University of Rhode Island names Barbara Wolfe new provost

Wolfe, who has served as College of Nursing dean for six years, was selected after an international search and will start on Jan. 1

KINGSTON, R.I. – Nov. 22, 2022 – The University of Rhode Island has named Barbara E. Wolfe its new provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. Wolfe, an internationally recognized expert on psychiatric and mental health nursing and eating disorders, has served as dean of the URI College of Nursing since 2016. Her selection follows a broad search that drew interest from an international field of candidates.

In making the announcement today, URI President Marc Parlange praised Wolfe for her efforts to enhance the student experience, advance student success, increase faculty support, and strengthen the College of Nursing’s national profile and reputation.

“Dean Wolfe is a successful scholar, researcher, and educator who has skillfully led the College of Nursing since joining the University in 2016,” Parlange said. “Dean Wolfe is an exceptional colleague and she brings exciting new ideas and a thoughtful approach to the role. I am confident that she will lead with integrity and generosity, just as she has at the college, and I look forward to partnering with her as we enter this next phase of growth and transformation for the University.”

During Wolfe’s tenure as dean, URI’s College of Nursing has increased its levels of federal research and training grant funding, bolstered scholarship support for students, recruited a more diverse community of students and faculty, and initiated an undergraduate research fellows program. As dean, Wolfe also launched the college’s psychiatric mental health nurse-practitioner program in 2019, increased graduate student support, and worked with faculty and staff to implement a five-year college strategic plan.

Wolfe, who begins her duties Jan. 1, came to URI in March 2016 after having served as associate dean for research and professor at Boston College’s William F. Connell School of Nursing. In addition to her work at Boston College, she served as a psychiatry lecturer at Harvard Medical School and president of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association.

“I was originally drawn to URI for its commitment to accessible public education,” Wolfe said. “This resonated with my belief that public institutions should be able to provide high quality, affordable education, thereby increasing access to learning that ultimately benefits society. I remain excited about the University’s progress and continued commitment to serve the state as its flagship research university.”

Wolfe continued, saying, “I am energized by the growing scholarship and creative works across the campus, providing endless student learning opportunities while also positioning the University to be a preeminent institution of higher learning with local and global impact. My experience at the University has given me a great appreciation of the formidable strength of URI, its growing international reputation, and the endless exciting possibilities that lie ahead.”

As the top academic official at URI, Wolfe will oversee the University’s nine academic schools and colleges, University College for Academic Success, and 800 full-time faculty, as well as part-time and per course instructors. URI enrolls some 17,600 students–including 14,000 undergraduate and 2,700 graduate students, and 1,200 certificate or non-degree students.

Among Wolfe’s top priorities as provost and executive vice president are to invest in initiatives that welcome and empower a diverse campus community; champion URI’s enrollment strategy; enhance the student experience and advance student success; bolster the University’s standing as a distinguished flagship research university with scholarly strength across all disciplines; build on URI’s core academic strengths; support faculty development; employ innovative operational and financial processes; and care for URI’s core communities.

Wolfe will assume provost duties from Laura Beauvais, who has served as interim provost for the past year. Over more than 35 years at URI, Beauvais has served the University in many roles, including as vice provost for faculty affairs and as a professor of management once more.

Parlange noted Beauvais’ long service to URI, saying, “I want to thank Laura Beauvais for her leadership as interim provost and vice president of academic affairs. I have appreciated her guidance and support throughout my first year as president. She is a collaborative and generous leader and a true friend of URI.”

Wolfe brings impressive levels of expertise, experience and accomplishments to her new role as provost. She helped elevate the College of Nursing to one of its highest points in its history. Its undergraduate program is now ranked among the top 10 percent of nursing colleges in the country, according to the latest U.S. News & World Report rankings. The overall grade point average for incoming students is 3.92, and of the 1,224 students enrolled in nursing, 30 percent are first-generation university students and 25 percent are from historically underrepresented groups.

An accomplished researcher, Wolfe has received extensive funding from the National Institutes of Health for improved interventions and relapse and prevention for young people with eating disorders. The impact of such work led to Wolfe’s induction as a Fellow in the Academy of Nursing and the International Eating Disorders Research Society. She also served on the American Psychiatric Association’s eating disorder work group for the 5th edition of the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders.”

Her clinical experience also includes a tenure as director of nursing for a psychiatric hospital for children and adolescents in Newport News, Virginia. She is a Rhode Island registered nurse and a clinical nurse specialist in psychiatric and mental health nursing.

Among her considerable awards and honors are Phi Kappa Honor Society induction, Yale School of Nursing Distinguished Alumni/ae Award, Annie Goodrich Distinguished Lectureship Award, American Psychiatric Nurses Association Recognition of Service for Co-Founding the Clinical Psychopharmacology Institute, and Psychiatric Nurse of the Year award from the American Psychiatric Nurses Association.

Wolfe earned a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing from Syracuse University and a Master of Science degree in psychiatric mental health nursing from Yale University. She earned a Ph.D. in nursing from Boston College.