Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Welcome Back! (Summer in Rhode Island, Part 4)

Last week was another exciting and rewarding time for the University of Rhode Island – move-in weekend and First Night were great successes and a new academic year began on a high note. However, there is one additional, and important, outcome of the intense level of this summer’s activities at URI that I would like to share.

Over the summer, in just about three months, state-of-the-art instructional technology was installed in fifty-two (52!) classrooms that previously had no modern teaching technology at all. Every one of these classrooms received the latest digital media technology, including HD projectors, blu-ray players, and digital switching controls. Assisted-listening devices were installed in classrooms for 50 or more students. The electronics in each room are networked to a central server that monitors the status, enables projector lamps to be replaced prior to failure, and provides a means to remotely assist an instructor. New whiteboards have been installed, walls and ceilings repaired, and many other improvements were made. Fifteen additional classrooms received major technology upgrades, again to a state-of-the-art level. These dramatic improvements place the University of Rhode Island among the leaders in our region and will substantially improve the learning environment for our students.

But that is not all. A major expansion of the campus wireless network was completed, and the conversion to a new IP based telephone system began. Collectively, these innovative, rapid, cost-effective improvements demonstrate what we can achieve.

What makes these remarkable achievements even more satisfying is the tremendous dedication and teamwork of several departments at URI and our private-sector partners. Joe Fuscaldo and Kathy D’Aguanno led the URI team. The Media and Technology Services Department (directed by David Porter), especially the Network Facilities and Operations group, the Classroom Media Assistance group, and the Network Service group, did exceptional work throughout the project. Many other URI departments made important contributions: Purchasing, Enrollment Services, Facility Services, Custodial Services, the Paint Shop, the Electrical Shop, Access Control Office, Safety and Risk Management, Capital Planning and Design, Capital Projects, and the Property Office. Most of the time our employees in these departments and offices work behind the scenes – they deserve our thanks and appreciation. So do our partners – HB Communications, Creston, Energy Electric, and Legacy General Contracting – who worked extremely well together and with our URI team.

We are working hard to facilitate the innovative use of the new technology. Several training sessions for faculty have been held, and others will be scheduled. The Instructional Technology Center in Chafee will be upgraded with funds provided by the Champlin Foundation (another critical partner for URI) and brought online in October.

Our efforts to improve the environment for teaching and learning at the University of Rhode Island will continue and grow, on many fronts. The work of this past summer will make an enormous difference to our students and faculty for years to come.

Welcome back, everyone. URI is a better university than when we completed the last academic year in May.