Big Ideas. Bold Plans. The Campaign for the University of Rhode Island continues to transform the student experience, the campus, and the research capabilities of URI. As the campaign enters its final year, we are in an exciting phase where early campaign gifts have gained traction and made a difference, with other significant projects still underway and primed to benefit from additional support.
Thanks to the campaign, we’ve seen endowed scholarships bring unique students to URI. We’ve seen academic and athletic spaces reborn for a new age. We’ve seen professors drawn to the University for its academic excellence and sense of community.
It has been inspiring to see groups come together to make a collective impact. The senior class set a new giving record. Faculty and staff showed their generosity and belief in our mission with $1 million in cumulative gifts. The Alumni of Color Network launched a new endowed scholarship thanks to community support. When we talk about a campaign, this is what it means. These are the stories that inspire us and position URI in the national spotlight.
Lil Breul O’Rourke
President, URI Foundation and Alumni Engagement
Alfred J. Verrecchia ’67 M.B.A.’72 Hon.’04
Chairman of the Board
A Network for Leading Women
As part of the campaign, the URI Foundation & Alumni Engagement has launched the Women’s Philanthropy Circle. This new group recognizes women who have committed $100,000 or more in cumulative philanthropic support to the University. Starting in 2021, members have come together for events featuring guest speakers and unique networking opportunities.
The goals of the Circle include expanding opportunities for students, raising the profile of women philanthropists, and sharing ideas for the good of the URI community. Elizabeth A. “Liz” Burt ’79 recently joined the Circle and shares her reflections on this new group.
“Being a member of the Women’s Philanthropy Circle has given me the opportunity to experience the collective enthusiasm, dedication, and team effort of women, diverse in their personal talents and interests, who are united in their commitment to URI. As part of this shared goal, the group has served to solidify and strengthen my support of and engagement with URI, its initiatives, and future leaders.
“My hope for URI students is that they take advantage of the many opportunities and resources URI has to offer that will enrich and support their college experience. In addition to pursuing academic goals, make time to get involved on campus or in the community, cultivate lasting friendships, utilize their education to make a positive impact, and develop a desire for lifelong learning and growth.”
Early in the campaign, URI trustee and former chair of the URIFAE board Thomas M. Ryan ’75, Hon. ’99 and current URIFAE board chair Alfred J. Verrecchia ’67, M.B.A. ’72, Hon. ’04, each established an endowed scholarship for exceptional students. The Thomas M. Ryan Endowed Scholarship and the Alfred J. Verrecchia Distinguished Business Scholarship both went into effect quickly, being awarded to several students year after year, creating a unique community of ambitious young scholars. These students have come to fully embrace the URI experience and work to make their mark on the world.
Alfred J. Verrecchia Scholar
- Double major in business administration and kinesiology
- President, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Club
- Vice president and assistant, Women in Business
- Spirit chair, Student Alumni Association
- Rhody Ruckus leadership team
- Member of the Pre-PT Club and Kinesiology Club
“Having the Verrecchia Scholarship means the world to me. It gave me the opportunity to pursue my passion. My mother really taught me that hard work does pay off. Getting this scholarship showed me that.”Katie Tenebruso
Getting the Scholarship
When I found out that I got the Verrecchia Scholarship, I was getting ready for my high school theatre production. And I got the phone call, and they told me that I got this full-ride scholarship to URI. Immediately I ran and told my mom. She was so excited. And then I went off and told all my friends that I was going to the University of Rhode Island.
Standout URI Moment So Far
One of my favorite moments that I’ve had at URI so far is completing the “train the trainer” program. I was learning how to teach a functional 45-exercise program at the gym – basically a HIIT (high intensity interval training) workout, running through different circuits and pods. I got to learn how to take over the class, how to coach others through the class, how to critique form, and how to encourage others to have fun while working out.
Goals as a Student
Before I graduate, there’s a lot of things I want to do. Of course, staying involved on campus, being able to really leave my mark and make a difference. Specifically taking over as president of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Club recently; I definitely want to grow that club since it’s so new. And I want to take advantage of as many opportunities as I can. I want to get as much experience in kinesiology as possible: being able to be a physical therapist, teaching group exercise courses, and really meeting a lot of mentors and getting that networking experience.
Thomas M. Ryan Scholar
- Double major in industrial systems engineering and Chinese
- Double minor in sustainability and international development
- Enrolled in the Peace Corps Prep Program
- Member of Engineers for a Sustainable World
- Member of the Institute of Industrial Systems Engineering
- Member of the engineering fraternity Theta Tau
- Member of BOND (Brothers on a New Direction)
“Getting the Ryan Scholarship meant everything to me. It felt like it was a result of not only my hard work, but a few generations of hard work by everyone in my family.”Cristian Varela
Getting the Scholarship
Nobody in my family knew that I applied for it except for my mom and my grandfather. Dean Libutti [vice provost for enrollment management] told me on the phone, “Congratulations, you got the Ryan Scholarship.” Then it was two minutes of just like, “I did it!” Then I called my grandpa, who helped me brainstorm ideas. And then I had to call my other grandparents. And that’s when I was thinking, I really won it because of them. My application itself was about them, in essence. It really was never only me. It was my grandparents, my parents, everyone who supported me.
