University Academic Excellence Awards

The University Academic Excellence Awards are presented each year to graduating seniors who have proven to be exceptional students. These students have been selected by their respective departments as the most outstanding in their chosen fields. Each recipient receives a certificate of student excellence and a University of Rhode Island medallion.

Watch the ceremony

The University Academic Excellence Awards Ceremony took place on Thursday, May 19, 2022 at 3 p.m.

2022 Award Recipients


College of Arts and Sciences

Paola Herrera

Africana Studies

Paola Herrera is an Africana studies and film/media major. She has a twin sister, she is of Dominican descent and she grew up in Providence. She plans to apply to graduate programs in archival and library science. She has made two independent films: LOST, shot on super 8 footage in New York City and Mythologizing Blackness, a response to cinematographer Arthur Jaffa’s Love is Death.

Megan Sullivan


Megan Sullivan is an anthropology and history double major with a minor in underwater archaeology. She transferred to URI from Florida State College due to her interest in underwater archaeology, which she hopes to pursue for a career. Megan enjoys everything having to do with the ocean, from scuba diving to painting ocean scenes. Due to her outstanding academic performance at URI, she has served as an undergraduate teaching assistant three times. Megan plans to obtain archaeology field experience before applying to graduate school.

Josephine Shirah


Josie Shirah is graduating with a double major in chemistry and mathematics. She has worked in the Chemistry Department stockroom and in the research labs of Professors Brenton DeBoef and Dugan Hayes. She has been active in the URI Ram Marching Band, the dressage team, the Puppy Raisers Club and Alpha Chi Sigma (the professional chemistry fraternity). She will be attending graduate school in chemistry starting Fall 2022.

Jack Ryan Mazzarelli


Jack is a Chinese Flagship student who is motivated and self-disciplined. He participated in all kinds of activities organized by the Chinese Program and has been a Flagship tutor and the program assistant for the 2021 Flagship summer intensive program. His exemplary work won respect and love from all of his students. He is currently completing the Flagship Capstone study program in Taiwan and will become a global professional.

Chloe Kessler

Communication Studies

Chloe is engaged in many campus and sustainability activities. She promotes the Harrington School to incoming students as a Brand Ambassador. She is a social media intern for the international event Solve Climate by 2030. Besides internships in the health field, she has organized highly successful sisterhood events. Chloe is working toward a career in which she can make a difference informing and motivating others.

Tuyetlinh Nguyen

Computer Science

Tuyetlinh is completing a double major in computer science and applied mathematics. She will finish a master of science degree in applied mathematics next spring. Tuyetlinh has been an excellent student in computer science, as well as being an excellent role model. She was a computer science teaching assistant, where it is so important for women in introductory courses to see women like Tuyetlinh succeeding and excelling..

Lily Truppi

Criminology and Criminal Justice

Lily is an impressive scholar in the making. She is graduating in three years with a double major, a double minor, and an outstanding GPA. Lily is skilled in interdisciplinary research. She published an article with Associate Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies Kathleen McIntyre profiling African American suffragettes in Rhode Island and her Honors project analyzes TikTok videos posted by incarcerated people. Faculty describe Lily as “holistically excellent” and “an absolute pleasure to work with.” Lily will apply to Ph.D. Programs in Criminology, where she will be poised to make important contributions to the study of gender & criminal justice.

Abigail Kaye

Data Science

Abigail has been a data engineer intern at Hasbro, Inc. for this past year. Her plans after graduation are to continue working as a data engineer and use data science for social good. She plans to explore various applications in different fields before applying to graduate school at Stanford. Abigail has no shortage of hobbies. She loves to read and cook and is training for the Boston Marathon!

Patrice Geffrard


Patrice is a double major in economics and political science with a minor in mathematics. He completed the Honors Program with a project titled “Inequality, Social Reproduction, and Economic Growth.” He was admitted to the American Economic Association’s prestigious Summer School, attending virtually in Summer 2020, and receiving the highest marks for his coursework. He plans to work for the Analysis Group before pursuing his graduate education.

