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higher education

URI outlines plans for ‘cluster’ initiative


SOUTH KINGSTOWN – The University of Rhode Island has outlined plans for a “cluster initiative” designed to focus academic energy and resources on four new interdisciplinary areas of study.

The four areas of study – Aging and Health: Promoting Wellness Across the Lifespan; Islamic and Mediterranean Studies; Sustainable Energy for the 21st Century; and Water Resources: Blue Environment and Economy – were selected following last year’s URI Academic Summit, after which the office of the provost established a process for academic groups to compete for funding to hire additional faculty. The faculty submitted dozens of proposals, four of which were selected.

In the upcoming fall semester, URI faculty will welcome the four “clusters” of leading faculty from around the globe to “advance inter- and multi-disciplinary teaching, learning and research focused on challenging, emerging and relevant societal issues that transcend traditional borders among disciplines,” said a URI release.

“The interdisciplinary focus of this initiative will enrich the learning experience of our students in critical areas of study and also advance our research competitiveness around critical societal issues,” URI Provost Donald DeHayes said in a statement. “Furthermore, it allows students to learn about some of the most challenging issues of the 21st Century and allows faculty to research and teach beyond the confines of just one specific department, program or college.

“This program and approach emerged from our academic planning process and builds on existing strengths of the university and priorities in the world. The result is quite exciting,” said DeHayes.

Three faculty members are being hired to collaborate with existing URI faculty in each of the four cluster areas. Events were held on March 20 and 22 to welcome some of the new faculty to URI.

The Aging and Health cluster will focus on health economics, health care policy and health disparities, as well as the gendered, racial and socio-culture life course determinants of health. The cluster is led by URI Program in Gerontology Director and Professor Phillip Clark.

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