This spring, like all the springs in prior years, it was a real privilege for me to attend the Rainville Awards, the Diversity Awards, the student-athlete awards, and many other events that celebrated the contributions and achievements of our students. You are an amazing group, just like the classes that preceded you at the University of Rhode Island.
The ways in which we teach and engage students with the liberal arts must necessarily adapt. John Dewey presciently observed: “If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.” The global context should be at the forefront of our pedagogical strategies. Many entering students sense that a global perspective is important in areas such as economics, political science, and history, but may be less aware of the connections and impacts in other domains important to their studies, their lives, and their futures.
The University of Rhode Island is moving assertively to provide an even better education for its students at the graduate and undergraduate levels. For example, the Academic Strategic Plan, with its emphases on experiential learning, internships, research and scholarship, globalization, diversity, and community provides an outstanding framework for the future. The faculty has been working diligently and productively to frame and implement a much needed new general education program.
At an event of Martin Luther King, Jr. Week last evening, the following quote of Dr. King appeared: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” This is a true statement, I believe. Injustice is certainly the enemy of justice; it is also the enemy of peace, community, equality, and even sustained prosperity.
There is a lot to do, much to discuss, multiple opportunities, and a few key challenges – all of which must be priorities for the University community between now and commencement. There will be many occasions for us to work together as a community in public forums, in committee or council meetings, in small group discussions, and via technology. There are significant issues to address: the question of arming the URI police; evaluation, prioritization, and implementation of recommendations from the Administration and Management Review Committee; the budget; collective bargaining; and more.
One of highlights of this year’s Distinguished Achievement Awards ceremony on October 25th was the presentation to Toray Plastics (America) of the President’s Corporate Award. This award was created to honor exceptional corporate partners of the University of Rhode Island. TPA is a major Rhode Island manufacturer, a major supporter of URI, and a company that annually provides numerous internships for our students and has many URI alumni within its ranks.
One might reasonably ask: “What would “transformation” actually look like? Thanks to the events of this past week, we have another excellent example of a truly transformational step for URI. The visionary gift of $15 million from Tom and Cathy Ryan to create the George & Anne Ryan Institute for Neuroscience has set the University of Rhode Island on an entirely different trajectory.
The University of Rhode Island is just completing its 17th Diversity Week, and our efforts towards building a diverse community are a timely example how “never let the perfect be the enemy of the good” can work effectively in practice. Our goal is to build a broadly diverse community where every member is welcomed, affirmed, respected, and supported.
The University of Rhode Island and CVS/Caremark Corporation celebrated our long-standing partnership last week in the new College of Pharmacy building. It was abundantly clear throughout the festivities that this has been an enormously productive and beneficial partnership for both institutions.
Move-in weekend is more than welcoming new students to the campus, however. It is about welcoming new students to the University of Rhode Island community. The URI community is an increasingly diverse one (for example, 22% of the entering class self-identified as individuals of color, and 49 states and 27 nations were represented). It is a community that is vibrant, engaged, and strives to be welcoming and supportive of all its members.