Monday, January 31, 2011

The Big Chill

The University of Rhode Island recently celebrated its Big Chill weekend. The weekend featured two events – one celebrating the continuing excellence of our scholar-athletes and our intercollegiate athletics programs, the other our annual fundraising evening devoted to scholarships. Together these events emphasize the excellence of the university and the importance of our students and their achievements.
The Hall of Fame Induction event welcomed Ed Bradley (URI's legendary men's soccer coach), Julia Chilicki-Beasley (outstanding swimmer and rower -- representing the USA at the 1996 Olympics -- and influential rowing coach at URI), Tyson Wheeler (one of URI's best men's basketball players ever, and a leader of the 1998 Elite Eight team), and Bob White (an All-American offensive lineman on URI's amazing 1982-1985 football teams). These individuals represent the tremendous achievements and continuing potential of intercollegiate athletics at URI, and remind us all of the importance and impact of our programs, to be sure; but, more importantly, these outstanding new members remind us of the qualities and the enduring impact of the people who become a part of URI as a result of our athletics programs.
That same weekend, the University of Rhode Island also convened many of our alumni, friends, and supporters to celebrate the achievements of our students and to contribute to their continuing success by raising critical scholarship funds. Since the Big Chill Weekends began, over $1.2 million has been raised for scholarships, including $80,000 this year. More than 400 people attended, and a wonderful time was enjoyed by all.
Special thanks to the Chairs of the Organizing Committee -- John and Gail Palumbo and Kathy O'Donnell-White and Bill White -- for their outstanding leadership of a great team, as well as Mark Davis, Working Chair of the Volunteer Committee. I would also like to thank everyone who attended and contributed to support our students. If you attended this year, please plan on coming back in 2012. If you were unable to attend this year, please plan ahead for the next Big Chill weekend. Scholarships for students have never been more important to the success of our students and the university.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Welcome to 2011

It is an unusually quiet time on the campus yesterday – mainly because we were in the midst of yet another substantial (at least by Rhode Island standards) snowstorm and the university was closed by order of the Governor. Rhody loves days like that. A Montana-born dog, he loves snow. He also loves running around a largely empty campus without the impediment of a leash. Our hard-working facilities and grounds personnel were just about the only people on the campus. Thanks to them, the campus will be accessible today, although there will be a lot of piled snow around. I know all of the URI community joins me in thanking them for their dedication and hard work in difficult circumstances.

Despite the relative quiet of the day and the break between semesters, there is a lot going on at the University of Rhode Island. The university’s leadership team is working systematically with the new and continuing leadership of the state to prepare for the challenges and opportunities of the year ahead. Our core message is that the University of Rhode Island, and higher education more broadly, are essential partners with government, the public, and business in re-creating the Rhode Island economy and in building a better future for all Rhode Islanders.

Beyond that, URI is working concurrently on multiple fronts to implement the academic plan and to pursue our transformational goals. Here’s a sampling.

Kathryn Friedman has joined the senior leadership team as the Associate Vice President for Community, Equity, and Diversity. She is already engaged on the campus and will provide outstanding leadership for our efforts to build a vibrant, diverse, and engaged community at the university in which all our members are welcomed, affirmed, and supported.

The Third Annual Academic Summit will convene next week on the subject of “Engaging Students in Learning with Technology”. Dr. Candace Thille, Director of the Open Learning Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, together with faculty and students from URI, will participate in exploring how we can use the powerful tools at our disposal to improve our curriculum and student learning.

Building on the recently completed report from our faculty task force on global initiatives and education, we will be assessing our efforts in international programs and education with the assistance of Dr. Norman Peterson, Vice Provost for International Education at Montana State University. URI is also establishing a new partnership to bring world-class instruction in English as a Second Language to URI next fall.

Planning for next year’s Honors Colloquium is well under way. It is on the subject “Are You Ready for the Future?” (an excellent question for all of us) and promises to be an innovative and thought-provoking presentation and analysis of the potential impacts of current trends and discoveries.

Over the next few months URI will be examining new opportunities for partnerships with the private sector, state government, and other entities. We anticipate that the assessment of the feasibility of the proposed research and development park will be completed by the spring.

In short, 2011 will be a busy and exciting year for URI. Best wishes for a productive and enjoyable 2011 to all of you.