URI’s new president outlines future plans, current challenges

Education

KINGSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — He’s been across the globe teaching on three continents, and now he’s the new president of the University of Rhode Island.

Marc Parlange said he has spent the past few weeks getting to know the campus, students, staff, and some of the university’s specific programs.

“I’ve had the pleasure of going out with the marine sciences, out on a boat, to see the tagged sharks they collected,” Parlange recalled. “It’s really such a vibrant research university.”

Parlange is known internationally for his expertise in environmental subjects such as climate change and hydrology. Now at URI, he’s trying to secure an estimated $300 million from the state’s over $1.1 billion in federal American Rescue Plan Act funding.

“It’s really for rehabbing the Narragansett Bay campus, graduate studies, school success, and for life scientists,” Parlange said. “It’s a substantial amount of money but it’s important to remember, every dollar invested in the university has a multiple return on its investment.”

Parlange said in the short term, URI has devoted a lot of time and energy to keeping the campus running on all cylinders, with mostly in-person classes after last year’s COVID restrictions.

With a vaccine requirement in place, 94% of students on campus are vaccinated and the other 6% are tested every week. There is also a less than 5% positivity rate on campus.

“There’s such an energy, and a positive energy, on campus right now so we are trying to be careful and systematic about it,” Parlange said.

He also has noted a high level of interest in sustainability on campus. He hopes to introduce a “Super Club Series” bringing together members of the business community, students, and staff.

As Parlange works on developing his strategic plan for the university’s future, he’s also focused on strengthening the school’s diversity and community.

“We are Rhode Island’s flagship university, and you can really feel the pride here with everyone within the community at large,” he said.

URI received a record number of applications this year and 17,609 students enrolled this fall, which is close to last year’s strong enrollment number of 17,671 students.

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