University president urges to ‘vote yes on Question 1’

Posted 10/18/22

Before making his way to Chelo’s Hometown Bar and Grille for the Warwick Rotary Club’s Thursday lunch, University of Rhode Island President Marc Parlange started the morning running a 5k …

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University president urges to ‘vote yes on Question 1’


Before making his way to Chelo’s Hometown Bar and Grille for the Warwick Rotary Club’s Thursday lunch, University of Rhode Island President Marc Parlange started the morning running a 5k with the university’s sailing team. Well, the 5k actually turned into a 6k after Parlange missed a loop with the athletes. Quick with unexpected jokes and sports stories, Parlange happily shared URI’s work with Rotarians – along with the university’s vision for the Narragansett Bay Campus.

“We, as the flagship research university of the state, have such a crucial role in terms of the opportunities we can create for everybody; from K through 12 to the companies we’re able to attract to the start ups,” said Parlange.

URI has approximately 15,000 undergrad and 3,000 graduate students from 68 countries. Annually, the university distributes $140 million in financial aid and, according to Parlange, 33 percent of students identify as first in family to attend college and 25 percent of first year students identify as students of color.

“Students from around the state and around the world want to come to URI,” Parlange said. “We really have this important global reputation and U.S. wide reputation.”

As an institution, URI is looking to become a leading global research university that will drive change. Parlange said the school has four strategic priorities to achieve this goal.

“Investing in the university is really an investment in the future of the state,” he said.

He added that for every dollar invested by the State of Rhode Island in URI, the school returns $6.25 to the economy in terms of creation of jobs, new businesses and support.

A big push for the university is thinking about how, as the ocean state, individuals can care for the ocean and work with the ocean in a sustainable way. Some of the questions URI are focusing on include the following: What does that mean for Rhode Island? How do we become the national leader in the blue economy? How do we create sustainable jobs everyone can be part of?

Parlange said URI is attracting new companies, and he is currently talking with 16 Danish companies and 12 UK companies that want to come into Rhode Island and hire the university’s graduates. URI is also positioning itself in off-shore wind and aquaculture learning.

One of the major strategic plan components is cleaning up URI’s institutional health. For instance, while the Narragansett Bay Campus is in a beautiful location, Parlange said it’s in an atrocious state. The buildings were put up 60 years ago and meant to be temporary. He added that on the Nov. 8 ballot, voters will have the chance to vote yes on Question 1 which would provide a $100 million investment in Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay Campus, which is described as a key center for science and job creation within the state. The hope is for the bond to support two buildings, if voters pass it on Nov. 8.

According to the university, upgrading the Bay Campus will power innovation in the Blue Economy, marine trades, fisheries and tourism industries. Today, the Blue Economy contributes to $5 billion of the state’s economy. By 2030, that figure is projected to be $10 billion.

Phase one for this project has been completed and included building the pier which positioned the university to compete nationally for a $129 million research vessel that will be coming to URI in 2024.

Parlange has seen students in action – joining them to tag/track sharks and study ocean plastics. URI students rediscovered that the American bumble bee, for the first time in eight years, returned to Rhode Island. The university also has a strong connection with underwater technology with the University of Connecticut and URI will be getting an ocean robotics building that will bring in a new partnership. Parlanage added that while he can’t reveal everything, there are very important Rhode Island businesses that will keep business in the state and not move elsewhere.

“I think that there’s a lot that can be done there. It’s got to be about partnerships, cooperations, but it’s really – at the end of the day – also about opportunities for all Rhode Islanders and good jobs,” Parlange said.

Born in Providence, Parlange grew up around the world. His father was in the French Air Force and ended up on Yale’s mechanical engineering faculty after Sputnik took off; the family later moved to Quebec. Parlange earned his undergraduate degree at Griffith University in Australia and obtained his Master of Science and doctorate from Cornell University where he met his wife. During his career, he became a recognized expert and researcher in environmental fluid mechanics and published more than 200 peer reviewed journal articles. He has taught at many universities around the world and found his way back to Rhode Island when he accepted the position as president 14 months ago.

Parlange said the people and community at URI are great. He said no one has ever applied for the job of president and gotten it, and usually universities have search committees that will find someone for the position. Parlange said he’s always felt a certain pride in Rhode Island and URI that made him apply.

When he isn’t running with students, tagging along with classes to see what they’re learning or advocating for the university, Parlange also raises chickens which have their own Instagram page. The poultry will go over to Swan Hall and look in through the bottom windows at students, he reported with a laugh.

Parlange, university


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