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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI-Narragansett Coalition appoints first full-time coordinator

Media Contact: Dave Lavallee, 401-874-5862

Narragansett resident comes to job with strong
project management background

KINGSTON, R.I. -- February 3, 2005 -- Paula M. Santos has been manager of employee development, an independent business trainer/consultant, and a team-building instructor for the University of Rhode Island’s W. Alton Jones Campus.

In naming her the first full-time coordinator for the URI-Narragansett Coalition, the University recognized that the Narragansett resident has all the necessary skills and community experience for the newly created job, which she began in January.

Most recently, Santos worked as manager of employee development at Quaker Fabric Inc., a Fall River furniture fabric and yarn manufacturer, but she also held a variety of performance improvement and training positions with other companies in Rhode Island. She is no stranger to state service, having worked for 11 years as a senior community development training specialist for the Department of Mental Health, Retardation and Hospitals and three years as labor management facilitator on the Kenyon Project with URI’s Schmidt Labor Research Center.

She joins a coalition formed five years ago to improve relations in Narragansett between student renters and year-round residents and to strengthen cooperation between the town and University.

Made up of URI students, faculty and administrators and Narragansett residents, police, elected officials and administrators, the coalition has dramatically reduced arrests and complaints related to drinking and rowdiness. Now, with the aid of more than $816,000 from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the coalition is poised to have an even greater impact through a comprehensive program that will research and develop strategies to reduce underage drinking, alcohol abuse and negative consequences in the local community and among fraternity and sorority members.

Santos, whose position is funded through the NIAA grant, will assist coalition leaders in managing the programs and planning for action, maintain relationships among members and serve as the primary liaison between project investigators, the coalition, the research team and University staff. She will assist in implementing environmental management strategies to reduce substance abuse and associated harm in the community.

“We are thrilled to have Paula working with us on this grant,” said Fran Cohen,” URI’s dean of students and a co-chair of the coalition. “It is very challenging to coordinate the multiple constituencies that are represented by our coalition. I have tremendous confidence in her more than 15 years of experience and skills in facilitating and managing groups. We know she possesses the skills to advance the goals of the grant.”

Dan Reilly, assistant director of student life for substance abuse prevention services, chaired the search committee that recommended Santos’ hiring. The committee included students, URI staff, researchers, homeowner association representatives and Realtors. “Paula was well received by all groups,” Reilly said. “The search committee was very impressed with her mediation skills, concern for both homeowners and students and her enthusiasm for the position.”

Carol Stuart, co-chair of a 10-member Narragansett neighborhood association coalition that is an integral part of the URI-Narragansett Coalition, said she is looking forward to having Santos bring her expertise, experience and support to help the members and groups who have worked hard to make the coalition a viable entity that can improve the university-town relationship. "It will be tremendous to have someone like Paula who can devote a full-time effort to this important, ongoing initiative," Stewart said.

Santos, who earned her bachelor’s degree in sociology from URI in 1974 and her master of public administration from URI in 1980, says she possesses a variety of skills that make her right for the coordinator’s job.

“I have facilitation skills, project management and interpersonal skills,” Santos said. “I have held a similar position in two Rhode Island communities and I have learned to work well with multiple constituencies. I will try to help the coalition define its message, improve its structure and processes and get the word out about all of its wonderful accomplishments.”

She said a number of factors make the job a good match. “First, the University is my alma mater and I care deeply about it, its mission and its people. Second I have two children, one in college and a senior in high school, so I understand the importance of these issues. And I have honed numerous skills in the private sector that I believe can be of assistance to the academic community.

A native of Providence, she is a graduate of Mount Pleasant High School, and her husband Steve Bonzagni, also a URI graduate, was the director of food services in the URI Memorial Union during the 1970s.