Thinking Big pays off in more ways than one

Nursing student, Kelsey Davis ’14, who’s planning a career in pediatric nursing.

By the time you receive this issue of QuadAngles, the fall semester will be well underway and we will have launched several new initiatives at URI.

President Dooley speaking at the Business Engagement Center press event.

Welcoming an incoming class of undergraduates is always a momentous occasion. The class of 2017 (!) arrived on August 31. At 3,100 freshmen this is our largest entering class ever; the applicant pool of 20,875 was also the largest in URI’s history. About 45% are from Rhode Island. Other leading states are Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey. Twenty two percent identify as students of color; consistent with trends nationwide, 56 percent are women and 44 percent are men. With these newest students, we are now a community of more than 13,000 undergraduates and more than 3,000 part- and full-time graduate students from 49 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and 58 countries. As the world becomes smaller, URI is more international and more diverse than ever.

Inaugurating a new program, too, is momentous in its own right. Our new Business Engagement Center is the latest step in URI’s strategy to enhance economic growth in Rhode Island. Two years ago, in my fall 2011 QuadAngles letter, I pointed out that URI had a strong responsibility to take on a leadership role in overcoming challenges faced by our home state of Rhode Island. At that time, I advocated for this great university to provide more of our expertise to Rhode Island’s businesses, communities, and organizations. The Business Engagement Center will do just that, as you can read about in these pages. I am delighted that Katharine Flynn, director of corporate and foundation relations, will also head up this venture, designed to put out the welcome mat for businesses in Rhode Island, the surrounding region, and beyond, to solidify URI’s relationships with industry and forge new connections that will benefit our students and faculty even as they give a much needed boost to the local economy.

Boosting the economy is a theme that runs through this issue of QuadAngles, as you will see when you read the cover story about Steve King ’88, a URI graduate, decorated U.S. Army veteran, and today, managing director of the Quonset Development Corporation, one of the most promising economic development engines in Rhode Island. Steve’s engineering degree from URI is serving him well at the QDC, and we are proud that several other URI alumni are working with Steve and partners throughout the state to develop the business park to its full potential as a job generator.

Partnerships, collaborations, and strong connections are increasingly critical to the success of most enterprises, particularly universities. A perfect example of what can be accomplished collaboratively is the proposed new joint home for the URI and Rhode Island College nursing schools, Dynamo House, the former South Street Power Station in Providence. This is an enormous undertaking, also slated to house Brown University administrative offices and space for start-ups and other small technology-based companies. The project also includes: a new, apartment-style residence building for graduate, medical, and upper-level nursing students; ground-floor restaurant and retail space; a new parking structure with 600 parking spaces; and improvements to the public space along the Providence River and connection to the new public park, a space made available through the relocation of Interstate 195.

The project is expected to create more than 1,500 construction-related jobs, a total of $248 million in economic output, and more than $90 million in employee compensation. Once completed and fully operational, the project is intended to offer opportunities for the residents of Providence and Rhode Island, enhance nursing education, and create jobs in a range of sectors from commercial start-ups to retail and service sectors.

We have been pursuing the potential of locating a joint nursing facility in Providence for several years in order to take better advantage of the critical adjacencies offered in Providence and the Jewelry District. This project will not only provide state-of-the-art facilities to educate the advanced nursing workforce of the 21st century, but also has the potential to catalyze further development in the area. While we have a lot of work to do in the coming months, I am optimistic that given the support of the state, the city, and the community, we will be able to deliver an innovative, cost-effective project that will have an extremely positive outcome for the residents of our state and region. In addition to our higher education partners, Brown and RIC, we could not have gotten to this point without the strong support of Governor Chafee, Speaker Fox, Senate President Paiva-Weed, and Finance Chairmen Melo and DaPonte.

As we start a new academic year and launch several exciting new initiatives, we recognize that working together we can accomplish more than we ever dreamed possible. Thinking big is paying off.

— David M. Dooley