Parlange says URI has had ‘great momentum’

SOUTH KINGSTOWN – In his approximately 20-minute State of the University speech on Tuesday, University of Rhode Island President Marc B. Parlange cited that the past year has been one of “great momentum” for the state university.

Parlange noted that URI, after a half century of declining state financial support, received $105.4 million from the 2024 state fiscal budget, marking a 16% increase from the previous year. Of that, about $65.8 million will be utilized to renovate and renew “several outdated” athletic facilities on campus, including Meade Stadium – home to URI’s football team – the baseball, softball and soccer fields, and an outdoor track that has not been used in more than three decades. Parlange called this state investment “huge.”

Additionally, URI’s recent Day of Giving raised more than $2 million. Not only did it surpass the university’s $1.5 million goal for the 24-hour fundraising campaign, but it was also the most successful Day of Giving in URI’s history.

“Investment in URI is critical, it’s what fuels our university,” Parlange 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.”

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With the renewed investment in the university, URI, Parlange said, is “on [its] way” to achieving the goals in the university’s new 10-year strategic plan that was launched this past spring. The plan, named “Focus URI: A Strategic Vision for the University of Rhode Island,” offers four strategic priorities – broadening URI’s impact, enhancing student achievement, fostering an inclusive culture and powering the university of the future. The plan came to fruition through working sessions and community forums on the university’s campuses that generated more than 800 pages of notes and comments from hundreds of URI community members.

Parlange also highlighted that URI’s research endeavors brought in $156.8 million in funding for various initiatives. That is a 24% increase from the previous year, he said.

Among the research initiatives Parlange mentioned is the Rhode Island IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence. The network is a statewide consortium housed at URI that supports and develops talented individuals committed to research in cancer, environmental health sciences and neuroscience.

“There are many ways that members of the URI community are helping us fulfill our mission as a land- and sea-grant university,” Parlange said.

Parlange also said Tuesday that URI launched a strategic investment initiative that provides kick-starter funding to innovative proposals. The initiative, he said, is designed to inspire entrepreneurial thought around how we can collaborate more effectively and enhance our academic, research and administrative work.

To date, URI has invested $3 million in kick-starter funding to support 28 different projects through this initiative, Parlange said. Such projects could have a potential to increase new enrollment at URI, help the university “strategically redeploy” financial aid – more than 90% of URI’s students receive some financial aid – and reduce URI’s energy costs.

Also, Parlange announced that URI is beginning a multiyear effort to design an “incentive-based budget model” to put the university on “a path for long-term financial sustainability. He said this new model empower URI’s individual 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.

A steering committee and design committee will meet over the next several months to engage in colleagues across campus to design this new budget model, Parlange said. The university, Parlange said, has set “ambitious goals” and it will require a collective effort to reach them.

“The impact and the value of public, flagship universities like ours cannot be overstated. Public universities are at the core of every productive society, offering students affordable and accessible education,” Parlange said. “But without investment, public institutions, like URI, risk losing their ability to deliver on their vital education, research and service missions. Fully achieving this vision requires all of us. We can be part of something great here.”

James Bessette is the PBN special projects editor, and also covers the nonprofit and education sectors. You may reach him at Bessette@PBN.com. You may also follow him on Twitter at @James_Bessette.