Jeannette E. Riley named dean of the College of Arts and Sciences

Dean Jeannette E. Riley is laser focused. Three months ago, Riley was appointed dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at URI. She has spent the past three months becoming oriented to the university, the departments, and the established procedures within the college. She is excited about her new position and stands ready to move the college forward.

“I was drawn to the clear upward trajectory URI has been on for the last 10 years in growing new programs, creating new colleges, attracting quality students from both inside and outside the state, and the strength of the faculty and staff who are clearly committed to student success,” Riley said. “The College of Arts & Sciences, in particular, as I noted when I interviewed here, is composed of an engaged, mission-oriented faculty and staff and the college offers a diverse array of programs and curricula, along with centers and institutes focused on key social needs.”

Dean Riley noted that she has a vision for URI’s College of Arts and Sciences, but she does not plan to implement that vision alone. She emphasized the importance of shared governance between faculty, departments, and her office. She wants to find innovative ways for everyone to work together strategically to propel the college and its departments, including the Harrington School of Communication and Media, forward.

“We need to continue developing the Harrington School of Communication and Media through new degree programs such as sports media or an interdisciplinary communications and media major that engages students across communication platforms to build their skills,” Riley said. “We need to fundraise so we can finish renovating Ranger Hall and turning it into the communication hub for the campus; developing programs online such as a post-bac certificate in social media, as well as developing degree programs that will draw in adults seeking to return to the University to complete their degrees, while still working.”

Riley noted that there is a strong belief in a liberal education at URI and a focus on ensuring students develop the skills they need to be successful in their future careers and in life.

“At URI, there is a focus on diversity and helping students develop the skills of critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, and collaboration,” Riley said. “I also see a focus in the college of cultivating the dispositions of curiosity, imagination, lifelong learning, empathy, and ethical judgment – these dispositions and skills are needed for the 21st century where our students will encounter jobs that don’t yet exist today and they will live in an increasingly global world. I’m excited to join this work and to continue to grow the College of Arts & Sciences and collaborate with the faculty and staff to ensure our students’ success.”

Prior to joining URI, Riley served as the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. She was named dean of that college in 2014 after serving as interim dean for two years. She began her academic career at UMass Dartmouth in 2002 as an assistant professor of English and Women’s Studies and chaired a number of programs there including the Department of English, the Women’s Studies Program, and the Liberal Arts Program. Riley earned her Ph.D. in Contemporary American and British literature and literary theory from the University of New Mexico and her Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees in English from the University of New Hampshire, and Colby College, respectively.

Dean Riley believes the future of the College of Arts and Sciences, and the Harrington School, is bright. And under her leadership, we believe it, too.