that results in less children needing to enter foster care, the normalizing of the use of mental health and substance abuse services, the integration of those with a disability into every facet of our communities, and the creation of a world where every person has a forever family. My hope for myself is that I listen well, lead in a way that inspires others, and always remember to be grateful.”