URI’s College of Business ignites Waterfire to celebrate 90th anniversary

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. — June 9, 2014 — In recognition of its 90th anniversary, the alumni, students, faculty and friends of the University of Rhode Island’s College of Business will light more than just a few candles on a cake this month. The College will light the water on fire in the heart of the capital city.

On Saturday, June 14, the College of Business will be a featured sponsor of the evening Waterfire Festival that begins with the lighting at sunset, 8:22 p.m.

“For 90 years, the URI College of Business has helped to educate and inspire generations of innovative leaders for the complex and diverse business arenas in Rhode Island and worldwide,” said Dean Mark Higgins, the Alfred J. Verrecchia-Hasbro Inc. Leadership Chair in Business. “To mark our 90th year, we are proud to sponsor Waterfire Providence. As the premier business school in Rhode Island, our sponsorship of this unique and acclaimed Rhode Island event is fitting. Waterfire fuels the creative and entrepreneurial spirits all around — and in fact it’s a textbook case of how the arts can drive urban renewal and business.”

Before the big event, from 3-4 p.m. on Wednesday June 11, Higgins will be a featured guest on the inaugural Waterfire radio program hosted by Cumulus Media station AM790. The live show will provide details about sponsors and the event’s rich history.

Four active alumni and faculty from the College have been selected to bear the torches to kindle the fire — Alex Couture ’95 of New York, the Partner Technology Manager Lead, 3rd Party Ecosystems at Google; Kathryn Jervis, associate professor of accounting and information science, ’87 of Hope Valley, Wendy Field ’74, the retired managing director of Corporate Lending at UBS Investment Bank, and recent graduate Andrea Osorio ’14 of Pawtucket, who is now at PricewaterhouseCoopers after having completed several internships there.

“These four individuals make significant and ongoing contributions to the College’s mission and they represent our past, present and future.” Higgins said.

What these young alumni, current faculty and students may not know is that their college was just considered “an experiment” when it started at URI (then Rhode Island State College). Focused on the “Science of Business,” the program was designed to “infuse a breadth of vision and spirit of social service” into the state’s growing post-war economy and business community. Indeed, the program captured the spirit and imagination of students and business soon became one of the most popular majors at the college.

The 1920s set the stage for the leadership and forward thinking that takes place today at the College of Business Administration. The program played a key role in preparing a new generation of business leaders and it grew to become the state’s only business program accredited at the undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degree levels.

“Business education in the early 20th century focused on the general principles of economic organization and the techniques and skills of business methods. Classes were held on campus, between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. and essentially took on a vocational character,” said Higgins, who is the 14th dean of the College of Business.

“Today business education happens 24/7, both in and out of class, in Kingston, Providence, online, or locations around the world. As the only university in the state with a doctoral program in business, our faculty members examine cutting-edge issues in their fields with our students involved in the process. This and other research being conducted in the College can help us better understand how Rhode Island can recover from the continued financial crisis.”

With an emphasis on innovation and collaborative learning, great internships and on-site career resources, undergraduate students may major in accounting, entrepreneurial management, finance, general business, global business, marketing, or supply chain management. Graduate students may seek an MBA in Strategic Innovation, general business or a Master of Science in Accounting or a PhD in Business Administration.

Today the College of Business takes its graduate classes right to companies like pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and Taco, America’s leader in heating and cooling systems.

The University redesigned its one-year Master of Business Administration Program and moved the program to Providence in 2012 to allow students to be closer to partner companies like Fidelity, Hasbro, GTECH, CVS and the Steel Yard.

In the last decade, the College’s supply chain management program was named one of the nation’s top programs by the American Society of Transportation and Logistics, the premier professional organization for transportation and logistics professionals. As a result, URI supply chain majors receive the Society’s esteemed Certification in Transportation and Logistics upon graduation.

Also in the last 10 years, the College was named a Chartered Financial Analyst Partner by the CFA Institute, one of only 13 universities in the country to earn the designation at the time. Higgins co-chairs the Pathways Commission, a national initiative to study the future and content of accounting education. Higgins, the former president of the American Taxation Association, was selected to co-head the 14-member higher education group in June 2012.

“No, it isn’t the ‘roaring 20s’ as when we were founded, but business education today is really moving,” said Higgins. “We teach how businesses work.

“And we foster the creative, pioneering talents that light a fire for innovation,” Higgins said.

College of Business Fireflies

The following individuals will ignite the Waterfire braziers along the Providence and Woonasquatucket rivers in honor of the College of Business Administration’s 90th anniversary:

Alex Couture ’95 says he credits URI and the College of Business for his success at Google where he manages partner technology and 3rd Party Ecosystems. He also founded Digital Legacy Design, which helps companies build and market their legacies. Couture majored in finance at the URI, with a minor in political science, and later received a master’s degree in Computer Information Systems at Baruch College. An active alumni mentor who often talks with URI students, Couture says he is grateful for the kind of connections URI brought to him throughout his career and life.

Wendy Field ’74, a former leader on Wall Street will also bear a torch for the college. Field recently retired from her position at UBS, a global financial services company, where she was head of global franchise lending. Before joining UBS, she held top jobs at Manufacturers Hanover Trust Co. and Swiss Bank Corp. Instead of Wall Street, on the Kingston Campus Field has served as chair of URI’s College of Business Administration Advisory Council since 2009, where she has helped raise funds and strengthen ties with alumni. Field also established and endowed URI’s “Never Too Early Future Leaders Fund” for experiential learning, global internships, and career guidance.

Kathryn Jervis ’87, an associate professor of accounting and information science is the first woman to hold the chair named for Richard Vangermeersch, a much-lauded professor who launched careers of generations of accountants from URI over 34 years. Jervis chairs a committee to develop a health care management specialization for the MBA program and serves with Dean Higgins to manage the College’s accreditation process.

Andrea Osorio ’14 will also be on deck to help fuel the flame. A recent graduate, Osorio is now officially at PricewaterhouseCoopers, where she previously had served as an intern for three years. She is now focused on client audits in the agency’s assurance line of service. She says her definition of success has changed after her years being mentored in the College of Business and as part of the University’s Talent Development Program. “Before, I was a bit one-tracked. Now, success will come when I help a student from a financially underprivileged background like me.”

The URI College of Business Administration, with more than 1,500 undergraduate students and 250 graduate students, has served as the leader in business education, research, and outreach for the State of Rhode Island since it was founded in 1923. It is the first accredited business school in Rhode Island (1969) and has the first accredited accounting program at both the undergraduate and graduate levels in the Northeast (1993).

Photo by Joe Giblin