Monday, December 7, 2009

Semester One is Done (Almost)

It doesn't seem possible but my first semester at URI is nearly over. Although the schedule has been extremely hectic, and the challenges all they were advertised to be, Lynn and I have thoroughly enjoyed our time in Rhode Island. The natural beauty of the state, the warmth and hospitality of the people, the vibrancy of life here -- all of these contribute to our feeling that URI and Rhode Island are the right places for us. There is a lot more, however, to our assessment -- factors that are even more important.

The students. I have met with a lot of students in a lot of settings since arriving in July. Lynn and I have hosted several students groups at our home. I have been very impressed by their abilities, leadership, dedication, enthusiasm, and aspirations. Indeed, I think the students at URI, both in Kingston and Providence, are as good as those anywhere I have been. I was especially proud of the way our students responded to the incidents involving hateful speech that occurred. They are endeavoring to make URI a community where everyone can succeed. I am glad that they choose to attend URI.

The faculty. Based on my own assessment, and comments from across the state and elsewhere, the faculty at URI are dedicated to excellence in teaching and scholarship, engaged, productive, and devoted to the success of our students. Public higher education and URI face multiple, difficult challenges, both external and internal. At the same time, URI is being asked to take a leadership position in expanding research, in revitalizing the state's economy, in assisting with the improvement of K-12 education, and in helping expand opportunities and improve the quality of life for all Rhode Islanders. Our faculty, together with the deans and other leaders, are ready to take on these challenges and make the changes needed to succeed.

The alumni. I am convinced that the best measure of the quality of a university is the achievements of its graduates. By this criterion, URI is an outstanding institution. Across the world our alumni are making a difference, accomplishing extraordinary things, and building a legacy of leadership. They are increasingly engaged with the university to help meet the challenges ahead. All of us at URI can be proud of our alumni and proud of the education that contributed so much to their achievements.

Our community. Across the campus I am heartened by the widespread commitment to building an inclusive, mutually supportive, and diverse community. Shared governance is strong and we are working to make it even better. There was wide and thoughtful participation in the development of a new academic plan, and soon we will be instituting a new budget process that will further link planning and budgeting in an open and inclusive way involving faculty, staff, and students.

The nation, Rhode Island, and URI certainly must deal with substantial and difficult challenges. We must not lose sight of the fact that significant opportunities accompany these challenges. As a community, URI can seize its opportunities and overcome the challenges we face, and Lynn and I are delighted to be a part of that shared future.