Success Stories – Finish What You Started

We are so proud of our our dedicated Finish What You Started students. These success stories are meant to inspire you to follow your dreams and think big at URI.



Stephanie Nelson ’21

Stephanie is a native of Richmond, RI and a 2021 URI graduate, who will continue her education here as a master’s student in Labor Relations and Human Resources.

Stephanie became interested in industrial organizational psychology during her undergraduate studies and is currently employed at Ascensus, a financial services company. She works to assist families in saving for college as well as retirement, and her time with Ascensus has given her an incredible avenue to explore new and exciting interests and goals.

How she got started
After attending the Community College of Rhode Island for two years, followed by URI for an additional two years, Stephanie put her education on hold in order to gain professional experience in New York. After a seven-year break, she decided to return in order to continue her degree. Describing her journey as a “winding route,” Stephanie’s hard work and determination have led her to become the latest recipient of the Presidential Academic Excellence Award for Finish What You Started.

Advice to future students
Stephanie believes that it’s never too late to come back to school and pursue a field of interest. Her advice to students who are currently in the Finish What You Started program is to never forget that there’s always time in this life to reevaluate and restart.

“It shouldn’t be the norm to remain stuck in the same job if it does not foster an atmosphere that promotes personal and professional growth.”

She also advises students to work hard to remain enthusiastic, open minded and appreciative.

Gratitude for being supported at each step
The University of Rhode Island has a fantastic support network that Stephanie was able to take advantage of. She credits a great deal of her success to many faculty members and administrators within the University of Rhode Island, such as Nancy Sisson, Dr. Emily Gentes, Dr. Aimée Duvall Phelps, Emily Loomis, Nancy Rabidoux, and Jeff Johnson — as well as Kelli Roy, her current manager at Ascensus.

How would you describe us?
When Stephanie was asked to describe a few words/phrases that highlight her experience with the Finish What You Started program, the following came to mind: “unexpected intervention, reinvigorating, confidence-boosting, and heart-centered.”

She is a reminder to students of all majors, ages, and passions that being a lifelong learner is a beautiful and magical thing.

We are so proud of Stephanie and all of her many accomplishments! 


Hennock Constant ’18

During his time at URI, Hennock Constant was a student in the College of Education & Professional Studies, where he focused his studies on Human Development and Family Science.

Constant’s journey with Finish What You Started began when he hit ‘pause’ for a moment and reflected on his life and the reasons he might want to return to the University after working for some time as a teaching assistant at a public school.

Looking at the struggles he was facing with no college degree, he knew he had to take that first step forward to return and get his bachelor’s degree. Constant also stated that he did this for his family, too. Watching his wife attend nursing school and their children in primary school motivated him to start this new chapter in his life.

Constant wants to make sure everyone understands: “It is not easy to go back and finish. There will be times where you want to give up, but you have to keep looking at the future!”

With the unwavering support of his friends, family, and the faculty and staff at URI, he graduated in 2018 and was so inspiring, that he was chosen to be the 2018 Commencement Student Speaker.

Constant wants to thank his amazing support system for always pushing him to move forward and be the person he’s always wanted to become. With much respect, we are happy to announce that since graduation, Constant has been able to be promoted from Teaching Assistant to Dean of Students at his public school!

Constant’s message to all incoming students starting the program is this – “If you had the guts to start it, finish it!”

Thank you, Mr. Hennock Constant for being a representative of our community of adult learners here at URI. We are so lucky to have you as an alumnus.


Nicholas Pappadia ’19

Nicholas Pappadia, a Rhode Island native, was a URI student from 2007-2011. He graduated in 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies, and currently works for Channel 12 News in Providence.

Nicholas’s degree completion was a long journey, but he is very grateful for it, and for the person that the Finish What You Started program has allowed him to be.  

Throughout Nicholas’s life, he knew that he was drawn to the world of mass media. He was very involved in journalism in high school and even interned at Channel 10! In college, Nicholas pursued those same interests and interned at NBC. His passion grew even more as he sought to work within the television field with the experience he gained over the years. 

Nicholas completed Finish What You Started with the inspiration and help of his partner, family members, friends, and the advisors he had within the program. Nicholas believed it was time – and his hard work and dedication paid off. 

After graduation, Nicholas searched for and landed an assignment desk position, where he monitored social media and engagement. After a few months of being in this role, he was producing and writing newscasts. He eventually found his dream career working behind the scenes and producing for Channel 12.  

Nicholas, we are truly inspired by your diligence, perseverance, and creativity.


John Heroux ’21

At 55 years old, it seemed as if John Heroux had it all—a long, successful career in financial services, a loving family, an active lifestyle, a strong faith-based life, and a positive presence in the community. But one thing was missing—a college degree.

“It was number one on my bucket list,” he said.

John attended college for a short time after high school, but left to follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather to work in sales for the John Hancock Insurance Company in Boston. There, he worked his way up and became the head of sales training, where he supervised a staff of 17 and created virtual training experiences.

Fifteen years later, he took a position at Massachusetts Financial Services to gain more global experience, traveling extensively to offices in Canada, London, Australia, Singapore, and Tokyo. Heroux retired 18 years later as a senior vice president after a well-rounded, lucrative career.

“I always felt there was a gap in my life,” said Heroux, who has family homes in Woonsocket, Rhode Island and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

It was time to get that degree. This time, he would be following his mother’s lead; she earned her bachelor’s degree in English from URI at age 53.

He enrolled at URI through the Finish What You Started program and met with adviser Jeff Johnson to plan a curriculum track to earn a bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies in Business Institutions.

“John represents everything a Finish What You Started student should be—determined, thoughtful, and generous. From the first moment I spoke with him, I knew he would be successful at URI and bring his years of experience to the classroom,” said Nancy Rabidoux, Degree Completion Coordinator for Finish What You Started and Performance-Based Admissions.

At first, Heroux was intimidated by being the oldest person in the class. “How is someone like me going to be perceived?” he said. “I was the only student with gray hair.”

But Heroux said he found it easy to connect with the younger students and told them that he would bring “real-world experience to the classroom.”

The coursework, he said, was overwhelming, but he put his mind to it, and even finished assignments early.

Then it happened again. Heroux had to put his educational journey on hold when his parents became ill and needed his help. When that situation was under control, he and Jeff Johnson formulated an aggressive two-year curriculum plan to graduate.

“John’s journey at URI is only a piece of the puzzle. He will pursue new goals because that’s what leaders do,” Johnson said.

Heroux admits that having a successful career in financial services deterred his educational pursuits, and he regrets not getting his degree sooner.

“I think about where I started and how I was able to transition at 55 years old,” Heroux said.

He graduate summa cum laude in May, 2021 – and crossed off the first entry on his bucket list.

What’s next for John Heroux? He is enrolled in the URI master’s degree program in Adult Education and hopes his background in training adults will be beneficial in this endeavor. 

Thank you, John Heroux for sharing your incredible journey with us at URI. We look forward to seeing what the future will bring. 


Contact Finish What You Started

Reach out to our office directly with any questions. We look forward to connecting with you.                

University of Rhode Island
Finish What You Started

Office of Admission
Newman Hall
14 Upper College Road
Kingston, RI 02881