When we are confronted by the uncertainty and fragility of our lives, fear, resentment, and anger can emerge. Words are more readily misinterpreted, actions misconstrued, and mistrust becomes reflexive. The growing political and social divides in our nation can inflame our discontent and weaken the bonds that hold us together.
The following text is from a talk I gave at the Providence Business News Excellence Awards last night, where I was the keynote speaker. The talk appeared to be well received and some suggested that posting it here would be worthwhile, so here it is.
As important as science and engineering are to URI, the university has a much broader and equally important mission that encompasses the humanities, the social sciences, and the arts. The University of Rhode Island is concerned with educating our students to become the well-informed, thoughtful citizens they need to be amidst the substantial challenges of the 21st century.
At times, and all too frequently it seems to me, we are forced to part with members of our community far too early, and far too tragically. So it was again this summer, with the passing of Mario Rousseau – a truly remarkable young man who, through his leadership in BOND and in numerous other ways, had made a significant impact on the lives of many members of the URI community, and on the university as a whole. His life mattered. His life still matters.
I was the commencement speaker for Rocky Hill School in East Greenwich last week. Terrific students, all of whom will be attending college. It was suggested that I post the speech somewhere on the URI website, so here it is.
Whether it’s overseeing the enormous and critical facilities and grounds operations of the university, supporting one of URI’s largest departments, brilliantly teaching generations of students, or establishing oneself as an innovative, wide-ranging author/scholar, the URI Foundation’s Excellence Award winners have benefitted us all.
May 6, 2015 will be a day long remembered and celebrated in the history of the University of Rhode Island. On that day a five-year journey involving advocacy, planning, and construction culminated in the grand opening of the Gender and Sexuality Center at URI. It was a day of hopes fulfilled, of faith realized, and hard work rewarded. It was a day of joy, of celebration, and of community. I believe that everyone who attended was inspired and convinced that the people of the University of Rhode Island, working together, can accomplish great things.
This innovative and important campus event was organized and carried out by students. The DIVE RI Conference sought to promote intercultural competence and inclusion on college campuses through a variety of workshops and discussions. The conference was designed to educate student leaders on the importance of racial and ethnic identity and to empower students by exposing them to diverse perspectives.
Over 600 students participated in J-term 2015, a 50% increase over last year – and this is only its second year. The term included 29 “in-person” classes on campus, and 17 travel courses. The top reasons cited by students for taking a J-term course this year: to catch up or get ahead on progress to their degree; interest in a specific course being offered; looking for a opportunity to challenge themselves; and to develop new skills. All of these are great reasons.
As I write this, it is snowing again in Rhode Island, to absolutely no one’s surprise, and to Rhody’s continuing delight. In short, a good time to read and write, something University of Rhode Island students do a lot. Two articles appeared within a few days of each other in February that caught my attention: “The Rich Man’s Dropout Club”, by Beth McMurtrie in the Chronicle of Higher Education, and “Bachelor’s degrees lead to employment and more training”, by Paul Fain, in Inside Higher Education.