Welcome to 2016

The spring semester of the 2015-16 academic year is off to a great start. It even feels a bit like spring lately. Although the new year has barely begun, there are already multiple, notable achievements to celebrate. Here are a few.

January Term continued its explosive growth: 860 students, more than double J-term’s first-year enrollment of 404. There were 42 on-campus courses, and 14 travel programs. International travel for students was assisted by funding from the Carnegie Foundation. 185 students, a substantial increase over last year, participated.

The new Academic Strategic Plan was completed and published. Copies are available or see http://web.uri.edu/academic-planning/files/academic_plan_handbook.pdf. The theme is “Innovation with Impact”, and the ambitious plan reflects the best concepts and ideas of faculty, students, and staff. This plan, which is a living, flexible, and adaptable guide, will enable the University of Rhode Island community to craft a better and brighter future for the university, our state, and the nation. It will also assist us in attaining our goals related to global engagement international collaboration.

This year’s Academic Summit, just concluded last week, focused on defining and exploring innovative new ideas associated with the Strategic Plan. A total of 253 people attended, comprised mainly of faculty. Four “big ideas” were selected by the participants to receive initial funding for further development: (1) humanities at work in the world; (2) student networks for professional development; (3) a new school of languages, cultures, and global studies; and (4) the URI teaching collaborative to foster innovative instruction. All of these align closely with our transformational goals for the University of Rhode Island.

In addition, the University of Rhode Island is aggressively pursuing the expansion of the full-time faculty; 66 searches are currently underway, with 31 positions associated with the new faculty hiring initiative, and three more are part of the “cluster hire” in data analytics/big data. The Richard E. Beaupre Center for the Chemical and Forensic Sciences is nearing completion, the construction of the Nursing Education Center in Providence is underway, the design of the new engineering complex is proceeding, and the master planning process for the transformation of the campus of the Graduate School of Oceanography has begun.

2016 will bring new leadership to the University of Rhode Island. Searches are underway for the Vice President for Student Affairs, the Dean of the College of Nursing, and the first Dean for the College of Health Sciences. Dr. Paula Grammas, the Thomas M. Ryan Professor of Neuroscience brings outstanding research capabilities and an entrepreneurial, collaborative approach to URI as the founding director of the George & Anne Ryan Institute for Neuroscience.

With these achievements and so much momentum, I think this will be another outstanding year for URI. It is the faculty, the staff, and our students that make all of these steps possible. Thank you!