Saturday, August 16, 2014

What URI Did on Its Summer Vacation

One of the most frequent questions I get following commencement until Labor Day is something along the lines of: “Must be nice to have a break; are things pretty quiet at URI?”  I have previously commented on the University of Rhode Island’s summer (in 2010), but 2014 and the summers that immediately preceded it have been extraordinary, and warrant some comment here. 
The campus hosted over 57,000 people this summer, in programs and events that included the Rhode Island Special Olympics, the US Youth Soccer Association Region 1 Tournament, the RI National Guard parachute competition, multiple sports camps, and numerous educational and research programs.  I will highlight some of these, but first I want to thank the staff, faculty, and managers who made all of these programs so successful.  Staff from URI’s maintenance, grounds, custodial, residence life, and dining operations were simply outstanding. So also were the essential administrative and support staff from all the divisions of the university.  In addition to creating, teaching, or supervising numerous special or intensive summer programs, the faculty of URI taught 5,250 students over the summer, and directed the research and scholarly work of hundreds of graduate and undergraduate students.  Thanks again, to you all.
In order to keep this post to a readable length, I can only mention some of the highlights of an extremely busy summer, a summer with far too little South County beach time.  Noteworthy events and programs include:
  •      The annual Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) conference, supported by the NSF and NIH, featured 138 posters by undergraduates and over 400 attendees from URI and the other eight participating colleges and universities in Rhode Island, (see
  • The Graduate School of Oceanography also provides a SURF program in oceanography, which included undergraduates from 14 colleges and universities across the country, and is in its 30th year, see 
  • The Kingston Chamber Musical Festival, hosted and supported by URI, celebrated its 26th season with eight near-capacity concerts featuring “many of the world’s finest solo and chamber music artists” – to quote Artistic Director Natalie Zhu.
  •  URI presented its Eighth Annual Ocean State Writer’s Conference with 176 attendees, which has become one of the premier writer’s conferences in the northeast; the link for this summer’s conference is 
  •  URI has an expanding array of special educational programs for international students, including the International Summer Engineering Academy and multiple Summer Cultural Exchange Programs for students from China and Taiwan; students in the latter programs study either Finance and Investment or Global Enterprise Management, as well as English.
  • Intensive language programs involved dozens of students in the study of German and Chinese; in addition a new program for middle- and high-school instructors in French was launched in 2014, sponsored by the French Embassy in Washington, D.C., the French Consulate in Boston, and URI’s Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures Department; see the story on our homepage,

There is much, much more of course, but a final note: approximately 100 of our student athletes were on campus this summer taking classes, working, and preparing for their seasons, which reflects their commitment to excellence in their academic work and in competition.
I would not be surprised if here may well be folks at the University of Rhode Island who look upon the fall as the time when things “quiet down”.  A modern research university like URI truly does operate on a 12-month, nearly 365-day calendar. As you know, Lynn, Rhody and I live on campus and there are truly quiet days – December 25 and January 1.