Academic Excellence

Scholarly endeavors are journeys of discovery that drive our global economic engine, provide solutions to complex problems and generate new knowledge that strengthens and advances society. They serve as the foundation for all our work and aspirations as a modern university. As an institution of higher education, we should not only focus on the preservation of knowledge but also the dissemination of our learning and skills to our students and to the greater communities we serve. We are dedicated to inspiring learners that are problem solvers in their pursuit of new knowledge, conducted with the highest standards of rigorous inquiry.

Roger Williams University is committed to academic excellence as the essential cornerstone of our education, research and scholarship. We will strengthen an academic culture that empowers our faculty and staff to pursue a wide-ranging scholarly agenda, inclusive of research, policy analysis, creative works, and the scholarship of teaching that connects us to the communities of scholars beyond RWU. We will lead the way in developing new insights and new solutions in our tireless pursuit of equity for the greater good of our local and global communities and our planet. To do so requires imagination, innovation and agility. It asks that we think beyond our singular academic discipline and think of new ways to work together across our university community and to collaborate beyond RWU with our alumni and with experts, practitioners and community leaders. We must foster an interdisciplinary culture that harnesses our expertise to address the wicked problems that require more than one knowledge area and more than one perspective to design a solution.

As we move forward, RWU will direct our collective efforts toward an unfailing interdisciplinary approach to research, scholarship, shaping policy and law, learning and working within our communities. Our faculty are distinguished by their commitment to our students and to developing pathways and programs that connect across our undergraduate, graduate, law and professional programs. Now is our opportunity to unite our schools, work across disciplines, and to explore opportunities for new, interdisciplinary programs and research initiatives to make a difference for the communities and organizations we serve.

With an interdisciplinary culture we will better leverage our unique talents and our distinctive areas of excellence by integrating our expertise to bring a greater diversity of knowledge and our inimitable spirit of curiosity toward addressing the most challenging problems. Interdisciplinarity enables us to attract and hire accomplished faculty, create innovative, multidisciplinary programs, and provide a distinctive opportunity to our external partnerships, fundraising and grant strategies. In this next phase of RWU, we prioritize the following interdisciplinary initiatives as exemplars of the interdisciplinarity we strive to model within all our efforts.

With our existing leadership in marine science, research, marine and coastal law, expanding our work across all schools towards the Blue Economy will leverage our diverse expertise and create a robust platform for learning. It will enable us to implement ocean strategies and legal policies to serve the Ocean State and forge new relationships around the country and the world, as we collaborate and share our knowledge to make our communities, coastal economies and the environment stronger and more resilient. To grow and thrive in the Blue Economy, RWU must play a critical role in academic innovation, policy advocacy, K-12 ocean and climate literacy, and nurture the pipeline of interest in studying these issues in the next generations of students. Areas of academic opportunity span fisheries, aquaculture, offshore renewable energy, recreation and eco-tourism, ports and shipping, marine trades and defense, and marine and coastal law. The Blue Economy intersects with the Green Economy, where tackling climate change through renewable energy, decreased carbon emissions, reducing pollution, and preserving the biodiversity are critical to preserving our planet for future generations with sustainable practices within our coastal and marine habitats. Our unique position as a coastal university with expertise in marine science, shellfish aquaculture, marine and maritime law, architecture and historic preservation in coastal communities, wind energy, and sailing recreation can make a positive impact in the Blue Economy.  

The complex field of real estate education creates an opportunity for RWU to provide a distinctly interdisciplinary approach to learning that will connect the university, partners and industry to ensure program design, relevancy, and student success. We will create a nationally and internationally recognized Real Estate program serving a range of students  – undergraduate, graduate, practicing professionals in full-time and part-time studies  – and focused on a project-based curriculum that will utilize industry partners and learning experiences in the Boston to New York corridor. 

RWU is uniquely positioned to teach across the real estate industry by aligning relevant topics and faculty expertise from established programs in Architecture, Construction Management, Finance, Law, Marketing, Planning, and Preservation Law, combined with distinctive specialties in areas that include sustainability, social innovation and policy and advocacy through our HousingWorks RI and community partnership initiatives in Bristol and Providence. 

The real estate industry needs professionals with a holistic view of real estate that combines theory, practical experience, and early exposure to the industry through internships and problem-based learning and team-based projects. Our region presents the perfect backdrop to real-world real estate challenges with complicated regulatory issues, challenging site selection, coastal and environmental issues, historic preservation and zoning complexities. 

As we establish Roger Williams University as a dynamic center for Real Estate education in the United States, our students will graduate with the competencies needed to design, plan, shape law and policy, finance, build and market the projects of the future, with the depth of understanding and knowledge of the changing needs of various aspects of the design and construction processes critical to innovating at the intersection of space and society. 

The Co-Lab at RWU reimagines public stories, histories, and storytelling for historically marginalized or erased populations and will strive to define new narratives and representations for the New England region. The Co-Lab will allow students and scholars to learn from our community partners about their histories, heritage, and cultures that allow our graduates to enter the world equipped with cultural competencies and the capacity to engage equitably and justly with others. The Co-Lab will undertake publicly engaged scholarship across the humanities to transform society and lived realities by contributing and engaging in contemporary debates, amplifying community voices and histories, supporting communities that must navigate difficult experiences and preserve culture and justice in times of crisis and change. In its work, The Co-Lab at RWU especially will foreground the exploration of race and race relations as they structure our world and seeks to build community-centered pathways toward reconciliation, equity, and justice.

