As I write this column, our students are studying for and taking final exams, and my second academic year at URI is drawing to a close. Doing some things for the second time has been a welcome change from my first year. At the same time, this has been an eventful year for URI. Here are some reasons for that assessment.
We have a new governor, and an almost entirely new Board of Governors for Higher Education chaired by Lorne Adrain (see page 10). Our former board, chaired by the Honorable Frank Caprio, was outstanding. It is clear that we will continue to benefit from superb, dedicated, and visionary leadership by our new board. We are looking forward to working with Lorne and the other members of the board, which includes several distinguished URI alumni.
In a previous column, I indicated that a central priority for URI would be to make the case for investment in higher education as essential to building a vigorous and sustainable economy for Rhode Island. With the tremendous help of our alumni and other supporters, we have made remarkable progress toward that goal. Last fall Rhode Island voters approved funding for the construction of a new building for chemical and forensic sciences; we anticipate that construction will begin next year. More recently, Governor Chafee proposed a $10 million increase in funding for higher education, the first such increase in an administration’s proposed higher education budget in several years. While much work remains in order to secure this funding in the General Assembly (you can help by contacting your representative and senator to express support), it is an encouraging indication of the growing awareness of URI’s pivotal role in economic renewal in Rhode Island.
The University of Rhode Island, along with Brown University and Rhode Island College, has been engaged in discussions and planning centered on development of the “knowledge district” in Providence. For example, an innovative collaborative planning process, requested by the General Assembly, regarding the feasibility of a shared URI-RIC facility for nursing education in Providence, is nearing completion. Faculty and staff from both institutions have worked together throughout the development of the report.
On another front, URI has been consulting with numerous companies and organizations throughout the state on how we can create new, productive partnerships. These partnerships are being designed to enhance the quality of undergraduate education at URI, to better prepare our students for success in the 21st century, and concomitantly to provide value to our partner companies and organizations. The growing enthusiasm across the state for partnering or collaborating with the University of Rhode Island is exciting and reflects the increased importance of URI in building a new and vibrant economy in Rhode Island. Over the next year, QUAD ANGLES and other University venues will be reporting on these partnerships, pointing to the work and contributions of our students and faculty.
There is more to do and many challenges ahead. But, with the guidance and assistance of our alumni and friends, we will succeed.