The URI Honors Colloquium

Great Public Schools: Everyone's right? Everyone's responsibility?


On September 10, the University will kick off its 51st annual URI Honors Colloquium—the signature lecture series that brings world-class experts to campus each fall for weekly events that examine a single timely topic of interest to the greater community.

In URI’s “big thinking” tradition, the Colloquium has taken on some very big issues in recent years, including the great healthcare debate, the issue of race in America today, global environmental change, hunger,  understanding India, and the rise of China, among other hefty topics. And, in addition to the Colloquium lectures and panel discussions that take place on Tuesday evenings throughout the semester, related URI theater productions, films, readings and exhibitions are often featured to complement the weekly events in the series.

The goal is to get everyone thinking—and talking—about the important questions of the day. This goes for the URI campus community as well as the residents of Rhode Island and beyond. The Tuesday night events, held in Edwards Hall at 7:30 p.m., are free and open to the public. Most events are also live streamed, for those who can’t attend.

This fall’s Colloquium—Great Public Schools: Everyone’s Right? Everyone’s Responsibility?—focuses on the future of public education. And once again this year, the Tuesday evening lectures will be lively and thought provoking, as will the discussions that follow.

The goal is to get everyone thinking—and talking—about the important questions of the day. This goes for the URI campus community as well as the residents of Rhode Island and beyond.

Associate Professor of Education Diane Kern, a URI alumna and former public school teacher, is the 2013 Colloquium’s co-coordinator. “Everyone has an opinion about public education, from those on the late-night news shows to those on the sidelines at youth sports,” she says. “The Colloquium gives our community the chance to more deeply understand the issues facing K-16 education alongside local, national, and international experts.”

In designing the series, coordinators strive for a range of topics and speakers that will do justice to the complexity of the these big ideas. “We have a broad spectrum of speakers, perspectives, and issues that are shaping education, and in the long run, the quality of people’s lives,” says 2013 Colloquium co-coordinator David Byrd, director of the URI School of Education. Speakers coming to Kingston this fall include distinguished journalists, authors—including two Pulitzer Prize winners—and leaders and researchers in the field.

Prominent speakers who have visited the Kingston Campus to participate in the series in past years include Coretta Scott King, Pete Seeger, actor and activist Christopher Reeve, Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, Ben Cohen (of Ben & Jerry’s), legendary basketball great Bob Cousy, author Tracy Kidder, novelists Chris Cleave and Jhumpa Lahiri, Newark mayor Cory Booker, professor and MSNBC personality Melissa Harris-Perry, and inventor Ray Kurzweil.

Preparation for the annual Colloquium series begins a full year in advance. In fact, we’re already planning for next year’s series on cyber security—an especially timely topic and one in which URI is an established leader. Although 51 years ago, Colloquium founders did not predict the program’s longevity, Nancy Potter, Hon. ’67, one of the early coordinators, attributes the program’s success to its flexibility. Many things about it have changed over the years except its fundamental objective—to bring leading experts on contemporary, controversial topics to URI to share their thoughts and work with students and members of the community.


Related links

URI Honors Program, Honors Colloquium Archive


Yes, it’s September. And in most of America, including Kingston, R.I., it’s also the start of a whole new year. Whether you’re a freshman, an upperclassman, a grad student, professor or even a parent, September marks a fresh start.