Skip Main Navigation

Community College of Rhode Island

President delivers state of the college report

March 30, 2012


Good morning! I’d like to extend a warm welcome to each of you as we gather for the Community College of Rhode Island’s 10th annual Professional Development Day.

It’s great to see all of the familiar faces together again on what has become a very special day. This is a day that we’ve set aside for YOU. A day for your professional and personal growth. It’s also a day for reflection. Reflection on what we’ve all accomplished over the past year and also on the work still to be done.

Lastly, it’s a day of recognition. We gather here today to celebrate our students, our faculty and our staff, many of whom have accomplished much in the past year. And I’ll touch on some of the positives that have taken place here at the college.

When Bob Dylan penned the song “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” the year was 1963.

The Cuban Missile Crisis was still fresh in everyone’s mind, American schoolchildren practiced hiding under their desks every day in class to protect themselves from nuclear attack, the Vietnam War was looming and John F. Kennedy’s assassination was only months away.

Governor John Chafee and the Rhode Island legislature were also putting the final touches on the opening of Rhode Island’s first community college.

When we reflect on the “good old days,” we often realize that they weren’t as rosy as we tend to remember them.

Every age has had its challenges. That was true in 1963 and it’s true today.

Today we have a stock market in flux, political polarization and an economy in Rhode Island that is not projected to improve for the remainder of this decade.

No matter the year, the key to challenges and to change is how well you manage and adapt. The last five years have brought a never-ending series of challenges and changes to our state and our college. What we do to manage and adapt will ultimately define us, as an administration, as educators and as an institution.

We’re here today and every day because of our students. I would like to introduce you to a few of them who have made us incredibly proud this year.

First, I’d like you to meet Bobby Allen. A CCRI track and cross country runner, Bobby added two more championship wins to his impressive list of accomplishments earlier this month.

He placed first in both the mile and 3,000-meter events at the NJCAA Indoor Track and Field Championship at Eastern Illinois University. He is the first CCRI student in history to win two national championship events at a single meet.

Bobby was ranked third in both events going into the championship, but he edged out the Kenyan runner from Iowa Central Community College who was ranked first in both.

Let me remind you that, last fall, Bobby was CCRI’s first national cross country champion when he finished first in the NJCAA Division III Cross Country National Championship race on Nov. 5.

Bobby maintains an excellent 3.0 GPA and he will compete in the 1,500- and 800-meter events during this spring’s outdoor track season and hopes to go to nationals again.

Next, I’d like to speak about coach Rick Harris and the CCRI men’s basketball team.

Men’s basketball at CCRI has had a long tradition of success and this year’s team has added another outstanding chapter to that history. The Knights finished 31-5 this season, setting a school record for the most victories in a season.

Throughout the season, the Knights won at an impressive clip and climbed in the national rankings. When tournament time arrived, the team stepped its game up to an even higher level.

First, the squad captured the Region 21 championship. Then, the District championship and a trip to the National tournament was secured with a blowout win over Lackawanna of Pennsylvania.

At the National tournament in Danville, Ill., CCRI raced past Penn Valley of Missouri, throttled Baltimore City Community College and produced a heroic comeback to edge past South Suburban of Illinois in overtime. In the national championship game, despite a valiant effort, they fell to top seed Mott of Flint, Michigan.

Rick and players, congratulations on your incredible accomplishments this season. You’ve made not just CCRI, but the whole state of Rhode Island proud.

Last, I’d like to tell you about Anthony Paolino.

Anthony is a business student who will be graduating this spring with an anticipated 3.5 GPA and is hoping to continue his education at Brown University.

He is a member of the Rhode Island National Guard, president of our on-campus Student Veterans Organization and recently co-founded and is CEO of the Rhode Island Military Organization, a multi-faceted organization that includes a military support lounge at the T.F. Green Airport, a Military Youth Development Academy for at-risk teens, a state military and veterans’ benefits Web page, and the Student Veterans Organization.

Last month, I was pleased to nominate Anthony for the Campus Compact's 2012 Newman Civic Fellows Award, and this month we learned he was welcomed into the Newman Civic Fellows class of 2012, composed of 160 student leaders representing Campus Compact member colleges and universities from 32 states.


CCRI Cultural Awareness Day 2012We are nearing the end of another successful All College Week, when we celebrate and showcase the many talents of our staff, faculty and students.

On Monday we welcomed storyteller Valerie Tutson as a tie-in to our Common Reading Project; on Tuesday, “Team CCRI” went out into the community to volunteer at eight nonprofits; we focused on health and wellness with the annual Wellness Fair on Wednesday; celebrated our diversity yesterday; and tomorrow, we’ll see “A Lincoln Profile” in the morning and retire the jersey of Rheal Cormier, a 1988 alumnus of the college, in the afternoon. Rheal is a former 16-year major leaguer and you can meet him during this afternoon’s closing session. What an exciting week!

I’d like to recognize our IT department for the work they have done this week and especially for their work today. We have over 70 PDD seminars taking place today and the IT department has helped to make those seminars possible.

I’d also like to recognize our maintenance department. The work that they do behind the scenes often goes unrecognized, but without their efforts, our campuses would not be ready to host events such as these.

I want to go back to yesterday’s diversity event at Liston for a minute. I’m pleased to report that we have near-record enrollment numbers on campus once again this spring – 17,178 students.

But that number is only one part of the picture. Did you know that CCRI has representation from students who hail from 99 different countries?

That’s an amazing statistic that I wanted to share with you. Part of our mission is to champion diversity, and the result of that was clear at the Liston Campus yesterday!