Grace Burns


Grace Burns is a secondary education major and has completed the Honors Program. She is also active in Greek life and a member of the Order of Omega and is originally from the North Shore of Long Island. She is an aspiring teacher and will begin her career in secondary education by substituting this fall, seeking New York certification. Eventually, she hopes to move into administration or higher education. She loves writing poetry and cooking and she is currently learning how to surf.

Isobel McCullough


Isobel is graduating with three majors: film/media, French and music; she is also a remarkable filmmaker and scholar. She is the sound expert in Film/Media with a keen sense for approaching sounds, frequently warning “hold for plane” or “hold for train.” She has created an interdisciplinary minor for her Honors project on sound studies and hopes to pursue graduate work on the aesthetic impact of sound, attain a Ph.D. and return to academia as a professor.

Karla Gonzalez-Lynch


Karla Gonzalez-Lynch has made exceptional contributions to the French program through her enthusiastic participation in classes and as a French tutor. A member of Pi Kappa Phi, she made the Dean’s list every semester and is the co-leader/founder of the student-run Anti-Racist Education Initiative. She received the
TAPIF (“tap – eef”) award for Future French teachers and was a finalist for the Rainville Leadership Award for Team Excellence.

Fiona Greenough

Gender and Women’s Studies

Fiona is a gender and women’s studies major with a minor in music. Building on her Spanish language study and interest in gender and health policy, she traveled to Cuba through URI’s J-term in 2020. She has interned for Planned Parenthood New Hampshire Action Fund and has been a major catalyst in addressing menstruation poverty issues on campus. Fiona plans to travel and pursue graduate studies in public health.

Reed Margaret Reed


Studying both German and French, Reed exemplifies the best of the Humanities. Their projects have been especially noteworthy, such as creating a video in German on how to use a local zero-waste store, translating a graphic novel from French into English and German, and creating their own biographical graphic novel in German. The German Program effusively thanks Reed for making it look great!

Sierra James

Global Languages & Area Studies – Arabic Track

The embodiment of hard work and enthusiasm, Sierra has been a model student since her first semester at URI. A ROTC recipient of the Daughters of the Founders and Patriots award, Sierra is graduating with a double major in criminology and criminal justice and global languages and area studies, Arabic track. She is a platoon tactical officer and will join the 126th Aviation Regiment upon commission.

Alex Costa


Alex started as a nursing major and will graduate with an unusual double concentration in health sciences and history. He has been interested in (“obsessed with”) historical stories and facts since childhood, and with a nursing professor and history teacher as parents, appreciates how historical study and methods help him uncover and understand complex problems and evidence in other areas.

Gavin O’Connell

International Studies and French

Gavin is an International studies and French double major, completing the International Studies and Diplomacy program. In addition to exceptional academics, Gavin makes critical contributions to international programming and community at URI. During his first semester at URI, he was selected to meet with notable alumni, including distinguished career naval officers, State Department officials and prior URI excellence award winners working in the field of public and cultural diplomacy. Gavin has continued this trajectory and representation for the ISD program ever since. Gavin navigated a rigorous program at a top French university during his study abroad throughout the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic with sustained engagement and excellent academic attainment, returning with demonstrated language proficiency. This semester, Gavin was a member of the winning French language team from URI in an international competition across academic institutions focused on ecological development with a project plan for composting in the dining halls. Gavin is always a ready volunteer to support URI and the ISD program, whether it is answering questions about the ISD program at welcome days or always being willing to speak to a potential ISD French student. He is certain to be just as successful in his future career with the State Department or with an international NGO.

Jake Dante Carlino


Jake Dante’s childhood was heavily influenced by his father’s Italian-American family. As a teen, he came to really value his Italian roots, but his yearning for a deeper, more authentic connection led him to master the Italian language. He has achieved the highest proficiency level of any student in the Italian language program. During his semester in Perugia, Italy, he expanded and deepened his linguistic skills, his intercultural identity, and his network of friends. After graduation, he hopes to be hired as a translator and/or interpreter.

Kayla Laguerre-Lewis


Kayla graduates with a bachelor of arts in journalism punctuated by a very high GPA. She arrived at URI as a Centennial Scholar, and she has proven why she deserved that honor and support. She also maintained a rigorous schedule as a reporter and an editor for the student newspaper while completing minors in leadership studies and gender and women’s studies.

