DONALD J. Farish, inaugurated Oct. 13 as the 10th president of Roger Williams University, is in the process of forging a shared vision for the 55-year-old, private school along the waterfront in Bristol. He’d like to see an MBA program established, for instance, and increased use of the downtown Providence continuing education program.
Donald J. Farish, inaugurated Oct. 13 as the 10th president of Roger Williams University, is in the process of forging a shared vision for the 55-year-old, private school along the waterfront in Bristol. He’d like to see an MBA program established, for instance, and increased use of the downtown Providence continuing education program.
He began his new job in June, coming from Rowan University in Glassboro, N.J., where he served as president for 13 years.
An educator, attorney and a scientist, he received his doctorate in biology from Harvard University and his law degree from the University of Missouri. His first administrative job was assistant/associate dean at the University of Rhode Island, where he served from 1979 to 1983. He later worked in California for 15 years before taking on the Rowan presidency.
He believes a university, whether public or private, has a responsibility to society and the community.
All colleges and universities in Rhode Island should work together on closing the skills gap in the state, he said. And in Bristol, he is working with town officials on several projects, including conversion of the former Wally School into an arts center and preservation of an historic building at Colt State Park.
PBN: What do you see as your top priority as president of Roger Williams University?
FARISH: Developing a shared vision for our future. There are wonderful individual programs [at RWU], but I don’t have the sense that we share any collective vision of where we’re trying to go as an institution – and that’s a leadership responsibility.
So, what I’m doing is just having lots of different kinds of conversations with the faculty and staff and, of course, the administrators. … I’m constantly trying to ascertain what it is that people think and then convert what I’m hearing into some type of more-general concept for the future of the university that we can hopefully all agree on and have a sense of direction for what we’re doing.
PBN: What changes are you planning to bring to the university?
FARISH: The specific changes from a programmatic standpoint will emerge from the discussions we’re having right now on a sense of strategic direction for the institution. One thing I can say that I do feel we need to do is, we need to develop among faculty, staff and students a campus that is more clearly reflective of the diversity of our society. We are still not reflective even of the diversity in Rhode Island.