Ivan Brooks ‘13 has sung in New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Providence, and he is marketing his casual clothing line to young people across the country. His tune, “Nice Girl,” reached number 16 on Beatport, and Underground Music named him the 2008 Rhythm and Blues Artist of the Year. And, he’s working on his second single. But the communications major who left his home in Liberia when he was 11 to escape civil war said that earning his bachelor’s degree at URI is one of his greatest accomplishments.

“When I called my mom to tell her I had picked up my cap and gown, the phone was silent for a while,” Ivan said. “She was crying, and then she said she was so proud of me.”

“You are a role model to your brothers and sisters,” she told her son, the first in the family to earn a college degree.

Ivan originally entered URI as a sociology major, but financial obstacles interrupted his progress for a while. So he chased his musical dreams and developed a love of working with children at a local daycare facility. He also began to look for ways to combine his music, clothing lines, and personal story of overcoming obstacles with his educational and business interests. He then met with URI Associate Professor Lynne Derbyshire, chair of the Department of Communication Studies, who talked with him about how a communications major could help him with public relations, marketing, and video—and bring all of his interests together. URI’s Talent Development program offered the financial, academic, and advising support he needed to make it all possible. “I owe a great debt of gratitude to the staff of the TD program. Without them I wouldn’t be where I am today,” he said.

Today, Ivan, whose performances at public events throughout Providence are well known, is ready to fully pursue his music and lifestyle businesses. “I am getting ready to launch my Chasing the Dream line with other young entrepreneurs,” he said. “It’s a positive brand that will focus on my positive attitude.” And, he’s doing his part giving back to URI working as a teaching assistant to Africana Studies Chair Vanessa Quainoo and planning and supporting department events.

When people congratulate him on his success, Ivan responds, “Don’t congratulate me yet because I am not there yet.” But many people believe he is already a success, including Darlene Walker, founder of Dynamic New Force drill team, of which Brooks is a member. “She tells the younger kids, ‘We have a role model here, someone who stayed in school and who always comes back. Pay attention to him’.”

“When the day comes, it is going to hit me, and I will probably cry like a baby,” Brooks said. “Entering into my professional life, being able to take care of my mom, those are the things I will be celebrating.”