KINGSTON, R.I. – Feb. 2, 2023 – In his first State of the University address on Wednesday, University of Rhode Island President Marc Parlange celebrated the University community and its tradition of accomplishment, and introduced a strategic vision for the institution’s next decade.
Speaking before an engaged crowd of some 500 people at Edwards Hall and several hundred more online, Parlange trumpeted the University’s recent accomplishments and its contributions to the state and its citizens as Rhode Island’s flagship public research university.
“Since our founding, URI has had a purpose to provide accessible, research-based programs and education that improves the lives of the individuals, families, and communities in our state,” Parlange said. “One-hundred-thirty years later, we have transformed into a global institution that attracts faculty and students from around the world.”
In celebrating the University community, Parlange declared that, “Rhody Pride runs deep. Everywhere I go, from the farmers market to football games, from West Kingston to East Providence to Pawtucket, I meet alumni, friends, and proud parents who are eager to share their own URI story with me.”
“URI is changing lives,” he added. “Today, I am here to tell you that we are Rhode Island’s University–its flagship research institution–and our time is now.”
Parlange heralded the many successes occurring across the University’s campuses—from student-athletes who “make it easy to don our best Keaney blues” to the impactful research and creative endeavors of faculty to the University’s Talent Development program, which he called “a national model,” and which has given generations of students from historically underserved populations a pathway to URI.
“Higher education provides the greatest potential for driving positive change in the world,” Parlange said. “As Rhode Island’s flagship university, we have the opportunity—and the responsibility—to educate, inspire, and equip the next generation of learners with the ideas, knowledge, and skills they need to be engaged global citizens.”
Parlange opened his address by recognizing Black History Month and the University’s plans to “celebrate and honor the generations of African Americans whose lives, struggles, and accomplishments paved the way for modern civil rights and justice for millions across the country.”
And he laid forth an ambitious vision for the University’s next decade, which will be guided by a new 10-year strategic plan called Focus URI. The plan, Parlange said, will serve as a road map to “power the university of the future.”
“It will help navigate challenges, seize opportunities, and measure our success,” he said. “It will help us distinguish ourselves from our peers; forge new partnerships for the broader good; and invigorate and unite us with a renewed sense of purpose.”
A planning committee, composed of a diverse group of faculty, staff, and students and co-chaired by Parlange and Professor Michael Rice, president of the Faculty Senate, led a process that included working sessions and community forums on the Kingston, Narragansett Bay and Providence campuses and engaged hundreds of URI community members.
The strategic plan is built on four strategic priorities.
The first priority calls for broadening the University’s impact, making URI “a national model for how a flagship public research university can drive transformative change for the betterment of its state and the global human condition,” Parlange said. It includes fostering stronger relationships with local, state and federal agencies, and community organizations, and envisions the University’s role as a “hub of innovation” in such areas as the Blue Economy.
Second, the plan prioritizes enhancing student achievement by fostering an active and engaged learning environment that provides students resources and support that promote inclusion, well-being, and holistic development. The University will be responsive to career and academic trends that meet the needs of modern students while also ensuring URI is accessible to all and developing programs that cultivate a sense of belonging.
Third, the University will foster a diverse, equitable and inclusive community, creating a vibrant integrated university with a culture of “valuing people, excellence, and giving back,” he said. The plan calls for continuing work focused on anti-racism, encouraging discourse between diverse groups and individuals, and celebrating faculty and staff through enhanced human resources organization, professional development, and a culture of excellence that rewards achievement and performance.
Finally, the plan lays out a road map to “power the university of the future,” implementing administrative and financial practices that position the University for long-term success. It includes modernizing financial practices; being ambitious fundraisers and partners; focusing on generating new revenue that can be invested in teaching, research and service missions; and investing in modern facilities and services.
“In this next decade, we will intensify our positive impact as a leader in education, research, and entrepreneurial activity,” he said. “Now is our time. This plan is our guide. And there is so much we will achieve together.”
Following his address, Parlange and Provost Barbara Wolfe took part in a conversation with Laurie White ’81, president of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce.
“This is a historical moment,” said Wolfe. “Anytime you do a strategic plan, you’re saying collectively what do we want for our future? We are charting the future, and that’s very exciting. The priorities we have established are the pillars of excellence for the next decade.”
“There are a lot of challenges that are facing higher education these days,” Wolfe added. “To respond to those challenges, we need to think about how we are agile. How we approach innovation and nimbleness. How we manage change. I think that will take all of us collectively to achieve that level of excellence.”
In reflecting on his own journey to the University, Parlange said, “What I think URI means for many, and certainly what it means for me, is that anything is possible here.”
View the University’s 10-year strategic plan, Focus URI, at uri.edu/strategicplan.
Watch an on-demand version of the State of the University address.