Thursday, May 27, 2010

Commencements and Budgets

Let’s just say that my first commencements at the University of Rhode Island will always be a special time in my life. Beginning with the 50th reunion for the class of 1960 and the dinner for our honorary degree recipients on Saturday night, the weekend was full of traditions and celebrations that made a lasting impression – not just on me and Lynn, but on everyone we met.

URI’s commencement ceremonies were a powerful and inspirational reminder of the most important outcome of the University’s work: the young (and some not quite so young) people who are better prepared and empowered to pursue their dreams. They are now in a much stronger position to help create a brighter future for themselves, for Rhode Island, for our nation, and for the world. They are more capable, and in many cases, more dedicated to transforming our world to make it a better place. Their time at the University of Rhode Island, learning with our faculty, with each other, and with the many partners who work with URI, will pay off extremely well – not solely for them, but also for our society. Indeed, the education they received at URI will have a substantial, significant, and lasting impact, extending even to generations that follow the class of 2010.

I am reminded that this was a point forcefully made by the Chairman of the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education, the Honorable Judge Frank Caprio, during his testimony before the House Finance Committee. There are no other investments that the State of Rhode Island can make that will have the enormously beneficial and lasting impact than their investment in education, especially higher education. As the state once again prepares its budget in the midst of difficult financial times, I hope that they remember that it is past time that the state takes concrete steps to improve the lives and futures of the people of Rhode Island. Investing in and supporting higher education and the University of Rhode Island is a critical and essential step to recreating a vibrant and sustainable future for our state.

Friday, May 7, 2010

China and International Education

I began this post while sitting in a 777 on my way back from China, and bound for Detroit, then Providence. It was a pleasure to travel with Dr. Sigrid Berka (Associate Director of the International Engineering Program), Professor Zongqin Zhang of Mechanical Engineering, Michael Byrnes (a member of the IEP Advisory Board) and Erin Papa (Coordinator of the Flagship Program in Chinese at URI). We were in China to visit our university partners here associated with our IEP program and the Flagship program, and to meet with companies where URI students may be provided internship opportunities while studying in China.

I think our meetings, visits, and discussions went extremely well. Both senior administrators and faculty at Zhejiang University, Nanjing University, and Southeastern University appeared to be impressed and pleased by the nature of our International Engineering Program and by the commitment of the students involved to study and work in a Chinese language environment.

Moreover, they appeared to be uniformly enthusiastic about developing broader and deeper relationships with URI, encompassing student mobility between institutions certainly, but also faculty visits and exchanges, cooperative academic programs, and research collaborations.

The companies we visited, all of whom were affiliated with or components of global corporations, were equally enthusiastic about working with URI. All the companies agreed to create paid internships for URI students that would engage our students in projects directly related to the goals and priorities of the companies. This is exactly the kind of experience that is so valuable educationally and that I believe should become a distinguishing feature of undergraduate education at URI.

Without any doubt, there are numerous and appealing opportunities for the University of Rhode Island in China. Most importantly, our students who gain the capability to engage China, and understand its language and culture, will be exceptionally well prepared to succeed in a global economy, in a global society, where China will play an increasingly important role. Some pictures, taken during our visits to universities and companies, are below.

Our visit to China, while rewarding, was also sobering. If the United States truly wishes to retain its current position of global leadership, we need to increase our investments in education. Each of the universities we visited has been designated a key national university by the Chinese government. All of them are among the top universities in China. All of them are benefiting from substantial, sustained government and private sector investments designed to dramatically improve their international educational impact and their research capabilities.

In contrast, all of us here have witnessed the systematic and systemic disinvestment in public higher education in the U.S. If we are to build a sustainable knowledge-based economy in Rhode Island and the United States, then we must invest in building knowledge. China is.


URI Mechanical Engineering Professor Zongqin Zhang, Chinese Flagship Coordinator Erin Papa, Board Secretary, Admin. Director of HengTian Karen Wu, IEP Assoc. Director Sigrid Berka, IEP Student Joseph Hackman, President Dooley, HengTian Relationship Manager Cindy Shi

Former exchange students from Zhejiang University (spent fall 2009 at URI) Gracie Qin and Rachel Liu, President Dooley, Erin Papa, Michael Byrnes, Sigrid Berka, Zongqin Zhang

President Dooley and Zhejiang University President YANG Wei

Professor HONG Wei, Director of the State Key Laboratory of Millimeter Waves, School of Information Science and Engineering, Southeast University