By Carmen Russo
ROVIDENCE, R.I. – During his first official week as the 10th President of Rhode Island College, Frank Sánchez hit the ground running to build ties with the campus community by paying a visit to students and staff.
Sánchez, who comes to RIC after serving as vice chancellor for student affairs at the City University of New York, received warm greetings from Claudia Erazo-Conrad, interim director of Upward Bound, a program that aims to help high school students from disadvantaged households forge a pathway into college.
After Erazo-Conrad introduced Sánchez to a group of students studying geometry, the president revealed his longtime connection with Upward Bound.
“As an undergraduate, I taught in Upward Bound at the University of Nebraska,’’ Sánchez said. “It is an amazing program that helps students get early exposure to college.’’
Sánchez then asked the students what they liked best about the program. Responses ranged from having an opportunity to meet different people from different high schools in the Providence area to appreciating the chance to benefit from Upward Bound staff support.
The students’ comments resonated with Sánchez, who noted that supportive staff ranks as the top element of the most effective education programs.
“There are a lot of different models being presented around the nation to help students,’’ he told the students. “You can have the best innovation or technology but none of that matters unless you have a caring staff. When you have someone encouraging you, that makes all the difference in the world.’’
Sánchez expanded upon the theme of student support as he addressed RIC Associate Professor of English Michael Michaud’s Summer Session II business writing class.
“My top goal is to create an unparalleled student experience,’’ Sánchez said. “I really think RIC can do that better than any institution in the state.’’
Raymond Andolfo, a RIC junior accounting major in Michaud’s class, told Sánchez that he appreciates classes that are tailored to fit the unique needs of older students.
“Higher education institutions are adapting to the diversity of students who are coming through their doors,’’ Sánchez told the students. “At RIC, we’re going to look very seriously at how to adapt the experience to meet the needs of all students, whether it’s a student who is an adult, military veteran, disabled or first generation.’’
RIC sophomore Justin Rodriguez, a military veteran in a Summer Session II chemistry class taught by Associate Professor of Chemistry Chin Hin Leung, said members of RIC’s close-knit faculty have helped him tremendously as he strives to attain a biochemistry degree.
“I know as president you want to do the most you can in your power to help student and professor interaction,’’ Rodriguez told Sánchez in a one-on-one chat.
“We’re an institution that’s going to invest in student success by helping them after hours and by giving them the feedback and support they need. That’s one way we can stand out as a college,’’ Sánchez replied.
Over the next 12 to 18 months, Sánchez plans to conduct an extensive listening tour to continue to gauge “the strengths of RIC.’’
Summing up his day, the president said it affirmed what he already knew about the college.
“There are high-energy students at RIC and I love that they are opinionated,’’ he said. “They have views on how to move the college forward and that’s encouraging because you get some of the best ideas by getting them involved.”
Established in 1854, Rhode Island College serves approximately 9,000 undergraduate and graduate students through its five schools: the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the Feinstein School of Education and Human Development, the School of Social Work, the School of Management and the School of Nursing. For more information, visit www.ric.edu.