Anne Pedrero, Brown University commencement 1991 (left), and 2019 (right).
"Given how focused and diligent everyone is at Brown, it’s nice to have a place to pause and reflect and even make random connections. That’s the magic of Brown!"
Anne Pedrero ’91
Located in the newly built Stephen Robert ’62 Hall at 280 Brook Street, Anne's Café recently opened with the generous support of Brown University alumna and vice chair of the Watson Institute Board of Overseers, Anne Pedrero ’91. Pedrero recently sat down with Watson to discuss her time at Brown and the opening of the new café.
What did you study at Brown and how does that relate to your current work?
I studied International Relations at Brown. I chose a track, which was similar to development studies, called North-South Relations. I was particularly interested in trade and economic development especially in Latin America. Like many Brown students, I wanted to make a difference in the world. After graduation, I thought that I wanted to be in the foreign service or work for a policy organization, so I went to graduate school in International Affairs and worked on Capitol Hill. While in graduate school, I spent a year working on both my master’s thesis and for my family’s agribusiness company in Argentina, and I found that I really loved working for the business. I could see the far-reaching impact of investment, employment and growth in the communities where we operated. A lightbulb went off and I realized that business might be a more impactful way for me to make a difference. I loved thinking through challenges; the constant focus on improving results and processes and working with smart and dedicated people. I also saw the importance of culture in business: our business has strong guiding principles around doing the right thing, putting people ahead of profits, and always operating in an ethical manner. In the end, I chose a business path and received my MBA from Stanford Business School. By the time I returned to my family’s business, I had a fair amount of outside life and work experience.
After working directly for the business, and starting a family, I’ve moved toward more of a governance role within the business, and I have served on our corporate board for the past 7 years. We do business around the world in many challenging environments. My early interest in trade and development at Brown continues to this date, as I can see first-hand the impact of policies and international trade. I am so grateful for my Brown education as it taught me to take risks, to look at problems from different angles and to work collaboratively with others.
Could you describe some of your fondest memories of your time at Brown?
I was very happy all four years at Brown. One course that stood out to me was Professor Thomas Skidmore’s course, The History of Brazil. He was a top-notch Professor and the class was inspiring and fascinating - I felt like I went on a little trip to Brazil every time I was in his class. At Brown, I also loved how there were so many choices for activities, speakers, theater, sports and music – it was impossible to be bored! Most importantly, I made long-lasting friendships while at Brown. My core group of friends still stays in close touch even though we live all over the country and have busy lives. These friendships are a true gift in my life.
Anne's Cafe, 280 Brook Street
Why did you want to stay involved at Brown, and with the Watson Institute, as a member of the Board of Overseers?
Brown had such a positive impact on my life - staying involved came naturally. I was honored to be asked to join the Watson Board of Overseers, and today I serve as a vice-chair of the Board. When I first joined Watson’s Board, it had a lot of unrealized potential: a noble mission, excellent professors and staff and a beautiful building, but it was going through a transition and redevelopment period. When Christina Paxson agreed to come to Brown as President of the University, she saw the tremendous potential of Watson and took charge of our Director search. She convinced Rick Locke to join Brown as Watson’s Director. Rick hit the ground running with his leadership, work ethic, and focus on a clear strategy for the future. This led to growth and a reinvigoration of Watson’s core mission: to promote a just and peaceful world through research, teaching, and public engagement. Watson fine-tuned its focus areas of governance, security and development, new professors were recruited, and we merged with the Taubman Center and added Public Affairs to the Institute’s scope. In addition, a post-doctoral studies program was created and tremendous fundraising was achieved to support the organization’s future. Rick did such a wonderful job that he became Brown’s Provost and recruited another excellent leader in Ed Steinfeld. For me, Watson combines my past and present interests. It is a treasure at Brown, in terms of the quality of research and teaching, as well as its offering to the community of weekly events and speakers. Brown is known for the strength of its interdisciplinary studies and that is at the core of Watson in the way that it brings so many top academics and practitioners together.
Why did you think it was important that the Watson Institute’s new building, Stephen Robert Hall, include a café?
My husband, Rob, and I really believed that a cafe was important as a community gathering spot in the new building. Other than the Ratty, there aren’t a lot of options on that side of campus. I love the idea that the cafe could be a nice spot for professors to take a break from their offices, and a draw for students to visit Watson or stay after a class or event. Given how focused and diligent everyone is at Brown, it’s nice to have a place to pause and reflect and even make random connections. That’s the magic of Brown! Coffee and conversation are key to building community and sharing thoughts and ideas.
Also, when I was at Brown in the late 80s and early 90s, my friends and I were regulars at Ruby’s Cafe, which was a tiny diner on Thayer Street where the Watson Institute is today. My sophomore year, I lived in the grad center and Ruby’s was the perfect spot to stop for coffee, a salad or their amazing grilled banana bread. I have such fond memories of that time in my life!
--Elise Ryan '21
Open weekdays 8:00 am-3:00 pm
Located in Stephen Robert ’62 Hall at 280 Brook Street