‘Our time is now.’ URI President Marc Parlange shares message of momentum during State of the University address

Highlighting increased investment by elected leaders, and statewide and global impact by URI community members, Parlange strikes an optimistic tone about URI's 'considerable momentum'

President Marc Parlange gave his annual State of the University address on Tuesday evening. (URI Photos/Nora Lewis)

KINGSTON, R.I.—Oct. 11, 2023—University of Rhode Island President Marc Parlange touted teamwork as he spoke of the University’s momentum during the annual State of the University address on Tuesday. The speech, which illustrated progress on the University’s 10-year FOCUS URI strategic plan, was optimistic in tone, citing the University’s accomplishments and crediting members of the URI community for making a difference in Rhode Island and across the globe.

Parlange opened his remarks by highlighting the increased investment in URI made by elected officials in the state’s 2024 fiscal year budget, which includes $105.4 million for operating expenses—an increase of $14.1 million over the previous year—and $65.8 million for the renovation and renewal of several athletic facilities.

“After 50 years of declining support from the state,” he said, “I am proud to say that we are starting to turn the corner. We have shifted our course, and we are on a new path.” 

Parlange struck an optimistic tone, expressing that URI is turning a corner after 50 years of declining support from the state. “Our time is now,” he said.

Parlange took care to note the partnership with, and support from, Gov. Dan McKee, Rhode Island Speaker of the House Joseph Shekarchi, Rhode Island Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, and members of the General Assembly. “We are grateful to the governor and our elected officials who have invested in our vision,” he said.  He also thanked URI Board of Trustees members, students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends who invested their time and resources to advocate on behalf of the University. “We did this together,” he said.

“Investment in URI is an investment in our future, and in the belief that we can and will affect positive social, economic, cultural, and environmental change for our state and the world,” Parlange said. “Thank you for believing in the potential of the state’s flagship research university.”

During the nearly hour-long program at Edwards Hall, in front of a crowd of nearly 500 people, with more watching online, Parlange struck an inclusive note. He showcased the work and impact of dozens of URI faculty, staff, and students. He cited contributions to developing cancer treatments, improving climate change readiness, advancing equity leadership, engaging underserved Rhode Island youth, leading global human rights research, protecting global ecosystems, tackling microplastics pollution, revolutionizing global water treatment, and inspiring through service, among many others.

He highlighted the University’s progress against the ambitious goals set forth in FOCUS URI. The plan includes four strategic priorities: broaden the University’s impact; enhance student achievement; foster an inclusive culture; and power the university of the future.

Among URI’s achievements in the past year, he said, is $156.8 million in research funding—a 24 percent increase over the previous year.

“URI’s research and scholarship is changing lives. We are becoming a destination for companies and organizations who want to work with us,” Parlange said, noting URI’s working partnerships with the National Science Foundation, the National Institute for Undersea Vehicle Technologies, the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and more.

He reaffirmed the University’s commitment to creating a community where every student can thrive—providing one-of-a-kind experiences, academic support and access to hands-on learning opportunities, combined with outstanding courses.

“We are ensuring that a URI education is accessible to all,” Parlange said, adding that more than 90 percent of URI students receive some sort of financial assistance and more than 30 percent of incoming URI students are the first in their family to attend college. “Our entire community thrives when our students succeed,” he said.

He added that the University is continuing to develop places and programs that cultivate a sense of belonging. Remarking on the work of URI’s Gender and Sexuality Center, the Women’s Center, the Center for Military and Veteran Education, and the Multicultural Student Services Center, he said URI is “committed to ensuring that the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion are fundamental to our policies, programs, collaborations, and conversations.” 

He continued, saying the University is “striving to create a campus that does not just meet the standards for accessibility, but that is truly welcoming and accommodating to those with disabilities,” and that groups across campus are working “to ensure that those needs are heard and prioritized.”

Parlange also announced a multi-year effort to design and adopt an incentive-based budget model. “Our ability to broaden our impact and expand our reach, enhance student achievement and outcomes, and fully deliver on our potential as Rhode Island’s flagship university is limited by our current budget model,” he said. Development of the new budget model will be driven by both a steering committee and a design committee and will invite participation and feedback from all corners of the University.

“This new model will empower colleges and departments to set and achieve priorities, provide greater transparency in the budget process, incentivize revenue-generating opportunities that drive innovation, achieve cost efficiencies, and encourage research collaboration,” Parlange said. The model, he continued, will put the University on a path for long-term financial stability and strengthen its ability to broaden impact and expand reach, enhance student achievement and outcomes, and fully deliver on its land- and sea-grant missions.

“Public universities are at the core of every productive society, offering students affordable and accessible education,” Parlange said. 

“The time is now to invest in new programming and initiatives, build on our strengths in fundraising and philanthropy, develop and support efforts that enhance our research enterprise, and foster opportunities for growth in all areas of the University,” he continued. “We have set ambitious goals, and it will require our collective effort to reach them.”

Calling URI “a force for good, an agent of change in this state, a driver of transformation and excellence,” Parlange issued a call-to-action for students, faculty, staff, and members of the broader URI community. Encouraging advocacy, he said, “Tell your URI story wherever you go, and engage with policymakers and your community.” He also asked community members to commit to inclusivity, think bigger, innovate and collaborate, and lead by example. “We can be part of something great here,” he said.

“We have considerable momentum at URI and we have so much to celebrate across our University,” Parlange said. “Our time is now.”

To watch an on-demand version of President Parlange’s State of the University address, visit: uri.edu/president/sotu.

View the University’s 10-year strategic plan, Focus URI, at uri.edu/strategicplan.