As I write this, it is my privilege to actually be in India, where I am participating in a regional scientific conference at the TIFR (Tata Institute for Fundamental Research) in Mumbai. I have already written about the importance and impact of scientific conferences with international participation, and those observations are relevant to this conference as well.
Lynn and I recently celebrated our first homecoming at URI. The weekend culminated in the presentation of the Distinguished Achievement Awards, one of the most enjoyable and inspiring events that I have participated in since coming to Rhode Island. The night celebrated the achievements of many alumni from all across the university, and I could not help but be amazed at their commitment to excellence, their dedication to making a difference in our world and what they had accomplished.
Teaching and research have been an important part of my life since I was an undergraduate at UCSD. In fact, the initial attraction for me to become a professor began at UCSD when I was engaged in both undergraduate research and served as a teaching assistant for a first-year laboratory in chemistry.
On Wednesday night I met with the Student Senate of URI for the first time. I was very impressed; they are a dedicated, thoughtful, and articulate group of student leaders, who clearly care about the University and what’s best for students. We met to talk about some of the issues, opportunities, and challenges that we might face, or will likely have to deal with, in the near future.
During move-in weekend, Lynn and I met many parents and students from outside the state who were attracted by the quality and value of a URI education. In many disciplines, URI has a national reputation for excellence and faculty who are renowned among their peers. URI has a strong reputation for a high-quality intercollegiate athletics program – our teams compete hard and our student athletes perform well both in their classes and their sports.
I look forward to meeting many of you and your families as you move in and at our first home football game this weekend. You have made an excellent choice to pursue your future at URI. Our faculty and staff will work diligently and enthusiastically to help our newest students, whether entering higher education for the first time or transferring to URI to continue their studies.
Over the past week or so, I have seen and heard the hopes expressed that URI can continue to provide the opportunities for students to pursue their goals and simultaneously to expand its research activities. As I shared with the Providence Chamber of Commerce, the South Kingstown Chamber of Commerce, and many others, fulfilling these hopes is the heart of URI’s mission and a critical contribution to building a better economic future for the people of Rhode Island.
We made it! Lynn and I have been looking forward to this day since May – the day not only we, but also Rhody and our moving van, arrived in Kingston. And August 13th was the day. We enjoyed our trip from Montana, with its opportunities to visit family and friends and see parts of the country that we had never visited.
In many ways the world is already present in our state: Rhode Island is now, and has been for many years, a destination of choice for immigrants. I think this represents an important continuing opportunity for URI and Rhode Island. Events like the international meetings I just attended remind me that talent, inspiration, ambition, and the commitment to improve the quality of our lives are not restricted by geography, ethnicity, culture, or religion.
In my experience, the people of URI and Rhode Island are exceptional. I am delighted with the abilities and dedication of the leadership team, and the faculty, staff, and students of URI that I have met so far. Moreover, the alumni, supporters, and friends of URI are also impressive and encouraging. Everyone appears ready to embrace the future, willing, even eager, to facilitate change and to work cooperatively to build a better tomorrow.