PowerPlayer: Rhode Island College President Nancy Carriuolo

Monday, December 12, 2011


1) We hear so much about the need for a more educated workforce in this state. Tell us about the important role our state schools must play in order to improve the education levels of residents in Rhode Island.

All state public institutions of higher education are valuable academic and workforce development resources to Rhode Islanders – of all ages and of all educational levels of attainment. Business and industry are attracted to areas of the country where it is easy and affordable to do business, including ready access to a top-notch, stable workforce with a range of skills and knowledge. For Rhode Islanders to enter the workforce, stay current, and be poised to seek promotion or change careers, they need ready access to education, and/or training.

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I will use RIC as an example since I know its offerings best. At RIC, in addition to high-quality and affordableundergraduateand graduate degree programs, the college also offers a variety of certificates in areas such as Case Management, Gerontology, Nonprofit Studies, Risk Management and Insurance, Autism Education, Financial Planning, Health Psychology, and -- most recently -- Green Enterprise Management. Through the Office of Professional Studies and Continuing Education, RIC also offers a variety of outreach programs that are of particular value to unemployed, underemployed, & dislocated workers in areas including bookkeeping & accounting, insurance, medical assisting, green business management, and English as a Second Language (ESL).

2) At the same times, the past few years have been pretty rough when it comes to funding our colleges. Why won't state leaders fund our schools properly?

I believe that most, if not all, of the state’s leaders do see the important role of higher education in re-building the state’s economy. The problem, of course, is that in a troubled economy many worthy stakeholders, such as social services, are raising their voices regarding their extensive and growing needs. Our leaders undoubtedly see on their plates many more urgent needs than they see funds to meet those needs. I believe that the increase in funding for public higher education this fiscal year, though smaller than needed, signals that our leaders do understand and are trying to reverse the downward funding trend of recent years.

3. Walk us through a day in your life.

My day begins at around 5 am even though I do not use an alarm clock. First of all, I fire up my I-pad and answer any email that accumulated overnight. Students are especially fond of writing to me at 1-3 am. Then I feed and water the animals that live in the woods near the president’s house. I have seen possum, raccoons, chipmunks, squirrels, skunks, and birds. I am especially fond of nine wild turkeys who visit my yard promptly at 7 am in the fall: they must have a biological alarm clock, too. I read newspapers while eating breakfast. I arrive at the office between 8-8:30 am usually.

The nice part of my job is there is then nothing routine. I have meetings and attend events on and off campus. I am commonly finished late in the evening because I try to attend performances and events on campus as well as in the community. Early this week, I visited the Paul Cuffee School, held a weekly three-hour cabinet meeting with my direct reports, attended the NEASC annual accreditation meeting in Boston, and watched our men’s and women’s basketball teams win handily. My events and meetings sometimes overlap, with much of my time spent planning and problem-solving with others. I am never bored, and I fall asleep easily at night.

4) What are the three most important ways RIC can help Rhode Island?

Development of an educated, local workforce builds RI’s human capital. Since 87% of RIC’s students are Rhode Islanders, RIC develops leaders and thinkers who wish to stay in RI and build our state. Part of those leaders and thinkers are employed at RIC. RIC is a major employer with nearly 1,000 full- and part-time employees, most of whom live in RI and are tax payers. To meet the needs of adult learners, RIC recently assumed operation of the Chief Executives Club of RI and hired an Associate VP for Professional Studies and Continuing Education. We are intent on developing affordable and convenience offerings to meet the needs of not only traditional students but also the RI business community. Thanks to the generosity of donors, RIC’s School of Management operates a Bloomberg Trading Room where students use $100,000 of donated funds to buy, sell, and trade stocks; many such students are hoping to become local financial leaders. RIC is aptly named Rhode Island College.

Over the last three years,the college’s two-person grants office hasworked successfully with the faculty to capturetens of millions of dollars infunding from sources outside RI.

RIC is a rich source of expertise and culture that provides new knowledge to the external community, offers resources (sometimes pro bono) to families and various service entities, and engages the public in outstanding arts venues. Examples are varied: the development of new knowledge and services by the nationally-renowned Sherlock Center on Disabilities and by the highly ranked Schools of Nursing, Social Work, and by the School of Education (that recently received a full seven years of accreditation by NCATE and educated RI’s new teacher of the year, Julie Lima Boyle, who received her undergraduate and graduate degrees at RIC). The college has also produced scores of performers of note such as actress Viola Davis and the Metropolitan Opera’s Mary Phillips.

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5. Tell us something no one knows about you.

Hmmm… sounds like a question from an investigative reporter. Here goes: I worked in a cherry-packing plant in Upstate New York. My job was to see that the pits were removed, so no one would bite into a cherry pie and lose a tooth. I did my job with zeal because I felt personally responsible for the teeth of every American who likes cherry pie! I made great friends of all ages, I earned the importance of a work ethic, and I saved some money for college. I have carried with me to RIC the sense that every job is important.

Quick Hitters

Role Model: The late Dr. Eleanor McMahon, RIC’s first female vice president of academic affairs and the first Commissioner of RI Higher Education

Favorite Restaurant: my husband Ralf’s Italian cooking is my favorite, but I am also fond of the Blue Grotto, where we had our first real date, and the phenomenal restaurant located within Johnson and Wales University (where the fresh chocolates are especially exquisite).

Best Beach: Shhh… a secret one that has clams at low tide

Best Book You've Read in the Last Year: I loved reading and discussing When the Emperor was Divine with our campus community.

Advice for the Next Nancy Carriuolo: Appreciate RIC’s rich 157-year history but prepare the college and its students for the future.

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