As the semester draws to a close and the holiday season approaches, I find myself reflecting on the tragic and immensely sad events of last week in Newtown, Connecticut. How can we respond in the face of such debilitating, devastating tragedy?
2012 President’s Blog
In my view, excellent advising is an intrinsic component of excellent teaching. A consistent theme expressed by our alumni and many current students in regard to their academic and career success is the commitment of our faculty to advising and mentoring them. Strong advising can be as important to undergraduate education as the curriculum itself. To the faculty who are actively engaged in improving advising I say, “Thank you very much” for your good work on this critical element of our teaching.
Building community together, developing friendships and relationships, and experiencing the joys of both giving and receiving support, are some of the most valuable parts of an education at the University of Rhode Island. We recently celebrated some of our most distinguished alumni in our Distinguished Achievement Awards ceremony. All of them spoke eloquently of the importance of the friendships and relationships formed at URI that had made, and still make, a difference in their lives.
We should intensify our efforts to promote and facilitate reasoned debate on America’s policy options. We should advocate strengthening the roles of critical analysis, scientific data, and accurate information in decision-making and policy development. And we should strive to build the kinds of communities on our campuses where discourse and debate are civil, responsible, and respectful.
This year’s Honors Colloquium, focused on health care, began with a talk by the celebrated author Tracy Kidder. Mr. Kidder spoke about his influential and moving book, Mountains Beyond Mountains, an examination of the life and work of Dr. Paul Farmer. Dr. Farmer has devoted himself to providing care and healing to some of our planet’s poorest people afflicted with HIV and tuberculosis.
What should make all of us at URI very proud are the generous and dedicated efforts of members of our community to make this happen. The partnership between South County Habitat for Humanity and URI developed in part through the determined efforts of Fran Noring (an Emeritus faculty member from the College of Human Science and Services). In honor of her years of service and advocacy, the street for the Old North Village Project has been named for her.
Sitting on my desk is a report entitled “The Competition that Really Matters. Comparing U.S., Chinese, and Indian Investments in the Next Generation Workforce.” It is a sobering, 100 page report from the Center for American Progress and the Center for the Next Generation. While in America we seem to be trapped by the “do more with less” mentality with regard to higher education, China and India have decided that it takes more to do more, and are rapidly increasing their investments in education at all levels.
Some might ask: Why is URI doing this? Doesn’t this represent an expansion of the University’s mission at a time when budgets are tight? Why should this be a priority? All fair questions. The question of why is relatively straightforward to answer: the need is substantial. Only a few percent of kids who reach 18 in foster care go to college.
Many of you have heard me say that one of the true highpoints (or summits) of my time as President of the University of Rhode Island has been getting to know the university’s alumni. Lynn and I had an unusual opportunity to meet more of our graduates when we hosted an event at our home in Bozeman, Montana.
The skills of critical reading and thinking, strong writing, and effective presentation are essential in practically any career. The ability to learn continuously, to teach oneself, are also more important than ever. Creativity, a strong work ethic, self-discipline, and teamwork have always been, and will continue to be, keys to success. All of our majors at the University of Rhode Island provide students the opportunities to develop these attributes.