PROVIDENCE — The University of Rhode Island’s board of trustees on Monday night hired a Providence native to be the state school’s next president.
Marc Parlange, who is currently the provost at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, will take over as URI’s president on Aug. 1, succeeding David Dooley, who’d held the position for more than a decade.
“I think Rhode Island is such an important university in terms of the uplift it’s going to bring to Rhode Island and the community,” Parlange said in a phone interview from Australia after the board’s unanimous vote. “It’s going to be such an attractive place for students around the US and the world to come.”
At the board’s meeting Monday night, university officials said they hired Parlange over other finalists because of his experience — especially his international experience — as well as his research background, his work on diversity, his efforts around the humanities, and his knowledge of collective bargaining units.
Parlange is a research scientist by training, focusing on environmental fluid mechanics. He’s studied the way air and water flow over complex terrain. He’s worked on research about wind farms in Australia that were, as he put it, half the size of Rhode Island. That background could have a practical application in the Ocean State, which had the nation’s first offshore wind farm.
“It’s extremely important that we work on this, and I know there’s a fantastic group already in ocean engineering and mechanical engineering and oceanography that are working on wind farms,” Parlange said. “I hope to be able to contribute to that.”
Born in Providence to an Irish mother and a French father, Parlange moved around the world as a child after his early years in Rhode Island as his dad’s career as an aerospace engineer and academic progressed.
Then, he embarked on an academic career of his own. Parlange previously worked at the the University of British Columbia, the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland, and Johns Hopkins University. He has been the provost at Monash University, serving the 85,000 students there, since 2017. He earned his undergraduate degree from Griffith University and a master’s and a doctorate degree from Cornell University.
Asked what URI could most improve on, Parlange said the community has already identified those areas and was already working on them.
“They know they can grow their research; they know they can grow the student experience at the university; I think they know they can grow so the community at URI reflects our society at large,” Parlange said. “They’re all areas they’ve been working very hard at. I will join with them and push on on all these fronts.”
Parlange, whose salary has not been settled, said he’s already a URI Rams fan, and noted that the women’s basketball program has several players from France. He hopes the teams can pull from Australia now, too.
“I’m looking forward to Rhode Island,” Parlange said.