Raymond M. Wright

Engineers have changed the world, from creating smart phones to smart buildings. No one knows that better than Raymond M. Wright, dean of the College of Engineering and the driving force behind URI’s new engineering complex. “It is no secret that most major technological changes in our history have involved engineers,’’ says Wright. “Innovation is what we teach here.’’

Wright, a respected environmental engineer, is duly qualified to lead the URI project. He joined the University in 1981 as a civil engineering assistant professor, and later chaired the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. From 2006 to 2007, he was associate dean of engineering.

Since taking over as dean in 2007, he has overseen the first master plan in more than 50 years and grown enrollment. Two years ago, he led a successful campaign for a $125-million bond to pay for a world-class engineering facility to replace buildings dating back to the 1960s.

On Nov. 8, voters will be asked to approve $45.5 million in bonds to renovate the College of Engineering’s Bliss Hall ($25.5 million) and create a URI-affiliated innovation campus program ($20 million) that will pair cutting-edge research with private sector investments to create jobs.

The new engineering complex is vital for the state’s economic growth, says Wright. Undergraduate enrollment of engineering students has skyrocketed over the years, and even more are expected when the new facility opens in 2019. An investment in engineering—and the innovation that comes with it—will translate into lucrative jobs, right here in the state.

“It’s a testament to our programs that we are so successful in attracting great students,’’ says Wright, whose college offers degrees in fields as diverse as biomedical, chemical, computer, mechanical, civil, electrical and ocean engineering. “Enrollment is high, and the academic index of our entering students is as high as it’s ever been.’’ The time is right for the College of Engineering to keep pace with a fast-moving world.