Tuyetlinh Nguyen


Tuyetlinh is a first-generation college student earning a double major in just three years in applied mathematics and computer science along with an outstanding GPA. Tuyetlinh is participating in the 4+1 B.S. to M.S. in applied math and received a graduate teaching assistantship for next year. She is on track to getting an M.S. in just one year. She was spotlighted on the College Arts and Sciences website for 2022 graduating seniors.

Sarah O’Brien

Music Education

Sarah is pursuing a music education degree with a concentration in flute. During her four years at the University of Rhode Island, Sarah participated in the Symphonic Wind Ensemble, Symphony Orchestra, Concert Band, the Ram Marching Band, Pep Band and the URI Flute Ensemble on a variety of instruments including flute, piccolo, euphonium, mellophone and French horn.

John Mancini


John, graduating Summa Cum Laude with a double major in philosophy and political science, was an outstanding student, teacher assistant, and Summer Fellow. Although he excelled in every course, he found his passion in the study of metaphysics and personhood, pulling inspiration from the whole of the history of philosophy. This fall he will continue his philosophical journey, beginning a doctoral program in philosophy.

Liliana Berube


Liliana is graduating with a B.S. in physics. She has been involved in research studying the gene expression of Nrf2 when exposed to low doses of radiation to determine the dose-response relation. She also served as the teaching assistant for the honors physics sequence. Next fall, Liliana will begin her Ph.D. studies in medical hysics at the University of Wisconsin.

Mary Lind

Political Science

Mary is a double major in political science and journalism and an accelerated bachelor’s-to-master’s student. During her distinguished career at URI, Mary has been the production Manager and contributor to the Good Five Cent Cigar, a research fellow for the Center for Nonviolence and Peace Studies, and a political science and journalism teaching assistant. She has already presented her research at two conferences and has been published in The Boston Globe. After completing her master’s degree, Mary plans to continue her graduate studies in a political science Ph.D. program.

Gabby Curtis

Public Relations

Gabby, a public relations and communication studies double major with a business minor, is a model of perseverance. Among her multiple “real world” experiences is an internship with the Newport Restaurant Group, where she honed her skills creating captivating digital content. With a certificate from Hubspot Academy, Gabby is a social media strategist with PMC Media Group. She is also a beauty consultant for Beauty Counter.

Franchesca Campos


Franchesca is a first-generation student with majors in sociology, Africana studies and English. Born and raised in Providence, Rhode Island, she studied sociology at URI to better understand the impacts of race, gender, and class on a world in flux. She recently completed an independent study examining W.E.B. Du Bois and Pan-Africanism. A lover of jazz, Franchesca plans to bring this passion to law school through her focus on the intellectual property rights of artists, with the goal of eventually conducting research on underrepresented communities in the U.S. and abroad.

Lila Bovenzi

Spanish Language & Literature

Lila is a Spanish major minoring in anthropology and English. Lila, a top-level GPA student, excels in anything she puts her mind to. At a young age, she is already an award-winning fiction writer. In class, Lila participates with eloquence and passion. She is curious and hardworking but also fun. She spent her last semester in Seville, perfecting her already great Spanish.

Michaela Kraut

Sports Media

While at URI, Michaela learned to apply critical thinking to real life situations, especially during her 3½ years working for the URI football team. Michaela shares her gratitude with her family and friends, the URI Department of Athletics, and Professors Regina Bell and Kevin McClure for always supporting her goals. Michaela’s plan is to work as a director of football operations either at the collegiate or professional level.

Ashley LaBarbera

Studio Art

Ashley is unusual in that she excels in multiple studios. She’s a gifted problem-solver, regardless of discipline, and is at home in sculpture, photography and drawing, adapting to art genres seamlessly. The Art Department has previously recognized Ashley commending her work ethic and artistic expression. Ashley is excited about starting a small business. With her entrepreneurial spirit, there’s little doubt she’ll be successful in her endeavors.

