“Oh that’s great news, I voted for 4!” Yelena Randall, an ocean engineering major at the University of Rhode Island, said.
On Tuesday, Rhode Island voters approved Question 4 on the general election ballot allotting $125 million in higher education bonds to construct a 195,000-square foot state-of-the-art engineering facility at URI.
“As an engineer I feel it is important to support the future of our school and of my degree,” Randall said. Â “This grant would make my degree in particular worth a lot more so it would actually affect me greatly.”
Of the 729,249 votes calculated across the state, 63 percent said “Yes On 4” according to the Providence Journal’s general election results. Â Â The bond, which URI spent the majority of the fall semester promoting, was approved by all but one of the state’s municipalities. Â URI President David Dooley did not have a statement prepared for if the bond did not pass.
“Our team, we agreed all along we just couldn’t accept failure in this,” Dooley said. “This is so important to Rhode Island and to URI we had to succeed, so that is the attitude we took. Â We had to succeed. Â I don’t know what we would have done if it hadn’t passed. ”
Starting with a Higher Education Council Meeting that took place last night, URI is now in the process of beginning construction on engineering facility that will capitalize on the natural synergy of the programs, which will house and replace five of the existing buildings on URI’s engineering quad. Â URI officials, including Dooley and Engineering Dean Raymond Wright, anticipate that this structure will place the university’s engineering program at the forefront of research and education.
“I feel that the engineering department at URI is lacking in a lot of areas, especially in the facilities,” Randall said. Â “A lot of our facilities are very old so I think it is very important for the state to invest in URI’s engineering program.”
Over the three years of construction the project is anticipate to take, it is expected to generate 1,500 construction and technical service jobs. Â The creation of a new building will also generate long-term faculty and maintenance positions.
Upon completion, the revamped engineering program is projected to attract an 18 percent raise in enrollment.
“Our message about the importance of these facilities to the future of Rhode Island and to the quality of life and prosperity of the state really resonated with people,” Dooley said. Â “I think it resonated well because it’s true.”
According to Dooley, local media support and coverage, student, faculty and alumni advocacy and the monetary and verbal support from local engineering companies guaranteed URI’s success in this election. Â URI currently has received monetary gifts in support of the bond in the amount of $2 million from Toray Plastics (America), $1 million from FM Global and $400,000 from the Taco White Family Foundation.
Though the majority of students who voted for and helped promote “Yes On 4” will have graduated by the time the facility is complete, Dooley believes that the program will add value to students’ degrees, regardless of their major. Â “I think there is increasing awareness of how good an institution this is,” he said.
Funds for the extensive statewide promotion of URI’s “Yes On 4” campaign came from a private source, Friends of 4.
“To be the president of this university is a special job and a special responsibility that I really enjoy,” Dooley said. “I’m pleased to be the president of an institution that is doing as much as this one is doing to make life better for people. We’ll be feeling good for a long time over this.”
Click here to read previous Cigar coverage of “Yes On 4.”