Tuesday, March 2, 2010

URI Student Town Hall Meeting

A little over a week ago, I met with a group of students in an open meeting organized by David Bedard, the President of the student government at URI. I very much appreciate David's efforts in pulling this event together, and also the coverage provided by The Good 5¢ Cigar. From my perspective it was very useful and informative, with many excellent questions ranging from parking to the curriculum. I would like to briefly comment on a couple of topics that were covered that I think warrant particular mention.

There were multiple questions that related to the quality of student life on campus, and what we might collectively do to improve student life on campus and student engagement. This is an issue that is central to URI's efforts to facilitate student success. It may be timely to bring students, faculty, staff, and university leadership together to examine this issue and to develop specific recommendations to improve student life and engagement both on the Kingston campus and in and Providence. Enhancing student life and creating more opportunities for service and leadership can significantly improve learning, the acquisition of critical skills, and our relationships with one another -- all of which can contribute to the lifelong success of our students. Many alumni have emphasized to me the importance of their participation in activities outside of the classroom to their achievements. Strengthening our community will help all of us. I expect that our students will have many thoughtful and creative ideas about this; Vice President for Student Affairs Tom Dougan and Provost Don DeHayes will be taking the lead in exploring with students, faculty, and staff how URI can achieve its goal of a diverse, welcoming, and thriving community. I certainly would personally welcome your thoughts and suggestions as well.

On another note, URI is moving ahead with the implementation of the new academic plan, which will create exciting new opportunities for students to be involved in research, scholarship, and creative work across all disciplines, and will emphasize experiential learning in internships and service. As an initial step, we started an undergraduate research fund and a graduate student enhancement fund this past fall. We will be examining general education at URI and the possibility of moving to a curriculum where four-credit courses compose a more substantial part. There are, and will be more, opportunities for students to be directly involved in this important effort, and I hope that many of you will participate.

I am looking forward to many more occasions to talk informally with students and hope that you will find such occasions as enjoyable and informative as I do.