Full disclosure: Johan Molina did not have a great first year at the University of Rhode Island. His grades were slipping, and he wasn’t involved in any student activities. He sat himself down and had a little talk. Coasting through college was not an option. Growing up in one of the toughest neighborhoods in Providence, he knew he could do anything if he set his mind to it. And he did.
University of Rhode Island senior Alexia Arriaza calls her son a miracle baby and it would not be a stretch to call her a miracle graduate. When he was born at only 36 weeks, doctors discovered he had polycystic kidney disease, an inherited disorder in which clusters of cysts develop in the kidneys. The condition can be fatal. The diagnosis shocked Arriaza, who at the time was starting her sophomore year at the University.
When Jo-Anne Serydynski walks across the stage at the University of Rhode Island this spring to get her diploma, her 84-year-old mother will be in the audience cheering. Serydynski will be the first in her family to graduate from college—and she’s doing it at an age when many people are thinking about winding down their careers.
They hit it off right away. University of Rhode Island chemical engineering Professor Otto Gregory was looking for someone smart—and in it for the long haul. Zachary Caron, a chemistry whiz working in private industry, was eager to work on a project that could thwart terrorism. Together, they’ve helped create a sensor that detects triacetone triperoxide, or TATP, the explosive terrorists used in the Brussels bombings, as well as the Paris attacks in November and the London bombings in 2005.
A conversation with her father, a visit to the University of Rhode Island and a welcoming French program at the University changed the life of Mystic, Conn. resident Kelsey Conahan. “So I visited URI, and I fell in love with the campus, and this was it,” said Conahan, who will graduate May 22 from URI’s renowned 5-year International Engineering Program with a bachelor’s degrees in chemical engineering and French.
When Elizabeth Koller transferred to the University of Rhode Island to study computer science, she was alone. She had no friends and didn’t belong to any student groups. One day, she noticed a sign on campus advertising a “Big Gay Picnic.’’ She wandered into the LGBTQ event and offered to help. She made table decorations. Her life changed in an instant.
University of Rhode Island senior and mountain climber Ryan Wichelns plans to change the way longform journalism is delivered to the masses, an ambition matched in scale only by the mountains he’s summited. However, like the first peaks he reached early in his mountaineering career, Wichelns’ journalism career goals weren’t always as lofty as they are now.
Since before he stepped foot on the University’s Kingston campus, Joseph Korzeb has been working to change his brain. Not through chemistry or science, but through language and experience. The senior has traveled the world, speaks three languages, including Arabic, Spanish, English and intends to eventually learn Portuguese and French, as well.
Allie Herrera’s capstone experience In her last weeks as a student at URI was quite remarkable. The Journalism major was among only 50 students selected to participate in the first College Reporter Day at the White House, which gave the fledgling newshounds a chance to question President Barack Obama during a 30-minute press conference.
“Health care is always changing, always improving, and there is always someone who knows more about a field,” said Gregory Kelly, of Mantua, N.J., who will earn his doctor of pharmacy degree. “So it is hard to be confident in pharmacy, but it in a good way– a way that makes you realize you need other people in the field and hospital,” said Kelly.
Daraja Hinds and Diego Guevara spent countless hours during their years in the University Theatre Department honing their craft. Now they will take not just the lessons learned in the classrooms and stages on campus, they will take along life experiences that will help them embody new characters and give convincing performances in their careers as actors.
Expect runs, trills and wide leaps from Felicia Baker when she graduates from the University of Rhode Island on Sunday, May 22. And she’ll do it all with her voice. In front of thousands of URI graduates and their families, Felicia will deliver a power-packed operatic version of God Bless America and, last but not least, the URI Alma Mater.
Classes in Swan Hall were easy for Miranda Oakley, while things were more difficult at the Chafee Social Science Center. It wasn’t the subject matter of her classes that made things difficult, however. It was the geography and architecture of the buildings and their surrounding areas that made simply getting to class a challenge. That’s because Oakley was born completely blind.
Caitlin Runyon said she was suffering from the sophomore slump when she was walking through the Ram’s Den and saw a fellow student sitting alone in the depths of sadness. Instead of walking past him and not saying anything, Runyon decided to sit down and talk. That conversation changed both of their lives.
Since he was a little boy, senior Robby Delgado always wanted to play football at URI. Whether he was attending games, participating in camps, or meeting the student athletes, Delgado had his mind set on playing football for the Rams. Well, Delgado has done more than just that.
Hemophilia gave Jacob Marrocco a byline, a dream job, a life full of possibility. The University of Rhode Island senior was diagnosed with the bleeding illness as an infant. Playing sports as a kid was too risky so he picked up a pen and wrote about what he loved.
Senior Abbey Miklitsch grew up in York, Pa. surrounded by nothing but land. It was an easy decision to come to the University of Rhode Island for one specific reason. The beach. Miklitsch is a psychology and criminology major, with a double minor in underwater archeology and philosophy.
For five years Alessandra Portukalian was a medical mystery to doctors until she finally received an official diagnosis from the Mayo Clinic. She was diagnosed with primary lymphedema, a congenital condition that is irreversible and has no known cause or cure. The experience led her to realize she could use her illness as a way to teach others about the importance of moving forward through adversity.
When people are hungry they look for food, maybe a cheeseburger. But what happens to microorganisms in the ocean when they get hungry? Do they perish, live or grow? Sean Anderson, a 24-year-old student at the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography, answered those questions researching the feeding habits of heterotrophic protists—microscopic ocean plankton that make our planet habitable.
Ivy Burns describes herself as an outdoorsy person who has always been fascinated with the natural world. Her enthusiasm for the natural world became focused primarily on plants during her undergraduate education, but not the plants you might expect. Burns spent two years studying several species of marine plants – seaweed – to learn how they grow and contribute to local algae blooms.
Ian Ross grew up maintaining fish tanks at his home in Terryville, Conn., so when he was deciding on a future career path, that’s what came to mind. “There’s a certain beauty to life when you look at fish through the glass,” he said. “I always loved watching the fish swimming around, and I appreciated feeding them and testing the water to sustain life in the tank.”
From the moment Kelsey Norman, of Rutland, Vermont visited the University of Rhode Island, she felt it was an instant fit. Now, as commencement looms, Norman calls URI her second home, a place where she pushed herself academically, forged deep friendships on the field hockey team, and helped dozens of students at the University’s Academic Enhancement Center.
As a 21-year-old college senior, Gabriela Cardona has done something most people never accomplish: She’s the author of a children’s book—and one about hearing loss, no less. Cardona, of Portland, Maine, will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in communicative disorders. Her minor is even more impressive: thanatology, or the study of death, loss and grieving.
Whether on the volleyball court, or in the classroom, Catherine Seman has been nothing less than spectacular. She has dominated the classroom, earning Dean’s List honors seven times while maintaining a 3.76 grade point average as a business administration major with an emphasis in global business management. But what stands out most about Seman is her desire to help others. Since high school, Seman has been eager to extend a helping hand.