Samuels, who succeeds James Campbell, began his duties Monday, Sept. 10. He is a Cranston resident.
He comes to URI with a lengthy and distinguished record in academic mental health services at Brown, Williams College, and Amherst College. He was also a staff psychologist with the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan in East Hartford, Conn. and the Medical West Community Health Plan in Springfield, Mass.
“Dr. Samuels embodies the best qualities of a skilled clinician and administrator,” said Thomas R. Dougan, vice president of Student Affairs. “He brings to URI a depth of experience in the therapeutic and management arenas that will serve our students and staff well. Indeed, his resume is a testament to his deep commitment to students, their overall welfare and their academic success. We offer a warm welcome to Dr. Samuels.”
Samuels has been with Brown for 15 years, first as assistant director of Psychological Services for 9 years and then as associate dean in the Office of Student Life from 2001 up until his hiring at URI. From October 2004 through August 2006, Samuels was senior associate dean and interim director of the Office of Student Life. He has also served as a clinical assistant professor in the Brown Medical School and as an adjunct professor at URI.
“During the URI interview process, I talked about Brown as an incredible institution with incredible people, but coming to URI gives me the opportunity to lead a department, to captain my own ship,” Samuels said. “I have been twice blessed: first to be able to work at an institution as prestigious as Brown and now to work at an institution as important as URI.”
The former varsity gymnast at Princeton University said he was attracted to working with a different population of students. “URI has a large population of first-generation students, and they have a different way of looking at the world. Certainly, the mission of serving the sons and daughters of Rhode Islanders, as well as students from around the nation and world, is primary at the flagship university of the state system.”
During his visits to campus during the interview process, he found faculty, staff and administrators to be talented and committed individuals. “The University possesses professionals who have energy and ideas for moving URI forward and that is always exciting.
“I was also pleasantly surprised to have interview time with President (Robert L.) Carothers, which showed he had a personal interest in the Counseling Center, and that he viewed student mental health as a top priority.”
Samuels enjoys theater and dance performances and will take in the occasional athletic event, and he is also a martial arts enthusiast.
In addition to his academic work experience and his work with two health care plans, Samuels was a psychology fellow at the Yale University School of Medicine’s Connecticut Mental Health Center from July 1985 through August 1986.
“I have been involved in improving the lives of students for most of my professional life,” Samuels said. “My enthusiasm for working with the college-age populations began with my academic and early clinical experience at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.”
As the assistant director of Psychological Services at Brown from 1992 to 2001, he offered departmental leadership, as well as devoting 75 percent of his time to direct clinical contact.
“This dual role of clinician/administrator aided my understanding of trends in clinical presentations,” Samuels said. “This in turn allowed me to provide insight to University policy as we faced the changing clinical composition of the student populations, including observable increases in students being prescribed medications and in students presenting in psychological crisis.”
As a dean in the Office of Student Life, he was primarily responsible for supporting students whose medical or psychological issues were affecting academic performance.
“I was directly responsible for redesigning the on-call response system, rewriting the University Emergency Protocols, training on-call administrators, and revising the Medical Leave policy,” he said.
Samuels also supervised and coordinated all of the deans supporting students through non-academic crises that were affecting their time at Brown.
He earned his bachelor’s degree in sociology from Princeton University in 1980, with certificates of proficiency in Afro-American Studies and Science in Human Affairs.
He earned both his master’s degree and his doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Massachuetts, Amherst.
Samuels is a member of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, American Psychological Association and the American Association of Black Psychologists. He served as chair of the Board of Directors of Fellowship Health Resources from 2003 through 2006 and as a board member of the Childhood Lead Action Project from 1993 through 1996.
Robert Samuels, new director of URI’s Counseling Center. URI Department of Communications and Marketing photo by Michael Salerno.