RWU Welcomes New Undergraduate Students with Convocation Ceremony

Video: The Class of 2027 moved into their new homes on campus just before Convocation.

By Melanie Thibeault
Three smiling students hold a blue "Class of 2027" flag in the RWU Recreation Center

BRISTOL, R.I. – At last week’s Convocation ceremony, President Ioannis Miaoulis challenged the 1,112 new undergraduate students to dive into an immersive hands-on learning environment and powerful combinations of academics and activities that empower Roger Williams University students to discover their interests and build their own customized educational pathways.

“At Roger Williams, we will challenge you to dive deeper and soar higher,” Miaoulis said in his address to the new students. “Our students immerse themselves in hands-on learning. You’ll dive into a dynamic, real-world education that will help you find your passion and give you the knowledge to become the changemakers and leaders the world needs.”

On Friday, students wearing blue Hawk T-shirts processed into the RWU Fieldhouse for the formal ceremony, which welcomes new students and their families to the Roger community with messages of encouragement and support.

This fall, RWU welcomes 1,023 new first-year students and 89 new transfer students, who hail from 29 states and are citizens of 30 different countries. With 21 percent of new students identifying as BIPOC, this is the most racially and ethnically diverse undergraduate class in Roger’s history.

As part of the ceremony, all incoming first-year and transfer students participated in the time-honored tradition in taking the Academic Integrity Pledge, led by Diya Das, the new Dean of the Mario J. Gabelli School of Business.

With nearly 50 majors and 70 minors, Miaoulis said in his remarks, along with research, community work, internships and leadership opportunities in clubs and organizations, Roger Williams students can create a powerful combination of skills and experiences. He encouraged students to get to know their faculty, who are committed to their success. Miaoulis, who loves hearing from students, said they’re welcome to say hi and ask him questions when they see him on campus.

As students at RWU, “roll up your sleeves and try new things, do research and explore ideas that tackle global challenges and confront issues around equity and justice,” he added.

Amy Tiberio, Vice President for Enrollment Management, introduced the entering class of new first-year and transfer students. In addition to being one of the most academically talented classes RWU has ever had, she said, the new class is comprised of someone recognized by the Red Cross for saving two peoples’ lives as a lifeguard; a member of the world-touring People’s Chorus of New York City; an award-winning podcaster; a circus act performer; a restorative justice practitioner; and many children and siblings of RWU alumni.

“We are so excited for you and are honored that you have chosen Roger Williams as your new home. Individually, you have all taken very distinct pathways to join us, and it is so exciting to be able to welcome you all today for the first time as one full class of new students,” she said.

In his opening remarks, Vice President for Student Life John King welcomed new students and families to the RWU community and highlighted the importance of building community and caring for each other at Roger.

“This is hard work that requires patience, humility, and honesty – especially during challenging and rapidly changing times,” King said. “The call to community requires all of us to listen and understand each other, to welcome and embrace all expressions of diversity and identity, and to respect and value the dignity of each individual and their experiences.”

Charlotte Carrington-Farmer, Associate Professor of History, shared the history of our namesake Roger Williams and the town of Bristol to help students connect with their new home, while also encouraging them to learn more about the local, thriving Indigenous communities.

“Don’t be afraid to use your knowledge, however difficult it is to grapple with, to bring change to this world,” she told students. “The past and the present are always interconnected, so whether you’re majoring in Business or Marine Biology or Engineering, you need the humanities to help you contextualize your place on this campus and beyond. I hope along the way you use your education for good.” 

Jeffrey Meriwether, Dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Education, who spoke on behalf of Provost Margaret Everett and Associate Provost Becky Spritz, emphasized the importance of taking care of oneself and each other.  

“Sleep and hydration are your best friends. The knowledge you develop and the skills you hone will make much more sense and be much more effective if you are physically, mentally, and emotionally present to engage them. Look out for yourselves, take care of your roommates, encourage them to ask for help, and seek it out when you need it,” he said. “You belong here, and we are here to help and to celebrate you.”

Delivering the faculty address, June Speakman, Professor of Political Science and Faculty Senate President, shared some tips for academic success. Among her advice: talk to professors after class or during their office hours; do the readings and ask questions in class; be kind to each other; don’t be afraid of making mistakes; and take the time to think.

“Know that wisdom, insight, analysis, understanding and skill at your work do not come quickly,” she said. “Take the time to let concepts percolate, to let new ideas settle in, to let new perspectives push against old assumptions. That’s where the creativity lives – whether in the lab, the studio, the library, or the lecture hall.”

Addressing the families, Greg Kimmel L’97, P’25, a senior partner at the law firm of Berchem Moses PC, said this is a monumental step for both students and parents and noted that help is available at RWU to make the transition easier.

“You are leaving your kids at a great institution that really cares about them,” he told parents. “The university has a lot of programs and committed professional staff in place to help with this transition. They are there for you.”

As a new student at RWU, one of the most important tasks to do is get involved outside of the classroom, shared Student Body President Zoey Cormican ’25.

“By getting involved in anything – whether it's a club, organization, sport, or even an on-campus job – you are making the connections that will truly make this school feel like home,” Cormican said. “Here at Roger Williams, you have an amazing opportunity to be who you want to be and to pursue your goals and aspirations. Don’t be afraid to take the steps to find those amazing experiences.”