“Activism” can have numerous connotations and embody a very wide range of activities or events, especially now it seems. Activism may be energizing, polarizing, inspiring, or a whole host of other things, some great, some not so great.  On the whole, I’d rather be active than asleep, and, especially at a university, I’d rather see activism than apathy. I am very proud of the activism of University of Rhode Island students, which is making a tremendous, positive impact on our community.  Indeed, their impact extends far beyond the borders of Kingston.  Here are a couple of amazing (to me, at least) examples.

Just a week ago, the University of Rhode Island sponsored the second DIVE–RI conference. In this case “sponsored” means “conceived, developed, organized, funded, and carried out” by students.  DIVE stands for “Diversifying Individuals via Education” and the title epitomizes the ambitious vision of the URI students involved.  The conference is all about understanding the role and importance of diversity, about building community, and thinking boldly about how to create a better and more inclusive society.  It’s also about the value of education, critical thinking, and careful listening.  At a foundational level, DIVE–RI is about the vision and leadership of our students.  Although faculty, staff, and administration participated and supported the conference, URI students were indisputably responsible for the tremendous success of DIVE–RI events.

Over 300 people attended, and not solely from the University of Rhode Island – MIT, Brown, RISD, Lehigh, Providence College, Bryant University, and Boston University were also represented.  Common, the renowned hip-hop artist, Dr. Tricia Rose (Brown University), the Honorable Nellie Gorbea, Secretary of State of Rhode Island, and the Honorable Jorge Elorza, Mayor of Providence, provided keynote addresses.  Twenty-five workshops were presented, led by students, staff, faculty, and local professionals.  And all of this was the work of a dedicated group of students, led by Zulmy Cortez (logistics), Dayo Akinjisola (finance), Omose Ogala (marketing), Luckson Omoaregba (program speakers and presenters), and Shiana Ashworth (events). Everyone I spoke to about DIVE ­– RI was very positively impressed by the organization of the conference, the quality of the events, talks, and workshops, and, especially, about the enthusiasm and professionalism of the students who organized and led the entire affair.

Here are a few images of DIVE – RI 2016.

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At about the same time, another group of students from the University of Rhode Island were receiving the prestigious Amy Vojta Awards from the Northeast Greek Leadership Association.  The University of Rhode Island Greek Community and Panhellenic and Multicultural Greek Councils were presented five of the seven awards.  The awards were for Academic Achievement, Philanthropy and Service, Membership Recruitment, Public Relations, and Risk Reduction.  These awards reflect the tremendous work URI’s fraternities and sororities are doing on behalf of campus residential life, as well as their outreach to communities and people across the state.  For example, the URI Greek Community has helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for South County Habitat for Humanity and also provided over  34,000 hours of volunteer service annually.  Their emphasis on academic success is also laudable.  The new academic achievement program implemented by the IFC and Panhellenic academic chairs resulted in 7 of 20 sororities at or above the all university women’s grade point average, and 11 of 14 fraternities above all university men’s grade point average.

Here is an image of representatives of URI’s Greek Community at the awards ceremony.

Pictured Left to Right, Front Row, Aurora Pierangelo, Assistant Director of FMA, Nicole Guadagnoli, Natalie Wong, Daniel Reagan, FIJITatyana Leite, , Emilia DeMarco, Sarah Marchand, , Alexia Williams,  Back Row, Anthony Rampone, ReneeBurdon, , Hailey Flavin, , Collin Simmons, , Daniel Finan, , Jacob Wiener, , Ashly Brooks, , Kristina Cheamitru, , JT Oldham, FIJI, Stephen J. Simo, Greek Advisor, McHenry Ternier, 
Pictured Left to Right, Front Row, Aurora Pierangelo, Assistant Director of FMA, Nicole Guadagnoli, Natalie Wong, Daniel Reagan, Tatyana Leite, Emilia DeMarco, Sarah Marchand, Alexia Williams
Back Row, Anthony Rampone Renee Burdon, Hailey Flavin, Collin Simmons, Daniel Finan, Jacob Wiener, Ashly Brooks, Kristina Cheamitru, JT Oldham, Stephen J. Simo, Greek Advisor, McHenry Ternier

As is readily apparent from these examples, all of us in the University of Rhode Island community can be extremely proud of our students.  They care, they are active, they are engaged, they “think big”, and they achieve extraordinary things.