Getting to Know Incoming URI President Marc Parlange


  1. What are/were the central features/attributes of URI that led you to apply for this Job?

I was drawn by several factors: URI has a great reputation for its scholarship and the uplift it brings to the state of Rhode Island, including its outstanding work in oceanography and climate, which intersect with my own field of research; I was impressed by the strides URI has made, both in campus infrastructure improvements and academic programs, under the leadership of President Dooley; the community is vibrant and inclusive; and its values and ambition are very much in line with my own vision of an ideal university.

  1. We expect that a first priority will be getting to know the University and its people, but what issues do you most want to address during your first months on the job?

We will of course have to see where we are in terms of the pandemic and planning the return to fuller campus activity in the fall. I will also be looking at the results of the campus climate survey and discussing next steps with respect to diversity and inclusion with the community. I expect to address issues of student accessibility to URI, faculty and staff recruitment and support, and starting the development of the next strategic plan. I will also launch a search for the next provost.

  1. This is a big move for you and your family. What do you think will be the most challenging adjustment? 

Mary and I are pros at moving, having done it many times in the course of our global career. We are looking forward with enthusiasm and joy to coming back to the U.S. and Rhode Island and reuniting with family and friends after more than a year of separation during the pandemic. We are looking forward to meeting new people and getting to know the campus community and Rhode Island better.

  1. URI, like every other higher education institution, has experienced a year-and-a- half like no other, including profound changes in class delivery, cancellation of intercollegiate sports, as well as in-person meetings of clubs and organizations and many other dramatic changes in day-to-day University life. It’s safe to say that everyone is tired, stressed out and ready for a change. How will you help reinvigorate the people of URI after such an extended period of change and crisis?

It will be important to celebrate a return to campus in a COVID-safe way, while also acknowledging and addressing our losses and the impact this has had on people’s lives. Study, teaching, research and service have all been affected, but hopefully without the constant disruption of new rules and restrictions, things should smooth out as time goes on. With the staff we will plan activities and gatherings, as appropriate. We will re-engage as soon as possible in clubs, sports and cultural events and performances, and I will be there with you. I think we will all be overjoyed to be back on campus studying, researching, teaching and gathering together.

  1. Besides being born in Providence what are your connections to Rhode Island?
    Does it feel like coming home?

In many ways it does. I had family and friends who lived in Rhode Island, and my family often visited when I was a child. We had great fun camping, swimming, sailing and fishing during the summer months.

  1. What have you learned from reading the URI student newspaper? 

Where do I start? I am impressed by the quality of the journalism and the podcasts. I enjoy reading about campus life, about the people of URI and their stories and successes. I appreciate that URI sports are very competitive and the newspaper coverage is fantastic — there is clearly a passionate community of fans and supporters. I enjoy reading the paper’s perspective on current issues affecting the URI faculty, students and staff.

  1. If there was only one statement you could make about student success what would that be?

In my mind, the key to success as a student – and as a person – is to cultivate the “three Cs”: curiosity, creativity, and compassion — and also add a good dose of hard work.

A few personal notes:

1) I played basketball and tennis in high school — but be aware the level was not high! I was a Red Sox fan as a kid and listened to their games on the radio.

2) I am an avid runner, and get a run in most days. Mary and I met in the High Noon Athletic Club in Ithaca. I ran the Boston marathon twice while in grad school at Cornell, and once while we lived in Baltimore. I’ve been running as part of my daily commute while living in Australia.

3) My family and I enjoy outdoor sports, especially hiking and long-distance trekking. With the boys we did the Tour de Mont Blanc in the Alps, and Mary and I have hiked the Colorado Trail and the Oregon section of the Pacific Crest Trail. We’ve also done a couple of shorter treks in New Zealand.

4) We had two cats, one of which stayed behind in Switzerland, and the other in Canada. We’re looking forward to adopting a pet – hopefully a dog – once we arrive in Rhode Island.

5) I was called at 5 a.m. one day by the UBC campus police about a red VW bug that “my” engineering students had allegedly placed on the campus clocktower. Nobody was ever implicated, although we did pay the cost of getting it removed.

6) I enjoy following professional and college sports of all kinds, and Mary claims there’s a special part of my brain devoted to sports trivia.

Mary chronicled our Colorado Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail  hikes on her blog