Standout URI Moment So Far
One of the best moments for me at URI so far was actually on September 5 of my freshman year, before classes even started. I knew which direction I wanted to go in, and that I wanted to go abroad and do humanitarian engineering. I found the Peace Corps Prep Program. I spoke with Dr. Michael Rice to officially join the program. With that, I had my application paperwork sent to Washington, and felt like, this is the start. For me, that was a really emotional moment. I remember calling my mom and telling her, “It’s starting. I’m really starting to get going here.”
Goals as a Student
So what I hope to accomplish before graduating is to keep building a big community. I’ve been involved in a lot of student orgs, meeting everybody from engineers, nonengineers, people from the College of the Environment and Life Sciences, faculty members, it’s just been a great experience. In the upcoming year I’m also going to be a global peer ambassador, working with the Office of International Students and Scholars and with study abroad students who are coming to URI for the first time, helping them build a support network and adding them to my own. I hope I can be a good first face for them to see.
Fine Arts Center as a Community Destination and Artist Showcase
The Fine Arts Center is set to benefit from public support that will update the half-century-old facility. A state bond investment of $57.3 million as well as $16 million allocated in the 2023 state budget will provide much needed renovations. One major initiative of the campaign is to elevate this effort to ensure that the new center reflects the caliber of fine arts talent and the history of artistic accomplishment at the University.
With the recent achievements of Tony-winning actor Andrew Burnap ’13, the long-term success of Billboard-chart-topping professor Adam Levin, and the potential of students refining their art each day on campus, there is no doubt about the quality of fine arts education at URI. The physical structure of the center needs to communicate this to the broader community, while also serving as a beacon of entertainment and cultural enrichment for 50,000 visitors each year.
Alumni, friends, corporations, and foundations have already contributed to this effort. The University will continue to bring in transformational support to realize this vision.
“When I entered URI as a fine arts student, the existing building was brand new. Today, the patina of splattered paint and spilled plaster attest to a building which has served as a workplace for decades of art students. A new facility, with more light and space, will become the laboratory for new artists. What a wonderful and important project!”Maeve Hickey ’70, distinguished multimedia artist
The Soloviev Basketball Practice Facility nears completion
The final touches are on schedule for the official opening of the Soloviev Basketball Practice Facility this fall, while the women’s and men’s basketball teams will gain early access for practice sessions in August.
The former West Gymnasium has been undergoing a complete renovation since 2022 and features one full-sized basketball court and two half-sized courts, with the same surface as in the floor of the Ryan Center.
An artwork contest sponsored by the Soloviev Art Foundation encouraged URI students to design wall art for display in the hallway leading to the practice facility. The winner of the contest will receive a $2,500 scholarship and credit for the installation.
The state-of-the-art facility provides the men’s and women’s teams with more court time and greater schedule flexibility, while also showcasing URI’s first class facilities for recruits. Since construction of the Thomas M. Ryan Center, the men’s and women’s teams have had to coordinate court practice times with a robust schedule of concerts, community events, and other activities in the same space. The new practice facility will also open up time in the Ryan Center for more entertainment bookings and increased revenue.
- Training room for student-athlete care
- Video board and teaching wall for enhanced training
- Fueling station to maximize student-athlete performance
Coinciding with the campaign, Metcalf Institute has extended the reach of its critical work of promoting informed, inclusive communications about environmental challenges and solutions. The institute is developing an increasing number of public programs in addition to its core work of conducting science training for journalists and communications training for scientists, researchers, and other experts. Philanthropic support during the campaign has been key to this growth.
An impact accelerator fund has allowed Metcalf Institute to add staff positions that are essential to scaling up for a broader impact. In 2022, they welcomed a development consultant to expand their donor base, heighten immediate-use fundraising, and forge connections among organizations, corporations, and potential funders. Metcalf Institute will further expand this year with the addition of a staff member focused on its inclusive science communication portfolio and support of the growing global community of practice. This position is initially funded by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the Rita Allen Foundation (via the Civic Science Associate program), and the Burroughs Wellcome Fund.
The institute is celebrating its 25th year by embarking on an ambitious plan for the future while recognizing a quarter century of improving science communication. While working continuously to address global issues of environmental health, the clearest examples of the institute’s value come from graduates of the program.
“This was a truly awesome fellowship. I woke up every day excited to learn more and hear from a new round of experts. I have a better understanding of how to navigate scientific papers and relationships with scientists, and how to report on the climate.”Kyle Bagenstose
USA Today, 2020 Annual Science Immersion Workshop for Journalists
Big Ideas. Bold Plans. The Campaign for URI has made all of these things and more possible, advancing URI and creating new opportunities across five strategic areas:
- Student Access
- The URI Learning Experience
- Transformative Faculty Leadership
- Innovative and Distinctive Programs
- Strategic Opportunities
But the work is not yet done! It will take everyone across the URI community working together to bring the University to the next level of educational and academic success.
Support From Within
In 2022, a committed group of faculty and staff agreed to serve as ambassadors to encourage their peers to contribute to URI Day of Giving. This successful initiative gained momentum and raised $1.44 million from 641 individuals by the end of the fiscal year.
The effort continued the following year, topping the previous total to reach $1.55 million with even more faculty, faculty emeriti, and staff members joining in. This level of support from those who are working on campus each day indicates not only their dedication to URI students but also their confidence in the University’s direction and the goals of the campaign.
“I have always felt it is important to move University initiatives forward,” said one of the ambassadors, Jeffrey Ulricksen M.P.A. ’21, assistant director of spatial services. “As a staff member, an alum, and parent of two students, I want to ensure that others get to experience this wonderful community. That’s why I give and why I serve on this committee.”