Audrey Visscher


How do you handle two majors with double concentrations in theatre design technology and directing and work as a carpenter, master electrician, box office consultant, assistant stage manager and lighting designer before graduation? Ask Audrey. In addition to these achievements, she was awarded first place in the category of Arts and Humanities at the 2021 Showcase for Student Research, Scholarly and Creative Work. She received the Presidential Scholarship and the Julius Galgoczy Technical Theatre Scholarship. This summer, she heads to Vermont to work in technical theatre and in the fall, she will continue her design and technical work at Rhode Island professional theatres. She aims to achieve excellence in theatre design and to deepen her theatre connections in our state before moving ahead to the next new adventure.

Lee E. Sheridan

Writing and Rhetoric

Lee exemplifies the highest value of the writing major: making writing accessible and meaningful to audiences. Her interest in the sciences has led her to pursue this goal in STEM fields; she currently interns as a technical writer supporting nonprofits. Creative, multitalented, and passionate, she is also on her way to becoming a classical mezzo soprano with a specialty in opera.

College of Business

Christina Gosselin


Christina builds upon a tradition of Gosselin excellence in accounting at URI. Christina coupled her accounting major with a minor in philosophy and maintained a top-level GPA which is considered rare in accounting. To apply and extend her accounting education, Christina took advantage of professional internships in audit and tax accounting (at KLR and KPMG CPA firms) and will pursue a master of accountancy degree at URI.

Kevin Bugbee-Cassara


Kevin is a double major in finance and natural resource economics. He is a participant in the Energy Fellowship Program through the URI Cooperative Extension and interns with National Grid. Kevin is passionate about work relating to the valuation of natural resources and renewable energy projects. After graduation, Kevin is interested in pursuing a career that inspires others to improve their relationship with the planet.

Rachel Cook

General Business Administration

Rachel, a double major in general business and criminal justice, has excelled in both programs as a member of the Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society. She is completing her second internship with the State of Rhode Island in the Human Rights Department and was active in Colleges Against Cancer and Women in Business. We are confident Rachel will continue this success as she moves on from URI.

Sydney Van Fleet

Innovation & Entrepreneurship

Sydney works well in teams and also on solo projects. Her team won the audience favorite vote in the Lean Startup class and scored high marks from the judges as well. Her side hustle idea in the introductory class was really clever – to connect with external dance studios to represent them on campus and offer lessons to students here. She has fully engaged in clubs such as WIB and the INE club. In her latest internship, she is learning how to code! She challenges herself and as a result has amassed an impressive body of academic and real-world experiences.

Emily Tollefson


Having made Dean’s List every semester, it is no wonder Emily is awarded the Academic Excellence Award. Emily has been active at URI as a member of Chi Omega sorority, RI Women in Business, RHODYTHON Committee Team and the URI Outing Club. In addition, she has held jobs and an internship while at URI. Emily is an outstanding example of a URI graduate!

Sophie Timm


Multiple faculty members used the same word to describe Sophie – “impressive.” She is an engaged student and cares about her work, which is thoughtful and insightful. Sophie takes a leadership role in group projects and case assignments by working to connect with students. Sophie not only has a good understanding of marketing, but also has a good command of programming for data analytics.

Erin Chratian

Supply Chain Management

Erin, originally from Georgia, is a senior supply chain major at the College of Business with a minor in Spanish. She has completed several internships with Proctor and Gamble, FM Global, Marshalls and AT&T. She also represented URI at the P&G Standout Emerging Leader program. Erin is a tennis player and has won the Atlantic 10 Performer of the Week award.

Shelby Kanski

Textiles, Fashion Merchandising and Design

Shelby is majoring in textiles, fashion merchandising and design with a self-created minor in sustainable fashion. For seven consecutive semesters, Shelby has received Dean’s List recognition and is a committed Honors Program student. She has also served as president for the Fashion Merchandising Society and as a resident assistant in URI residence halls over the years. Shelby plans to pursue a career in sustainable apparel design.

Jacquelyn Vlahakis

Textile Marketing

Jacquelyn is graduating with a B.S. in textile marketing. A hard-working student, she has been consistently on the Dean’s List and is a Textile Honor Society member. Jacquelyn was a student representative at TMD’s Advisory Board meeting this fall and has been researching for the International Textile and Apparel Association (ITAA) with Dr. Ji Hye Kang. Jacquelyn will work for Ross Stores this coming fall as an assistant planner.

