President David Dooley sat down with the Cigar and talked about everything from his favorite place to eat in the Emporium to his proudest accomplishments as president of URI.
Cigar: Your background is in chemistry, if you were to be an undergrad again, what would your major be?
Dooley: Absolutely. I love it. What can I say? I love the science, I love the problems it addresses. The combination of theory, experiments, and nature I’ve just found fascinating my whole life, and still do.
Cigar: What is your favorite place to eat in the Emporium?
Dooley: Oh the Thai restaurant [Simply Thai]. I think it’s wonderful.
Cigar: What do you like to order?
Dooley: Green curry with either chicken or shrimp and the drunken noodles. That and the spicy green beans.
Cigar: A good amount of your career was spent at Montana State University, but you’ve been here since 2009, so which do you prefer, Montana or Rhode Island?
Dooley: That’s an interesting question I love the mountains, which Montana has, but I also love the ocean and the beach. So right now I would say Rhode Island and Montana is a magical combination. We love spending time in the summers in Montana when it’s especially beautiful and you can take advantage of the mountains, hiking and climbing. We love Rhode Island spring, summer, and fall, because it’s just so beautiful and the ocean and beaches are just so wonderful.
Cigar: If you had to join a club on campus, either a club sport or another type of club, what would it be?
Dooley: Rugby. I love playing rugby. I played on the Amherst College rugby team when I was on the faculty there; I was young enough to do that. I love the game and I had a lot of fun playing.
Cigar: Did you have a least favorite subject in school?
Dooley: You know, I went to a place that had a very intensive almost two year long core curriculum, and I can say, I liked practically every class I took. I very seldom found a class that I didn’t enjoy.
Cigar: Well did you have a class you perhaps didn’t do so well in?
Dooley: The class I did the least well in ironically enough was art. I enjoyed it, but was not very good at. I was never very good at memorizing the periods and the painters or sculptors, recognizing their work or doing some of the other things that class entailed. I was usually pretty good at memorizing scientific facts, but I had a terrible time with art. I enjoy it, I love going to art galleries, but I just didn’t do very well in the class. Fortunately I took it pass/fail!
Cigar: Did you have a favorite subject?
Dooley: I really liked economics. I minored in economics. I enjoyed that a lot. I liked physics, and I like math. Interestingly enough, I enjoyed all of my humanities classes as well. It got me to read things that I know I would have never read on my own. I really enjoyed reading a whole host of philosophers, writers and historians that otherwise I would have never read.
Cigar: Your office is in Green Hall, a building some would say is the most beautiful on campus. Do you have a favorite building on campus?
Dooley: I like Green Hall very much, it’s a very comfortable building. Except for a few days in the summer when the air-conditioning can’t keep up with the amount of sun we get. I love the new RX [Pharmacy] building, I’m sure I’ll love the new chemistry building, and I love the biotechnology and life sciences building as well. I think a really cool building from the outside that I would like to be able to see the university completely renovate as soon as we can is Davis. I think it’s just a cool building.
Cigar: You’re at a lot of URI sporting events, but do you have a favorite URI team to watch?
Dooley: Wow. That’s a hard one. I’m a big sports fan, as people probably have noticed. I love football, both men and women’s basketball. I like volleyball, soccer, baseball, softball; I’ve been to all those games. The sport I admire the athletes in, but it’s hard to watch because it’s hard to see anything, is rowing. They don’t stop, they go full blast. It takes such dedication to be a top-notch rower. It takes a lot more skill than people think.
Cigar: When you’re not busy with the duties of being the school’s president, what do you like to do in your free time?
Dooley: I enjoy reading all kinds of things. I enjoy hiking, walking the campus with Rhody, our dog. That’s always fun. I like travelling, particularly if it’s to visit our kids, who are both on the west coast, or going some place I’ve never been before.
Cigar: Is there a genre of book you especially enjoy?
Dooley: I read all kinds of things. Right now I’m reading a book on science and civilization in China. I read science fiction, I read science journals, magazines and books. I really enjoy reading history, and some theology and philosophy.
Cigar: What would say is the biggest difference between college kids now and when you were a student?
Dooley: In many ways there’s not a lot of difference. I can distinctly remember being 18 years old on the UCSD [University of California, San Diego] campus and trying to figure out what my values were, what I believed in, and trying all kinds of things. An important part of going to college is to discover in a sense who you are, what you really believe for yourself. And college is a very important place and time to do that. One of the things that’s different is the technological sophistication our students have, and the degree to which they’re connected. We have to take that into account into practically everything we do at the university.
Cigar: Since becoming president in 2009, what would you say is your proudest accomplishment?
Dooley: I’m most proud of the changes that the university community has made. I mean the students, the faculty and the staff. It seems to me that in many ways, that this is a different and better place than it was when I first arrived. I’m proud of the university for taking on the challenge of making those changes. I think URI is a much more diverse place, and has made great strides in becoming a more welcoming and inclusive community than it was. I’m pleased to see that in 2015 we’ll be opening our new LGBTQ center. I think that’s a very important step for the university.
I’m very pleased that the people of Rhode Island and the university have made such significant physical improvements in the campus. Those are all things that I think will serve the students and the faculty and the people of Rhode Island for years to come.
I am extremely proud of the work of the faculty in both their dedication to teaching and to cutting edge scholarship. I’m also proud of the work they did on the general education curriculum.
I’m really proud of the students. I think in a very difficult climate our students are adapting well, and being successful. They’re doing things that are going to create a better future for all of us, and that really makes me proud of them and proud of the institution that the students come to and call home.