Sunday, October 31, 2010

Celebrating Agnes Doody and the Faculty of URI

On Friday afternoon, the University of Rhode Island dedicated the Agnes Doody Auditorium in Swan Hall. The ceremonies were capped by an inspiring “first lecture” by Dr. Doody herself, which kept everyone’s rapt attention while sharing the incredible rewards of teaching at URI, as well as illustrating once again the amazing impact and enduring influence of Dr. Doody. Few people have the pioneering spirit, the drive, the devotion to excellence, and the unfailing commitment to helping others that so epitomizes Dr. Doody’s career. In case you missed it, the Providence Journal ran a nice story on the event; see the link below:

The University of Rhode Island has a long tradition of outstanding teaching and dedicated engagement with students, which is well exemplified by our current faculty. I am especially pleased by the commitment of the faculty to involve undergraduates, as well as graduate students, in their scholarship, research, and creative work. Of the many, many examples that I could provide, I’d like to share four with you in this post.

Dr. Cheryl Foster is Professor and Chair of Philosophy at URI. Known for her outstanding contributions as a teacher, scholar, and citizen, Cheryl was awarded the URI Foundation Teaching Excellence Award in 1997. She served as Associate Director of the Honors Program, encouraging top URI students to compete successfully for some of the most prestigious national and international scholarship and fellowship awards. She conceived the idea of creating special spaces outside classrooms where students could interact and exchange ideas with each other and faculty that helped inform the renovation of Lippitt Hall where Honors is now located. In 2009, she was the awarded the College of Arts and Sciences award for Undergraduate Student Advising. She was a member of an interdisciplinary IGERT team including Judith Swift, Peter August and others that received a large grant to integrate the humanities with the sciences in graduate education. A strong advocate for the value of a liberal arts education, Cheryl brings philosophy into the marketplace and the community to help people solve complex problems via her civic engagement and outreach. A brilliant thinker and speaker, she is often invited to address audiences on a variety of subjects.

The Institute for Immunology and Informatics (I'Cubed) was recently established under the leadership of Annie De Groot, M.D., as part of the University of Rhode Island's emerging Biotechnology Program. The Institute maintains offices at URI's main Kingston, RI campus and occupies lab and office space in the historic Shephard building as part of URI's Biotechnology Center in Providence's Jewelry District. The Institute applies cutting edge bioinformatic tools to accelerate the development of treatments and cures for diseases like HIV and tuberculosis. The Institute also aims to quickly make these tools available to the global research community for the development of vaccines for tropical diseases and other infectious diseases. Professor De Groot makes it a priority to engage URI students in the cutting-edge research in I'Cubed, involving them directly in research that is critical to improving human health, I’Cubed supports a wide variety of education and training efforts that will provide opportunities to teach the next generation of students the tools for effective vaccine design.

In the College of Nursing, Dr. Mary Sullivan, a dedicated teacher, scholar and the director of graduate studies, has taught highly-regarded undergraduate courses in childbearing and reproductive health and graduate courses in research methods and concept development and directs a variety of student projects. She serves as a research scientist at Women & Infants Hospital, and is an adjunct professor of pediatrics at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. In June 2010, Dr. Sullivan received an invitation to serve as a member of the NIH Nursing Science: Children and Families Study Section, Center for Scientific Review from July 1, 2010 – June 30, 2014. Dr. Sullivan’s selection was based on her demonstrated competence and achievement in her scientific discipline, which included the quality of her research accomplishments, publications and other significant scientific activities, achievements and honors. Dr.Sullivan received her PhD in Nursing from the University of Rhode Island.

Dr. He "Helen" Huang is an Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering. She joined the URI faculty in Fall 2008, after completing her PhD degree from Arizona State University and a post-doc at the Neural Engineering Center for Artificial Limbs (NECAL) at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. Dr. Huang's primary research areas are Neural Engineering and Rehabilitation Engineering. Three graduate students and five undergraduates are currently working with Dr. Huang on highly innovative research projects in areas such as the neural control of prosthesis for arms or legs, development of intelligent and adaptive control systems for therapeutic devices, modeling and analysis of neuromuscular control of movement, and understanding how spinal cord stimulation can help recovery of patients with spinal cord injuries. In addition to teaching undergraduate and graduate classes in biomedical engineering at URI, she is the Director of the URI Neuromuscular Rehabilitation Laboratory (NREL), whose goal is to improve the quality of life of persons with motor disabilities. She has received research awards from Delsys,Inc., the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Rhode Island Science and Technology Advisory Council, the US Department of Defense, and the US Department of Education.

As Agnes demonstrated so consistently and elegantly throughout her time at the University of Rhode Island, great teaching involves far more that eloquence in the classroom. Engaging students fully in the life of the mind, in the scholarship and creative work that is at the heart of a research university, is essential to preparing our students for success. Thanks Agnes, for your great example. And thanks to all our faculty who devote themselves to our students, to excellence in teaching and in scholarship, and who make the University of Rhode Island such a special place.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

2010 URI Diversity Week

Last week the University of Rhode Island celebrated Diversity Week. This has become an extremely important event in the life of our community because all the events celebrate and advance of our core values and highest priorities: building a community here that seeks unity in the midst of diversity and that welcomes, affirms, and supports all of its members. I especially appreciate, as I think we all should, the efforts of so many individuals, offices, and organizations that make Diversity Week happen, as well all of those who sponsor and support their dedicated and valuable work. I specifically want to thank the Co-Chairs of this year’s planning committee: Dr. Judy Van Wyk, Melvin Wade, Dr. Paul Bueno de Mesquita, and Dr. Mailee Kue. I would also like to thank our key sponsors, the College of the Environment and Life Sciences, Lifespan, and MetLife Auto and Home. In addition, the URI Departments of Psychology and Sociology, the Honors Program, and URI 101 all contributed to a special week.

The diversity of the events during Diversity Week was striking. Ranging from the two keynote lectures, by Dr. Dana Fullwiley and Dr. Esteban Gonzalez Burchard, which shared new insights from genomics to issues of race and identity, to the Seven Continents Culture Show (coordinated by Brandford Davis), which featured 20 student organizations, URI experienced quite a week.

I especially enjoyed the “Out of Diversity: We Speak” forum organized by Professor Jody Lisberger, the Director of Women’s Studies at URI. Every speaker’s voice was eloquent, thoughtful, and inspiring. Each speaker presented a unique and illuminating perspective on diversity, grounded in their life and experiences. Two comments during the presentations really struck home with me. The first comment, made by Alycia Mosley Austin was: “Many people view diversity as a threat to excellence, but I know I’m not alone in the belief that diversity is a requirement for excellence.” I think Alycia is right. The second comment, made by Danielle Henderson was: “It is not the things that happen to us that define us, it is the things that happen because of us.”

A lot of things happen to us, as individuals, as a community, and as an institution. Let’s not let those things define us. We can facilitate or create many great things for our community, our state, and our nation. Let’s resolve to have those things define who we are and what the University of Rhode Island stands for.

Helen Mederer (Professor, Sociology); Stephanie Lavallee (senior, physical therapy major; WMS minor); Alycia Mosley Austin (Director, Graduate Recruitment and Diversity Initiatives); Danielle Henderson (senior, WMS and English double major); Zuleika Toribio (junior, Psychology and WMS double major); Ian Reyes (Assistant Professor, Communication Studies); Adeyemi Ogunade (graduate student in economics from Nigeria, Schmidt Labor and Research Center)