College of Engineering

Thao Pham

Biomedical Engineering

Thao came to URI from Vietnam and is currently in the accelerated master’s program at URI in electrical engineering specializing in biomedical engineering. She has worked closely as a research assistant and a teacher assistant with her master’s adviser in biosignal processing and machine learning. She has been an international peer ambassador at URI since 2019. Thao is also an avid hiker and painter.

Teddy McGuire

Chemical Engineering

Teddy has excelled in the chemical engineering program and we are proud of his achievements. In addition to earning the highest GPA in his senior class, Teddy is on the Dean’s List and is a candidate for Tau Beta Pi, the preeminent engineering honor society. He has also interned for Fujifilm, volunteered as a tutor, and conducted corrosion research with Professor Richard Brown.

Matthew DaSilva

Civil & Environmental Engineering

Civil engineering runs in Matthew’s family given that his father’s career is in drinking water treatment and his grandfather owns an excavation company. Matthew was introduced to the field of engineering at East Providence High School while enrolled in its pre-engineering program. Civil engineering interested him the most since it allowed him the opportunity to work in design as well as working outdoors in the field on construction projects. In addition to pursuing minors in mathematics and environmental engineering, Matthew is the captain of the volleyball team at URI. Last summer, he interned with Pare Corporation, which led to his accepting a full-time project engineering position after graduation.

Christopher Charron

Computer Engineering, Electrical Engineering & Applied Mathematics

Not only is Chris a triple major in electrical and computer engineering and applied mathematics, he’s also a triplet. He’s worked in the URI Power Electronics Lab with Dr. Tao Wei and at Pison Technology as an electrical engineering Intern. In the future, Chris hopes to pursue a master’s degree in electrical engineering. He plans to enter the workforce and already has a job offer.

Timothy Gibbons

Electrical Engineering & Applied Mathematics

Tim is a dual major in electrical engineering and applied mathematics. He has had two internships at CACI International in its Chicago office in PCB and FPGA design. He has accepted a full time job offer at CACI International in New Jersey. He would like to pursue graduate school in the future. He is also a talented musician who plays the violin and the piano.

Aaron King

Industrial Systems Engineering

Aaron is a hard-working and energetic student receiving his B.S. in industrial and systems engineering with a minor in business. He has worked as a research assistant with URI Voter Operations and Election Systems helping to improve election systems and with URI’s Sustainability Innovative Solutions Lab focusing on solar systems. He plans to work in the defense industry before returning for graduate school.

Raymond Turrisi

Mechanical Engineering & Computer Science

Ray is receiving two degrees, the B.S. in mechanical engineering with a minor in robotics engineering and a B.A. in computer science with a mathematics minor. Ray is also one of only 30 recipients of the nationally competitive Tau Beta Pi Graduate Fellowship. Next, he will pursue the joint MIT-Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) Ph.D. in underwater robotics with a full assistantship .

Meghan Haviland

Ocean Engineering

Meghan has worked as deckhand for four seasons on traditionally rigged sailboats. Her senior capstone design project dealt with the detection, classification and tracking of whales near offshore wind farm construction sites. With a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Inland Masters License, a 200-ton Inland Mates License and an Able Seaman endorsement, she plans to continue her maritime career after graduation.

College of the Environment and Life Sciences

Makenzie McDonald

Animal Science & Technology

On top of academic excellence during her pre-veterinary degree, Makenzie has contributed in many ways to the department and the University. She has served as an Academic Enhancement Center tutor, a URI 101 mentor and undergraduate teaching assistant and has completed the Honors Program. Off campus, she has participated in a zoo internship while also working at veterinary clinics, animal rescues and equine facilities. Makenzie is currently deciding between multiple acceptance offers from veterinary schools.

Benjamin Towne

Aquaculture and Fishery Technology

After a job as a sushi chef in Rhode Island, Ben transferred into the AFS program in 2020. With a near perfect GPA, Ben has stormed through the program, performing research on preventing diseases in shellfish hatcheries and presenting his research at a regional conference. He plans to go to graduate school so he can contribute to the sustainable growth of the seafood industry.