RWU possesses distinctive excellence in STEM programs and teaching, with a diversity of curricular and extracurricular work currently underway in the areas of STEM education, including outreach activities, new course offerings, research activity, and faculty workshops. Through a renewed commitment to K-12 education, the STEM Education interdisciplinary initiative will bring together efforts from disparate spaces and programs across our campuses and achieve enhanced collaboration and coordination across disciplinary lines. We will aim to create new pathways through interdisciplinary course offerings and degrees and encourage students to develop customized education programs through unique combinations of double majors and majors and minors across STEM, liberal arts and professional programs, with the opportunity to expand into further graduate programs and teaching credentials and certificate programs in future years.

Connecting and enhancing our strengths and offerings in STEM will help us better recruit and retain students in STEM majors, particularly underrepresented minorities and women, as well as build a more diverse faculty teaching pipeline for the region and the country. To prepare our students as teachers for success in STEM fields, we will reach out and cultivate new external partnerships that will both provide our students with real-world learning opportunities and deepen the impact of our service within our communities. Opportunities to expand RWU’s role in STEM education in non-classroom settings include, for example, the gaming (AR/VR) industry, cultural tourism, industry-aligned data literacy (such as insurance, finance and healthcare industries), broadening our engagement with K-12 students and teachers, and establishing summer camps or after school programming for local youth.

As an emerging field grounded in our vital connection to food, Food Studies examines the historical, cultural, behavioral, biological, and socioeconomic dynamics of food while focusing specific attention as well to the environmental consequences of food production. Because food sits at the center of all life, it is a vital instrument for creating environmental and social change and addressing long-standing equity issues in our communities related to economic and health disparities. Built on our campus commitment to sustainability, social justice, and ethical community engagement, our food studies initiatives will support and contribute to current food movements and food culture in the Northeast. From agriculture to aquaculture, our coastal and urban locations allow RWU to understand and contribute across fields that support industries as diverse as hydroponics, sustainable fisheries, and much more. Students, faculty, and staff will collaborate with community stakeholders to develop solutions to problems associated with locally and regionally based food production, distribution, and consumption grounded in a focus on sustainability and social justice. 

We believe that entrepreneurship is a mindset, a way of thinking, solving problems, and identifying opportunities that can apply to nearly any professional pathway that our students may follow. A recent Wall Street Journal survey of young adults reported that 50 percent seek to work in small, fast-moving, customer-driven organizations where they make a direct contribution to the organization’s impact on consumers and society. Entrepreneurial thinking provides the opportunity to creatively solve significant organizational challenges and advance both personal goals and those of an organization. Long-term successful institutions solve market problems with innovative thinking quickly, effectively, and efficiently. RWU has a unique opportunity to prepare young graduates for the demands and opportunities of the workplace. By modeling an innovative and agile institution and by exposing our students to entrepreneurial thinking and practice, we will give our graduates a competitive edge in successfully navigating the evolving needs of modern organizations. RWU will create the next generation of leaders and problem solvers that can positively contribute to the changes our world needs now. RWU is ideally suited to merge innovation, leadership and entrepreneurship with critical thinking fields in the social, technological, and professional fields across all our schools of study.

Select 2021-2022 Initiatives

  • Strengthen a culture of research, scholarship and creative endeavors at RWU  
  • Support enrollment initiatives to expand our student population, with special focus on graduate and transfer initiatives  
  • Expand skill-based industry-relevant skills in areas of high demand (apprenticeships, microcredentials and certificates) that can stand alone or be aligned (stacked) with degree programs for all RWU students
  • Continue development of our Academic Master Plan and new interdisciplinary initiatives integrated with strategic planning
  • Expand creation of our board of advisors models across schools and programs, bringing industry and community partners more closely into our planning processes; improving the relevance and range of experiential learning opportunities for students
  • Develop a best-in-class universal design for online learning 
  • Implement new supports to help students pursue prestigious fellowships and scholarships (e.g., Boren, Fulbright, Marshall) 
  • Scale up our commitment to Rhode Island and K-12 STEM opportunities

Embedded Equity

Through our faculty expertise, extensive community-engaged work, real-world research, professional and trades programs, and pro bono legal clinics, RWU is uniquely positioned to serve as an exemplar for pedagogical approaches and research initiatives that radically interrupt structures of oppression. Our new interdisciplinary initiatives, a revised core curriculum, social justice-focused law programs, and engaged learning in our professional programs are evolving to include DEI frameworks, course content and real-world learning opportunities that will redefine the RWU experience.

As a community, we are deeply committed to social justice, racial justice, economic justice and environmental justice through academic innovation and intercultural fluency. With campuses in Bristol and Providence, RWU has an obligation to educate our students and local communities about the capital city and town’s roles in the Transatlantic slave trade and in the colonization and enslavement of Indigenous peoples.

Measuring Our Progress

Measuring teaching, research, and scholarship is a complex process with many possible metrics and purposes in higher education. In the months ahead, we will work with our academic deans and faculty governance to develop an assessment process that captures the nuances and provides a guiding structure for evaluating and advancing this work.