Enrollment for summer sessions begins on Monday and fall registration begins in a few weeks. We’ve got a Grand Information Session coming up on April 10 at the Liston Campus and our annual Education Expo on May 5 here at the Knight Campus. Thank you to those of you who volunteer your time at events such as these to help your fellow Rhode Islanders make the decision to change their lives.

I want to tell you about one more upcoming event that will take place on June 2 and 3 at our Flanagan Campus.

CCRI is the proud host of the first-ever Rhode Island Mission of Mercy event – a free dental clinic that expects to serve as many as 600 uninsured or underinsured Rhode Islanders suffering from dental pain.

We have offered the use of our newly renovated dental hygiene and dental assisting labs, a donation that event organizers from the Rhode Island Oral Health Foundation estimate has saved $40,000 or more that they would have spent to rent a facility and all of the dental chairs and equipment needed to serve this population.

I want to thank Kathy Gazzola, chair of our Dental Health programs, for bringing this project to our attention and for her hard work in coordinating our participation. Part of our college’s mission statement calls on us to “respond to community needs” and this event certainly fits the bill.

Besides the hundreds of dental professionals that will volunteer their time, the effort will require more than 200 volunteers – no dental experience necessary – to escort patients, serve refreshments and carry out other important duties on those two days.

To sign up as a volunteer, please visit


CCRI will renovate its Bobby Hackett Theater.Our state is still experiencing troubling times, but we are not delaying the many necessary projects at our campuses. In fact, we have $37 million in projects that are under way or will be getting under way soon.

This theater where you are sitting today soon will undergo a renovation that is planned to be complete by the end of October. When we meet on Professional Development Day next year, you’ll be sitting in brand new seats!

You may have noticed new carpeting on the first floor of this campus. That project will continue on the sixth floor after commencement. A roofing project also has begun at this campus that also will continue following commencement, and the third and final phase of the rooftop HVAC and roof replacement project at the Flanagan Campus will be complete this summer.

And I’m sure those of you at the Knight, Liston and Flanagan campuses have seen the ongoing work to upgrade the sprinkler and fire alarm systems. And, because of the warm winter, we’re further along on the Liston parking lot project than expected.

Also planned are a renovation of the art studios at this campus, upgrades to the libraries at the Liston and Flanagan campuses, and renovations and upgrades to the biology labs at the Knight and Flanagan campuses, and the physics, chemistry and clinical laboratory technology labs at the Flanagan Campus.

These are just some of the projects taking place at our campuses to provide our students with state-of-the-art facilities for learning.

As I mentioned earlier, we cannot let challenging economic times hold us back. During the past two years, we have sought and secured grant funding totaling nearly $10 million!

It’s so rewarding to see grant-funded programs come to fruition. Just last month, we held a joint event with National Grid to celebrate the first class of graduates who will finish the Energy Utility Technology Certificate program this May. This program was created with a $750,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy in 2010. I had the pleasure of meeting the soon-to-be graduates and hearing firsthand about the wonderful learning experience our program provided.

Another notable grant is the $3.4 million award from the U.S. Department of Labor to establish the Pathways to Advance Career Education project, supporting trade-displaced individuals, veterans, and the unemployed and underemployed.

The three-year grant is the largest in CCRI history, and will produce pathways to career-ladder jobs in the expanding industries of health care and information technology.

CCRI was one of 33 community colleges in the country to receive these funds in the Department of Labor’s effort to better coordinate workers’ abilities with the skills employers demand. Recruitment of students is getting under way now. Thank you to Associate Vice President Robin Smith for her leadership in this grant.

I want to highlight one more grant we learned about last week – a nearly $1.3 million award to expand our Early Childhood Education Certificate program, which is headquartered at our Liston Campus.

This grant money is part of the $50 million Race to the Top funding the R.I. Department of Education received to increase the quality and quantity of the early care and education work force in Rhode Island.

With this grant, we will be able to significantly increase the number of students, as well as extend locations of our courses to other campuses. Our portion of the grant also will begin the process of accrediting the certificate program through the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

This generous allocation can be attributed to the success of this certificate program, which has a retention rate of more than 90 percent! I want to congratulate the entire Human Services Department and chairman Jerry Hatfield on a job well done.


NEASCOur NEASC self-study process is well under way in advance of our next 10-year accreditation visit in March 2014.

Last June, we learned that the new NEASC Standards require much more evidence to substantiate claims of institutional effectiveness.

Since September, the NEASC Executive Team has completed a preliminary description and appraisal of how CCRI meets the expectations outlined in each of the 11 standards and identified three to four priority areas in each that must be addressed to position CCRI in a more positive light.

Co-chairs of all 11 standards have been asked to submit project management plans for addressing these priority areas over the next four semesters.

The NEASC executive team will meet on a regular basis to monitor the implementation of the Project Management Plans with the goal of addressing most of the issues in each priority area by September 2013.

All of this information is available for your review online at

I would like to thank the more than 75 CCRI faculty and staff who are contributing to this important self-study.


Student success is at the heart of CCRI's mission.We’ve spoken a lot about change today. As we come to the close of this year’s Professional Development Day opening, I’d like to ask each of you to reflect on the one thing that will never change: Our dedication to our student’s success and our determination to help them change their lives and achieve their dreams.

As we get bombarded daily with bad news and headlines that forecast economic doom and gloom, it can be difficult to stay positive.

What we’ve heard today speaks to the good work that we are all doing here at CCRI and carries the undeniable message that we are capable of adapting to change and that we are making a difference. Take that message with you as you leave here today.

Since we’ve spoken so much about change today, I’d like to leave you with this quote by Charles Swindoll, an American writer:

"The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company... a church... a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you... we are in charge of our Attitudes.”

Thank you, and have a great day and rest of the semester.

This page developed and maintained by Office of the President. Send comments and suggestions to .

Last Updated: 3/6/18