Richard Mercer

Biological Sciences

With keen interest in wildlife conservation, Richard won a Coastal Fellowship to conduct research on endangered diamondback terrapins, receiving a research award to fund publishing his work. Richard graduated summa cum laude in biological sciences and marine affairs. He is now a shorebird technician for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and plans to continue studies to further his career as an ecologist.

Sabrina Charron


A double major in biology and kinesiology, Sabrina earned a spot on the Dean’s List every semester and excelled as a three-sport athlete in track and field. She also juggled work as a certified Emergency Medical Technician and spent a summer surveying eelgrass beds using GPS and GIS technology. Sabrina plans to continue her studies towards a career as a physician’s assistant.

Elizabeth Billings

Cell & Molecular Microbiology

Elizabeth is a cell and molecular biology major with minors in mathematics and data science. She has also been a URI MARC U*STAR trainee. This program immerses underrepresented undergraduate students in biomedical research. Elizabeth has worked alongside Dr. Ying Zhang to develop computational models for understanding microbial communities in marine environments and predict their responses to environmental stress. She has also performed research in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine. Elizabeth will enter the Tufts University Molecular Microbiology Graduate Program this fall.

John Panizza


John has been an exceptional student, not only because of his remarkable academic achievements, but also because of his concern for his classmates and even instructors. He is a class leader, often helping students with lab techniques and homework assignments. During the switch to remote learning, John assisted with technical details for lecture delivery. John also received high accolades for his summer 2020 internship at Neurotech Pharmaceuticals.

Kevin Bugbee-Cassara

Environmental and Natural Resource Economics

Kevin is a green business double major (finance and environmental economics) and has been on the Dean’s List for eight consecutive semesters. He has completed the Energy Fellowship program. He also found time to serve as a treasurer for the ENRE Students Association for three semesters and provided critical support in the development of undergraduate program improvements for ENRE. He will continue his academic training in ENRE’s accelerated bachelor’s to master’s program at URI.

Anthony Florenz

Environmental Science and Management

Anthony’s keen interest in the “natural world and humanities involvement” led him to study environmental science and management. While pursuing academic excellence in conservation biology, ecology, soil, wetland and watershed science with a top GPA, Anthony worked several jobs (maybe you saw him stocking vegetables at Shaw’s). During this time, he also served as the mental health and scholarship chairs in the Sigma Chi fraternity. In the future, Anthony is looking toward working in renewable energy and possibly an MBA degree.

Blaine Lynch-Gadaleta

Geology and Geological Oceanography

Blaine is an exceptional student and amazing individual. She has completed a pre-med program and the Honors Program while also majoring in geological oceanography and psychology. During her degree she undertook a multi-year climate research project with a faculty member at Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, which she has presented at international meetings. In the near future, she will be applying to medical school to pursue neurobiology.

Rosa Adimari

Landscape Architecture

Rosa is at the top of her class with a very high GPA, graduating on the Dean’s List and in the Sigma Lambda Alpha Honor Society. She designs to provide comfort with the use of spaces and knowledge of natural systems. She will be successful whether attending graduate school in architecture or working in a landscape architecture professional office. We will miss her joy and laughter!

Fiona Chlebecek

Marine Affairs

Fiona has earned degrees in marine affairs and theater with a writing and rhetoric minor. Fiona has achieved several academic honors, with a GPA of 3.96. She has also served as vice president of the URI SCUBA club. In Fall 2021, she completed the Semester at Sea (SEA) program and will enjoy a research experience this summer at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute.

Myles Wagner

Marine Biology

Myles, a double major in marine biology and cell and molecular biology, has received both the NOAA Hollings and Goldwater Scholarships. He has done undergraduate research on genomic mechanisms that allow corals to live in different light environments and on coral growth in coral nurseries on a remote island in the Indo-Pacific. He is the captain of the URI Ultimate Frisbee team and a URI Leadership Institute participant. Myles was a 2022 Fulbright Fellowship finalist and plans to apply to graduate school.

Darcy Roland

Plant Sciences

Darcy has a passion for learning. Her curiosity allowed her to explore plant pathogens and diseases, always with an eye for how plants can be managed sustainably. She is looking forward to traveling and WWOOFING (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms), where she will test her plant science skills. After an academic break and time to explore an area of focus, Darcy looks forward to attending graduate school.

