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.
Like most people I found the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and the surrounding area, which began with an attack on the French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo, to be a disturbing reminder of the fragility of peace and our social order. These attacks should also remind us that modern transportation, social media, translation software and the internet tie us more closely together than ever before. Consequently, our increasingly global society requires us to become more sophisticated and responsible than ever with regard to how we understand cultures, languages and cultural products.
As President, the gifts that mean the most, and the things for which I am most thankful, are associated with the people of the University of Rhode Island: the achievements of our faculty as teachers and scholars; the dedication of our staff; the success and accomplishments of our students. Our community is continuously setting higher standards for itself and all its members, and then, far more often than not, surpassing those standards.
To the overwhelming majority of voters who said yes on 4, the University of Rhode Island says thank you! We are so grateful to the 63.4 percent of Rhode Islanders in 38 cities and towns who approved the $125 million bond for a new College of Engineering.
A lot is at stake, in Rhode Island and nationally. A lot is at stake for the University of Rhode Island. An affirmative vote on Question 4, to build new facilities for the College of Engineering at URI, is especially important. The need for new facilities in engineering is critical. The opportunities that will be provided as a result of these new facilities will be truly remarkable – and will benefit the entire campus and every member of our community.
I have visited many competitive manufacturing companies in Rhode Island – large and small. A common element to their success is Innovation: innovative products; innovations in efficiency and productivity; innovative marketing and customer service; Innovations in creating opportunities for the growth and development of their personnel. The successful Rhode Island manufacturers I am familiar with are characterized by consistent (bordering on relentless) innovation in some or all of these areas.