Countdown to Commencement: Stories About Our Graduates

Join RWU and RWU Law as we celebrate the Class of 2019 graduates.

They’ve studied hard, made lasting memories, grown together as a family, and created a meaningful impact through research and service in communities locally and around the globe. Now, they’re graduating together, sent off with cheers from faculty, staff and their families celebrating their Commencement.

In a time-honored tradition, the Roger Williams University Class of 2019 students will cross the Commencement stage and receive their degrees on Saturday, May 18. Taking part in the same tradition a day earlier, on Friday, May 17, the Class of 2019 graduate students will participate in a Graduate Commencement ceremony, while law students will collect their well-deserved degrees during the School of Law Commencement.

Here is just a small sampling of what this year’s graduates have been up to:

  • Phoebe Thaler `19 was selected as this year's Student Commencement Speaker due to her transformative leadership, advocacy work, and speech on the power of community. "It's amazing that someone like me who is a woman, trans, Jewish, queer, and has disabilities, was chosen to give such a large address and represent the class at commencement," said Thaler. "That is really positive, not only for the campus to see but for anyone else who shares those identities or other minoritized identities to feel represented and feel like it’s something they can do someday."'
  • Master of Architecture graduate Amelia Tayeh, who will deliver the student commencement address at the RWU Graduate Commencement, spent her final semester bringing together her academic studies and passion for raising awareness of social justice issues. In December, the graduate student put up a visual representation of the refugee tents she wants to redesign to create more humane environments for refugees seeking shelter from war-torn homelands. Built on campus, the tents allowed visitors to enter and listen to a documentary about Syrian refugees and learn about the toll of the refugee crisis and the hardships of living in refugee camps.
  • In a collaboration with the Rhode Island Secretary of State's Office, Meghan Roach, a student in the Master of Business Administration (4+1) program, and Brittany Watson, a marketing major with minors in business analytics and psychology, applied what they had been learning in the classroom to create the first data-driven report that provided a picture of Rhode Island's economic climate for state government officials.
  • Construction Management majors Nick Morrison and Jon Gomes helped lead their team to a second-place win at the Associated Schools of Construction Region 6/7 competition. The team designed a seismic/structural upgrade to a large parking structure and were complimented on how well prepared they were for any project changes or challenges.
  • For her public health capstone project, Emma Feeley interned with Providence Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) received practical, hands-on training in mitigating against, preparing for, responding to, and recovering from any type of emergency in order to keep the community safe.
  • In a ceremony filled with laughs, joyful tears and messages of strength and resiliency, RWU celebrated its LGBTQ+ graduates in the university's second annual Lavender Graduation in the video below. 
  • For more than a year, marine biology majors DaNelle Ellington and Erin Gaglias worked at the forefront of innovative research addressing environmental issues in the RWU Wet Lab. Their research projects earned them first and second place poster award at Aquaculture 2019, the world's largest aquaculture trade show where they outperformed mostly master's and Ph.D. students to claim  the award for best research presentation.
  • In addition to her academics, psychology and criminal justice double major Amanda Catania dedicated much of her college career to being a member of RWU’s Stage Crew. Through setting up and taking down events such as the annual spring concert, she gained valuable skills that can be transferred to any post-graduate position. 
  • As their time at RWU came to a close, senior visual arts students joined visual arts alumni and faculty to stage a multimedia arts exhibit at the WaterFire Arts Center titled, “Star Field Flashlight Exhibition.” They followed that up with another exhibition at the Bristol Art Museum, which was open for two weeks earlier in May.
  • Forensic science major Daryn Javer spent last summer honing her ballistics-analysis skills, working with expert forensic scientists at the Rhode Island Crime Laboratory on examining real evidence and analyzing firearms and fingerprints, while navigating sophisticated Federal Bureau of Investigations and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives databases.
  • Through their sustainability studies minor capstone, environmental science major Rachel Nadolny and architecture major Loukas Veras worked with their class to collect data for the STARS program. Connecting with administration and staff across campus, the students began a movement towards better measuring RWU’s efforts in being a sustainable university.

Senior Portrait Series

  • As an intern with Shawmut Design and Construction, construction management major Chris Bartorelli was able to leave his own mark on RWU’s SECCM Labs project. From marking up floor plans to writing the superintendent’s daily log and working with subcontractors, Bartorelli has gained all the skills and knowledge needed to manage large construction projects from the ground up.
  • With RWU now serving as headquarters for the Scholars at Risk Student Advocacy Seminars Coordinating Office, two seniors – Adrienne Wooster and Juliet Hulme  played key roles in planning the annual Scholars at Risk Student Advocacy Days in Washington, D.C., a two-day event featuring hands-on workshops on human rights best practices and advocating on Capitol Hill on behalf of wrongfully imprisoned scholars. 
  • Last summer, Keegan Heston, who will graduate with a Master of Business Administration and earned his international business degree from RWU in 2018, helped organize the many volunteers who produce WaterFire, Providence's award-winning art event that draws millions to the city each year.
  • Tuning into the skills they gained through RWU’s architecture program and using their professors and RWU alumni as resources, architecture majors Nicholas Pyles and Julia Collopy began their independent design company, MyriadVision. In less than one year of operation, the pair have created three-dimensional photo-real rendering services to architects, designers, construction companies, real estate firms and more.
  • Balancing athletics, academics and college life can be a challenge. Senior basketball captain Austin Coene rose above it all to become the first 2,000-point scorer in RWU men's basketball history, breaking the all-time leading scorer record at RWU, all while working towards his 3.9 cumulative GPA. He shares his story in the video below.
  • As part of their construction engineering course, senior civil engineering majors Jay Cobleigh and Annelise Boylan frequently got the opportunity to go behind the scenes of the SECCM Labs project, observing and learning each step of the construction and engineering process directly from professionals.
  • Before she even graduated, Sara Hunt can boast that she's had research published in an major academic journal. By working with RWU faculty members on a groundbreaking project, the senior biology and chemistry double major and Honors Program student became one of the lead authors on research to develop a test to detect cyanide poisoning in fish caught for the marine aquarium trade.
  • Co-leaders Katherine Worth, a marketing major, and Emily Warrington, a marketing and graphic design double major, guided their interdisciplinary team to success with an integrated advertising campaign for Wienerschnitzel, capturing second place in the regional round of the National Student Advertising Competition.
  • After working hard on their research all year, students had the opportunity to share their findings with peers and faculty members at the annual Student Academic Showcase and Honors (SASH).
  • At RWU Commencement, U.S. Senator Jack Reed will deliver the keynote address, while at the Graduate Commencement, alumna Rebekah Snyder '16  the victim advocate for the Michigan attorney general's office in the sexual abuse case against disgraced USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar will present the keynote address. A leading scholar in judicial decision-making, Lee Epstein will provide the keynote address at the Law Commencement.
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