Friday, November 2, 2012

Of Hurricanes, Halloween, and Achievement

The last week was an eventful one for the University of Rhode Island.  In many ways we were much more fortunate, by virtue of our location, than many of our sister institutions of higher education in the northeast.  We also benefited substantially from the careful and thorough planning by our emergency management team, the leadership and staff of our Housing and Residence Life unit, the communications staff, academic staff, and, especially the dedicated people of URI’s Facilities and Grounds unit.
Thanks to all these people, the University of Rhode Island and our community came through the storm and its immediate aftermath extremely well. See for a summary.  We didn’t do everything perfectly, and some parts of campus still are without power, but all of us can be thankful for the efforts of those at URI who worked in advance of, and then throughout the hurricane itself to protect our students, staff, and the campus. 
Our students handled the storm and its aftermath extremely well, although some of our students living off campus are still without power, as are some of our staff. But we must remember that the University of Rhode Island community now extends across the United States and the globe.  Many of our students come from parts of the northeast that suffered severely in the hurricane. Our hopes and prayers go out to all those who suffered damage to, or loss of, their home or business, or, more tragically, injury to or loss of a family member or friend.. 
Collectively these events again remind me of the value and importance of community: of working together, supporting one another, grieving together, and celebrating together. This year, Halloween (which can often pose some minor challenges) coming immediately after the hurricane, provided a much-needed time for our students to unwind and enjoy themselves. The LGBTQ Center and Uhura Sasa sponsored a party and eXposure another. Both were well attended and reportedly enjoyed by all.  It is worth noting, I think, that all of these student groups were founded to foster and support diversity and community on the campus.  I am also aware that our faculty, advisors, and support staff are reaching out to students to offer their support and assistance in dealing with the toll of the storm and its aftermath. 
Building community together, developing friendships and relationships, and experiencing the joys of both giving and receiving support, are some of the most valuable parts of an education at the University of Rhode Island.  We recently celebrated some of our most distinguished alumni in our Distinguished Achievement Awards ceremony.  All of them spoke eloquently of the importance of the friendships and relationships formed at URI that had made, and still make, a difference in their lives.  When we calculate the value of a college education, we should not forget the enormous and tangible positive contributions that being a part of a university community really makes.