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Hammering Home a Lesson in Volunteerism

In the immediate aftermath of Katrina, one of the deadliest hurricanes in U.S. history, the Clearinghouse for Volunteers swung into action to coordinate fundraising efforts. More than $35,000 was raised, primarily by student groups that held fundraisers throughout the year. The money helped sponsor a Habitat for Humanity International “House-in-a-Box.”

On a sunny day this fall, you heard the buzz of saws and tap of hammers on the Quadrangle as members of the URI community built window and doorframes for the Habitat house. The sections were trucked to Providence where other parts were constructed and then shipped to Jackson, Miss. There the house was assembled for a needy family in the Gulf area.

Communication Studies Professor Lynne Derbyshire (top right) held some two-by-fours and taught Celanda Montilla the art of nailing. The women’s studies major proved a quick study.

Alex Reeb, a civil engineering and German major from North Wales, Pa., ran a table saw like a pro. “Dad put tools in my hands and had me working beside him ever since mom let me out of the crib,” the sophomore admits. He was glad to help, especially since the house will go to a Katrina victim. “These families have lost nearly everything, lives of loved ones, their possessions. Having a house will give a family something to call home again and a starting point to finally rebuild their lives.”

If he could speak to the family that gets the house, he would ask them one thing: “To pass on the favor.”

The University was recognized for that kind of spirit of helping others when it was one of only 74 institutions of higher education in the nation to be named to the first President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with “distinction for Hurricane Relief Service.” The honor roll responds to President Bush’s call to service by building and supporting the civic engagement mission of the nation’s colleges and universities. The new recognition program is designed to increase public awareness of the contributions that college students make in their local community and beyond through volunteer service.

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Geology Rocks!

Fourteen enthusiastic geology students interested in rock formations and outdoor camping traveled to Utah, Wyoming, and Montana in late August for a field trip that Lewis and Clark would have envied.

Accompanied by eight geology faculty and staff members, and Roy Bergstrom, a videographer, the students visited the Bingham Canyon copper mine in the Salt Lake area, saw Old Faithful spout in Yellowstone, and enjoyed the splendor of the Grand Teton National Park.

Don Hermes, professor of geology, organized the group and led the “expedition.” He and his geology colleagues pointed out such geological structures as lava flows, deltas, faults, calcite springs, and stratified gravel.

The group stopped long enough to pose for a photo at Fossil Butte, Wyo. Eocene-age Green River Shale, a rock unit known for its abundant, perfectly preserved fossilized fish, caps the hill in the background. Standing (from left) are geology research associate Nasir Hamidzada, Professors Anne Veeger, Brian Savage, Don Hermes, Tom Boving, Jon Boothroyd, David Fastovsky, and students Byron Halavik, Mark Borrelli, Tyson Bottenus, Jim Allen, Kristen Ware, Ben Swanson, Erica Sachs and Josh Klement. Kneeling (from left) are students Josh Keeley, Jake Martin, Rachel Hehre, Karen Kortz, Patricia Logan, Marissa Kelly, and Professor Dan Murray.

After climbing a mountain in the northern part of Yellowstone, Jake Martin used his cellphone to notify his parents of his conquering position.

Joshua Keeley, a geological oceanography student, was asked if another trip in a different location were offered, would he sign up? “In a heartbeat,” he replied without hesitation.

The trip was supported by John Sullivan ’85, who established an endowment to fund such fieldwork earlier this year. Sullivan fondly remembers the field trips he took as an undergraduate and the close bonds formed with his peers and professors.

