President Sánchez takes the helm
Rhode Island College has welcomed a new President to its campus. This fall, Frank Sánchez, a longtime proponent of widely-available higher learning, has begun in earnest his duties as the head of the college. The Anchor newspaper sat down with RIC’s newest leader to pick his brain about the issues that face our campus today.
Sánchez began by talking about what attracted him to Rhode Island College in particular, citing the institution’s “deep ethic of care about students.” He went on to illustrate RIC’s impressive ranking regarding factors such as post-graduation social mobility, pointing out that it is “the best in New England” in these respects.
He did concede, however, that “a lot of things can be done better.” Sánchez explained that he hopes to use his previous experience in building up neglected institutions to remedy some of the failings of RIC. The president mentioned inconsistency in advising as being a major concern in need of addressing. He made it clear that he is aware of the sometimes contradictory and confusing direction met by students, and described his vision for the service. “It should be precision advising,” he said, before going on to explain that he hopes to “invest in providing a higher-quality academic advising experience for students.”
The new performance-based funding bill and its potential negative effects were also among the items addressed by the president, who said he is “actively involved” with working out the details of the bill’s implementation. Sánchez acknowledged that “one size fits all does not fit all,” and said, “if you focus completely on four-year graduation rates you’re really missing out on the purpose” of schools such as RIC, with its high population of non-traditional students. He explained that he understands the unique situation of RIC’s non-traditional students, and wants to play to their strengths when it comes to the bill’s performance evaluations. “I want to be held accountable,” he said, “for creating a better student experience, with more experiential learning opportunities. Really training students with portable skills so they’re better prepared for the world of work.”
Experiential learning proved to be a major point of interest for the new president. “Every student at RIC should leave with the degree and the skills to have choices,” he said, declaring that RIC students should have the ability to “be effective at a state, national, or international stage.” To this end, Sánchez said he is exploring the idea of requiring the development of soft skills, such as those picked up through undergraduate research projects, senior capstones, internships, and the like. “I think most of our students are already doing it,” he said, pointing to RAs and student officers, and suggesting that “those things should qualify for experiential learning.”
On a more administrative front, Sánchez expressed a distinct interest in avoiding the issues of a lack of transparency and community which have arisen among faculty and staff in the past. “I’m a big proponent of trying to strengthen this sense of connection and this sense of belonging with our faculty and staff,” he said, while describing the motivation behind the recent faculty and staff barbecue and convocation events. “I’m a big believer that if we’re working well together and communicate better, it serves the students better.”
In spite of his clear knowledge of many of the technical aspects of the college, the president made a point of the fact that he is still learning about RIC, and wants to hear from members of the college community. “I’ve gotta listen,” he said, “I’ve gotta gain perspective, I’ve gotta learn the historical and the cultural and the institutional context before we can really chart our future together.” Sánchez stated that it is for this purpose that he has launched a listening tour, and will be holding numerous forums in the months to come. In addition to these more formal events, he seems to also be enjoying his first exposure to Rhode Island’s special culture, enthusiastically describing Del’s Lemonade as being “off the charts.”
Frank Sánchez has a lot of plans for the future of Rhode Island College, from short-term changes and repairs to a longer-term awareness of the “footprint” of the institution. Whether or not his vision is one which can be achieved is something time alone will tell, but for the moment, he appears very optimistic about the future of the college. In the meantime, students are sure to see a lot of him around campus, as he does his very best to create and maintain a presence within the RIC community. From the editors here at The Anchor, we wish the president and his administration the best of luck in the coming year.