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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, 874-2116

URI brings state’s commencement
coordinators together

KINGSTON, R.I. -- May 14, 2003 --Commencements are like weddings: they’re one of the biggest events in a person’s life, the females (and the males) wear gowns, and generally the relatives are in attendance.

But commencements are never a honeymoon for the people who coordinate them. Ask Michelle Curreri, assistant to University of Rhode Island President Carothers. Curreri, co-chair of URI’s past two commencements, works nearly year-round making sure that the big day in May goes on without a hitch.

Yet she would be the first one to tell you that she couldn’t do it alone. She and her co-chair Harry Davis, assistant director of Facilities and Operations, work with a committee of more than 40 whose expertise ranges from chalk lines, to staging, to marching, to college mini-sites, to press releases, to snacks for honored guests. Etcetera. Etcetera. Etcetera.

Wondering how her counterparts at other Rhode Island higher education colleges and institutions coordinate their commencement program, Curreri got on the phone and asked them last November. Encouraged by the reception she received Curreri and Davis soon visited as many higher education institutions in the state as possible.

"The whole concept was to talk about commencement logistics. We met some commencement coordinators, who felt very much alone and had no idea as where to turn," says Curreri who suggested that a Rhode Island commencement organization be formed. "Everyone was very receptive," she says.

This organization creates a way for commencement coordinators to network, compare notes about such things as rain sites, burnt grass, lost parents, and commencement horror stories.

URI invited all of the coordinators to the Kingston campus in January. Representatives from Brown University, Rhode Island College, Providence College, New England Institute of Technology, Roger Williams University, Salve Regina University, Bryant College and Rhode Island School of Design came and toured URI’s new Ryan Center and discussed commencement over lunch. "I told them that the goal of our meeting was to walk away with at least one tip on how to make their commencement better," says Curreri. "And judging from subsequent phone calls and e-mails I received, that what’s happened."

The coordinators gave themselves a name –Rhode Island Association of Commencement Coordinators (RIACC) —and readily agreed to another meeting in June, this time at Rhode Island College. That’s when all the commencements are over and the stories begin.

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