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Outstanding in Their Field

Here’s a bragging right. URI’s turfgrass research program, now more than 100 years old, is considered the oldest, continuous such program in the country. And there’s something else to boast about. The University hosted its 75th Turfgrass Field Day this year, the longest running such event in the U.S. More than 250 golf course superintendents, sports turf managers from towns and colleges and universities, sod producers, lawn care professionals, and state agencies attended. “We have a large list of successful graduates of the turf program, many of whom teach at other universities or have become influential regionally and nationally in the turfgrass industry. Over the years, our turf faculty, notably Noel Jackson, Richard Hull, and Dick Skogley have been nationally recognized for their research and contributions to the industry,” notes Victoria Wallace ’82, M.S. ’83, who handled many of the logistics for the day. At the event, a number of commercial equipment vendors demonstrated products used by the industry. Participants learned about research projects that included fungicide evaluations, variety trials of Kentucky bluegrass, and clover controls. To celebrate the special anniversary, a clambake dinner was at the Laurel Lane Country Club. So it was truly a surf and turf event!

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Sing a Song of the Sea

What better way to introduce a course that connects writing with the sea than to invite musician Craig Edwards, one of New England’s finest chanteymen, to class? That’s exactly what Libby Miles, associate professor of the College Writing Program, did this fall for her honors course called “Three Quarters of the World: Writing and the Sea.” The course asked students to think and write about human interrelationships with water, looking at it both aesthetically and functionally. Well versed in the life of sailors aboard ocean-going commercial vessels, Edwards spoke about the sailors’ often backbreaking labor and the shipboard working songs, called sea chanteys, that kept the rhythm of their repetitive work, helped relieve the sailors’ pent up emotions, and provided a sense of community. But it wasn’t all talk. Edwards sang a few tunes while the youthful landlubbers joined in the choruses of Round the Corner, Sally, Haul Away Joe, and Shallow, Shallow Brown. While most chanteys were sung without accompaniment, Edwards noted that the violin was sometimes played on ships so sailors could dance for exercise.

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Rhody Goes to Camp

Keep your eyes on Rhody this year. Our favorite mascot attended mascot camp in Anaheim, Calif., last summer to learn some of the finer points of the mascot trade. Our rambunctious ram was briefed on gimmicks, props, skits, and more. Thanks to our Student Alumni Association, our mascot—whether at a game or an event—will truly reflect the University’s peppy, positive spirit. Go Rhody!

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Securing Ports Worldwide

More than 150 experts from four continents discussed terrorism in ports or on the high seas, catastrophic natural disasters striking a center of global trade, the disruption of supplies in shipping channels, and more at a conference hosted by the University in the fall. Stephen Flynn, catastrophic terrorism expert and author of America the Vulnerable (in photo) moderated the opening session of this high-profile event.

The first international conference of its kind brought together leading international port officials; representatives from the shipping, transportation, and insurance industries; public officials; disaster planners; noted academics; maritime transportation researchers; and others interested in port and coastal security. “The issues faced are local, regional, national, and international, and they are extraordinarily complex. The challenges require unprecedented levels of commitment, planning, research, and coordination among many affected interests,“ commented Thomas Grigalunas, URI professor of natural resource economics and conference co-chair.

The conference was held in conjunction with a meeting of the Council of Presidents of the Global U8 Consortium, a group of eight universities, including URI, that was formed in 2004 to address emerging global issues.

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Cutting Ribbons Around Campus

The University might be in danger of running out of blue ribbon. If you haven’t been back to campus in 10 years, you’ll need a map. Numerous buildings have been built or renovated and ribbons have been cut.

This past fall, Independence Hall on Upper College Road, the largest classroom building, reopened after a $9 million renovation, which included major structural improvements, technology upgrades, a new enclosed lounge, and landscaping.

North Woods apartments, one of the two new residence halls built on campus since 1971, opened this fall. The apartments, along with the West Side Suites currently under construction, provide housing for upperclassmen. Together, the residences will provide 800 beds. The project, which includes a new dining hall, is the largest building project in the University’s history.

The Emergency Medical Services celebrated 21 years of volunteer medical services by opening a new 5,000-square-foot headquarters on Plains Road. The multi-purpose/training room was dedicated to the late Brian Jackson ’99, a member of the Dallas Police Department killed in the line of duty. He served URI EMS as vice commander from 1995 to 1999.

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What's In a Name?

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