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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

URI student works her way to excellence
Coventry resident will graduate this month

KINGSTON, R.I. -- May 8, 2001 -- Academics have always come easy for Melissa Paiva who will graduate this month from the University of Rhode Island. Paying the tuition has been the hard part.

"Dad has done what he could," says the hard working psychology major whose latest academic honor is the 2001 President’s Student Excellence Award, which is given annually to seniors who have earned the highest grade point average in their fields.

To earn money for college, Paiva worked for a year after graduating from Coventry High School. Once enrolled at URI, she commuted to Kingston from her family’s home in Coventry, worked a 20-plus-hour job -- most recently at a group home for mentally disabled women while maintaining a stellar "A" average. During her "leisure" time, she babysat for her two brothers’ children.

"I’m intrigued by psychology," says the 23-year-old scholar who has received some grants and loans while at URI. Her father’s employer Arkwright Inc. also helped with some scholarship support. Paiva was also the first recipient of the Mary Braga Scholarship, established to help a woman of Portuguese decent. Paiva’s father lived in the Azores until he was 16. Her mother, born in Rhode Island, is Portuguese and Irish. "I’m very Portuguese," Paiva says with a wide smile.

"I like to figure things out, I’m kind of analytical. I’m interested in why people do the things that they do, especially criminals," says Paiva who will take the next year off to decide what direction she will pursue. She’s torn between earning a Ph.D. in psychology and possibly working in a prison setting or earning a master’s in psychology and a law degree to become a forensic psychologist. She said she might someday lobby for social issues, become a child advocate, or analyze individuals to determine if they are competent to stand trial.

To decide, Paiva hopes to get a job in a law firm and a job at the Adult Correctional Institutions. Besides she could use the money.

For Information: Jan Sawyer, 874-2116

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