President’s View: Celebrating Milestones, Looking Ahead

“Remember to celebrate milestones as you prepare for the road ahead.”–Nelson Mandela

President-DooleyPresident Mandela’s words were echoing in my head as I sat down to write my message to you for this issue of QuadAngles.

As the University prepares for the road ahead we are carefully reviewing changes to federal policies and programs that affect the research, education and outreach that we conduct. The University will remain a strong advocate for investing in research and innovation since that is at the core of the Land Grant mission. URI will continue to increase its global impact and its international partnerships because its global mission is more important than ever. There are many exciting advancements to highlight that will support our research, education, and innovation goals.

A quarter of the way into 2017, I am happy to report that we are on track to construct our new, state-of-the-art College of Engineering building. As you know, we are funding construction through a $125 million bond that Rhode Island voters approved in 2014. Voters also approved a bond referendum in November 2016 that includes $25.5 million for Phase II of the project, which will allow us to completely renovate Bliss Hall. Built in 1928, Bliss Hall has served the University well for nine decades. And so it’s fitting that when we open our new College of Engineering in 2019, Bliss Hall—after undergoing a metamorphosis—will still be at the heart of the College.

And that brings me to the celebration of two important milestones related to the engineering project. First, at the start of the spring semester, several of our engineering programs relocated off campus. While nearly all of our eight engineering programs will temporarily relocate during construction, most will be accommodated on campus in Pastore and Morrill Halls. However, electrical, computer, and biomedical engineering, including laboratories, offices, and classrooms, moved into 30,000 square feet on the first and second floors of Schneider Electric’s West Kingston facility, which is located only about two miles from our campus. Additionally, our capstone design program, a year-long experience for seniors that partners them with local companies seeking solutions to specific engineering problems, also relocated to Schneider. This is the first time capstone design teams will work in a dedicated space. We look forward to seeing how they will interact with each other, as well as with faculty and participating industry representatives. A wonderful partner to URI for many years, Schneider embraced the opportunity to host our faculty and students and to explore even deeper student /industry collaborations. We marked this milestone with a festive ribbon cutting in early February.

The second milestone on our road to a new College of Engineering is demolition of the existing engineering buildings, which should be complete when you open this issue of QuadAngles. It is time for Crawford Hall, Gilbreth Hall, Kelly Hall, Kelly Hall Annex, and Wales Hall, all of which opened in the late 1950s and early 1960s, to give way to 21st century technology, classroom space, and laboratories.

The third milestone I am delighted to report to you involves yet another big dream for URI. The Rhode Island Nursing Education Center (NEC), part of Providence’s $220 million South Street Landing Project, is set to open in April and to welcome its first students in the fall of 2017. The 133,000-square-foot facility, which will combine leading technology with a rigorous experiential learning curriculum, will give our students a tremendous advantage in a dynamic, constantly evolving field. And the NEC’s proximity to the state’s leading hospitals and health-care providers, as well as Brown University’s Alpert Medical School, will lead to strengthened collaborations with these institutions.

I’m excited about the NEC, which represents another example of how URI is fulfilling its public mission to catalyze economic development in Rhode Island. When the NEC opens, we will be taking an important step toward creating a true healthcare hub not only for our state, but for the region. From enhanced nursing education to new jobs in a range of sectors from commercial start-ups to retail and service sectors, we expect the NEC’s impact to be felt far beyond the new building.

And finally, of course, there is the milestone we are celebrating all year: our 125th anniversary! If you were with us on January 25 at the kickoff on the Quad, you know we’re thinking big about the quasquicentennial. I hope you are able to join us for our April 25 Founders Day event or one of the many other activities we have planned to showcase this remarkable institution, as we prepare for the road ahead.

David M. Dooley
President, University of Rhode Island