Maeve Rothschild-Shea

Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems

A Wilbraham, Massachusetts, native, Maeve has achieved academic excellence in the SAFS program while double majoring in landscape architecture, an impressive feat. Motivated by a desire to promote equitable food access, she plans to combine her interests in design and food systems through farming and the creation of edible landscapes. She enjoys spending her free time outdoors hiking, biking, camping and playing sports.

Marlene Severino

Wildlife & Conservation Biology

Marlene has been a hard worker throughout her life and is an expert at multitasking with work and academics. She has been a marine educator, assisted with animal husbandry, dissected whale baleen and collected storm-water samples among her various jobs, much while working as secretary in a surgical intensive care unit. Her work ethic will get her far, which will probably be in a climate much warmer than Rhode Island.

Simone Moniz Duguay

Medical Laboratory Science

Simone started at URI majoring in biotechnology. However, as a junior she discovered medical laboratory science and decided to add it as a second major. Simone enjoys the idea of working “behind the scenes” in health care while still making a positive impact in patients’ lives. After graduation, Simone plans to work at a local medical laboratory focusing on clinical microbiology and molecular diagnostics.

College of Health Sciences

Gabriela Zuccolo

Communicative Disorders

Gabriela is graduating summa cum laude in communicative disorders. As a research assistant, she has investigated neural markers of memory in adults with Parkinson’s disease and audiovisual integration in children with autism. She has been a peer mentor for college students with autism and a tutor for a literacy summer enrichment program. Gabriele will pursue her master’s degree in speech-language pathology at URI.

Lily Rosa

Health Studies

Lily has been an outstanding representative of the Department of Health Studies. She graduated in December 2021 with a B.S. in health studies and a B.A. in Italian. During her 3 1/2 years at URI, Lily worked to promote health and well-being. She was a founding member of the Peer Health Educator program at URI Health Services and of the URI Public Health Club. She also completed an internship with Assistant Professor of International Development Lisa Hiwasaki examining international agreements for sustainable development. Lily is presently serving in FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) Corps, a team-based service program that provides the opportunity to serve communities impacted by disaster. Lily’s future plans include earning a master’s degree in public health.

Sarah Behm

Human Development & Family Studies

Sarah is an outstanding HDF student who has approached all of her academic experiences with grace, maturity and curiosity. Sarah received an award from the URI Social Science Institute for Research, Education, and Policy to fund undergraduate research in early childhood education policy. As part of her senior internship at the Rhode Island Association for the Education of Young Children, Sarah testified before the Rhode Island House Finance Committee about the perils of working in the under-funded early childhood education field.

Apryll Pazienza


Apryll, a native Rhode Islander, is an exceptional and well-rounded scholar, achieving excellence in academics and through her capstone research project investigating the sleeping patterns of people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Her future plans are to attend graduate school and earn a doctorate in physical therapy and continue her dedication to promoting health and wellness.

Maria Cherry

Nutrition & Dietetics

Maria is graduating magna cum laude with Honors Program completion in nutrition and dietetics. In four years, Maria grew her research skills culminating in a project investigating student perceptions of campus dining. She received a grant to complete this research and present the findings. Maria worked to increase food access for older adults and plays an active role in food recovery and nutrition communications on campus.

Blaine Lynch-Gadaleta


Blaine is a psychology and geology major with a leadership minor and is receiving excellence awards in both majors. She is also an Honors Program and pre-medical student. As a research assistant studying health disparities and substance use, she already has a poster presentation, co-authored a journal article, and has received a small research grant. Blaine has engaged in extensive community service, including community revitalization efforts in New Orleans and administrative/logistical support for Rhode Island Disaster Medical Assistance. She is an amazing student.

College of Nursing

Melissa Sosa


Melissa is an outstanding student who represents the College of Nursing in the best possible light. Melissa earned an excellent GPA while being an active member in the Pathways program, a Nursing Ambassador and a member of the Undergraduate Advisory Committee. In addition, she works in the nursing office and holds a student nurse position at Rhode Island Hospital. She is a third-year undergraduate research fellow and represented the College of Nursing at the annual Eastern Nursing Research Society conference. She is an honors student who is completing research examining first-generation college students’ experiences with stress, alcohol use and overall health. Melissa is a compassionate and kind person who is passionately committed to bringing the best possible evidence-based care to all. The URI College of Nursing can think of no one more deserving of this award.

