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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

Media Contact: Jan Wenzel, 401-874-2116

Natural communicator to urge classmates at
URI commencement not to fear failure

KINGSTON, R.I. -- May 9, 2003 -- University of Rhode Island senior Julie Bixby of Millville, N. J., might never have enrolled at the University if she hadn’t accompanied a friend on a visit to URI. Bixby fell in love with the beauty of the rural campus. "This is the only school I applied to," she says.

Next week, Bixby will give the student commencement address at the University she has grown to love even more in her four years there.

To be considered as the speaker, students had to write and deliver their speeches to URI’s Student Senate who make the selection.

Commencement marks the end of driving around URI for an hour before finding a miniscule, two-by-four parking spot… It marks the end of sleeping outside the Ryan Center in a snowstorm to wait for Dave Mathews Band tickets.

"I get the same nervous feelings as anyone does before giving a speech," says the 22-year-old honor student who will graduate with a degree in communication studies.

…as our parents tearfully kissed us goodbye our ultimate question was to go to frat parties or not to go to frat parties.

She hadn’t planned to major in communication studies but decided to switch to that discipline after excelling in a public speaking course taught by Sharman Brown, a lecturer in that department. "She gave me a 99 average and told me that it was the highest grade she had ever given anyone," Bixby says proudly. The URI student has since assisted her mentor as a teaching assistant.

Among her numerous campus activities, Bixby seems most proud of is serving as a resident assistant in Barlow Hall for the past three years. "It’s a great place to build community," she says. "We call it Hotel Barlow. It’s an amazing building, with laundry rooms, air conditioning, anything you need."

Bixby was a mentor for the first of four living learning communities of 25 to 30 students in the building. Along with eight other RA’s on staff, she designed and implemented social, education, and cultural programs for the 200 students who call Barlow home. Bixby also gained plenty of experience resolving inter-personal and group conflicts, addressing policy violators and educating some of the residents about community standards.

Babe Ruth failed 1,330 times by striking out at the plate, but he also hit 714 home runs. If Babe Ruth gave up after his first strikeout, baseball would not be the same. If our basketball team had given up after the infamous Coach Harrick had left us in a slump, we would not have witnessed this year’s exhilarating games in the courtside student seating of the Ryan Center. In the same way, I challenge each and every one of you not to give up after your first strikeout or your first rough season.

Her experiences made her realize that what she was doing, as a resident assistant was similar to the tasks of those in the human resources field. This fall, Bixby will enter URI’s MBA program. "As an RA I got the chance to make lives better," she says. "I so enjoyed the experience, I’d eventually like to become a manager in human resources. A self-proclaimed Navy brat, the soon-to-be URI graduate hopes to settle somewhere in New England.

Mindful of the challenges ahead, Bixby urges her classmates to remain involved:

Whether you believe in war or peace, consumerism or sustainability, conservatism or liberalism, stand up and be counted. It is only by sharing our diversification of ideals that we can begin to accomplish the impossible. So, take your diploma from this place and become the engineers of new technologies, the pharmacists of new medicines, the writers of new novels, the creators of new paintings, the voices of new speeches, and the heroes of new tomorrows. Leave this place with the courage and motivation needed to help you through the uncertainties that lie ahead.

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