College of Pharmacy

Marisa Jacobs


A talented violist, artist and writer…not typically what you think of when describing a pharmacist. However, Marisa Jacobs is no ordinary student! Through sustained academic excellence in pharmacy, Marisa earned the highest cumulative GPA in the PharmD program. She is a leader and mentor in various pharmacy organizations. Upon graduation, Marisa will continue her passion for writing and health care as a medical writer at AdMed in Philadelphia.

Lleayem Nazario-Johnson

Pharmaceutical Sciences

A native Rhode Islander, Lleayem’s career is on an impressive trajectory toward improving human health. While completing his B.S. degree in pharmaceutical sciences, Lleayem also engaged in an Honors Project in scientific research to find new drugs that may one day improve immunotherapies for cancer treatments. This coming fall, he will begin medical school at Brown University.

Alan Shawn Feinstein College of Education and Professional Studies

Sofia Ganey

Early Childhood Education

Sofia has been on the Dean’s List every semester at URI and is a member of the Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society in Education while also engaging in various service events and extracurricular activities as the vice president of the Sojourn club on campus. Her goal of educating young children is off to an excellent start as she plans to continue to teach young children at the Child Development Center in Kingston. She also plans to travel and pursue her graduate degree.

Alexa Pucci

Elementary Education

As a Block Island restaurant server at The Beachhead, preschool teacher, URI teaching assistant and elementary and special education teacher, Alexa has had quite the journey. An excellent multitasker, Alexa completed two teaching internships during the time of COVID-19, exhibiting personal sacrifice and leadership. Alexa demonstrated flexibility, tech-savvy pedagogy and keen social-emotional skills supporting children during a historic challenge to education and the world.

Andrew Maiato

Health & Physical Education

Andrew’s love of sports brought him to URI to pursue a major in health and physical education. At URI, he coached the women’s club soccer team, was elected vice president of the Health and Physical Education Club and maintained Dean’s List status every semester. Currently, he is an assistant coach of a middle school baseball team. His future goal is to become an athletic director.

Angel Berrios

Interdisciplinary Studies, Health Services Administration

Angel is completing his degree in the bachelor of interdisciplinary studies health services administration program while working as an occupational therapy assistant. Angel earned an associate’s degree in the Occupational Therapy Assistant program from the Community College of Rhode Island in 2004 and has been working in the health field for the past 17 years. He plans to use his URI degree to continue to help people and impact their lives in the health and medical field. Angel has continued to grow at URI as a student leader in the classroom and in our Professional Leadership Studies program courses. We are proud of his hard work.

Grace Burns

Secondary Education

Grace is receiving the Excellence Award in both of her majors and has also completed the Honors Program. She has numerous strengths, but no strength defines her more than her humility. That humility – that willingness to listen to others so that she can grow as a person – will serve as the foundation for her future success as a teacher. Grace’s humility, coupled with her skills, will serve her as she becomes a future leader in the teaching profession.

Christopher Wiley

Finish What You Started

Chris is thrilled to be graduating from the University of Rhode Island. The campus holds many special memories for Chris as he visited his father, Fred Wiley, who worked at URI for 29 years as an equipment manager for the University. Chris helped the athletes by being a ball catcher, was babysat by the girls’ basketball team and his first job was selling programs at URI basketball games. Chris started his academic journey in the 90s at a college in Massachusetts and a family matter kept him from completing his degree. Twenty-three years later, he returned to URI to finish his degree through the Finish What You Started Program. He will be graduating Magna Cum Laude with an excellent GPA in business. Chris is intellectually curious and always strives for excellence whether he is in class, traveling for his job at Johnson & Johnson as a pricing analyst or as a husband to his supportive wife Diane. Besides thanking his family, he would like to thank the Finish What You Started coordinator Nancy Rabidoux and his adviser Deborah Carroll for their guidance and support. Being a non-traditional student is not easy and his advice to other adult learners is to absorb everything you are learning, challenge yourself and to remember that it is never too late to make your own path. His future path includes a promotion and attending graduate school to earn his MBA.