URI’s newest alumni

They came to URI knowing what they wanted. Or they didn’t. So they explored. They found what inspired them. They discovered new ways of looking at the world, at themselves. They saw a path that once they could have never imagined.

They made choices

It was a given that Jeremy Chiang, a violinist, would major in music education. But he chose theatre, with concentrations in directing and design, and was a finalist in the director’s competition in the prestigious Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. Headed for an internship at Gloucester Stage Company, in Massachusetts, he says, “URI has shaped the artist I am today. I feel ready to go into the field.”

Allegra Angell majored in computer science and criminology and criminal justice, interned at the R.I. State Police Computer Crimes Unit, and is continuing her education to pursue an M.S. in Cyber Security. Her proudest accomplishment? Collaborating with another student to create a video game to teach adolescents about unhealthy relationships.

In his junior year, Mohamed Chamseddine discovered supply chain management. He knew it was perfect for him. When he suffered a tragic personal loss, he reengineered his life so he could continue his studies while helping run the family business. He managed to do it, and is set with a job in contract management at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Newport.

Nina Casacalenda always wanted to be a teacher, and completed her degree in elementary education and certification in teaching English as a second language. She didn’t plan on teaching her first graders remotely. But she learned how, and she was good at it. “As a teacher, you step up, take the challenge, and make it work,” she says.

They learned life lessons

Power Kanga came to URI on an athletic scholarship, playing football and deciding which branch of engineering he would choose. When a shoulder injury ended his football career, it was hard to take. His grades suffered. Professors reached out to him, something he didn’t expect. He says Professor Manbir Sodhi had a definite impact. “He taught me a lesson. If grades are your only motivation, you are not going to make it as an engineer. What he’s teaching you is not just a class, it’s going to be your career, your life. You need to be able to think and solve problems.” Power earned his degree in industrial and systems engineering.

They had adventures

They discovered how big and small the world really is. They traveled, studied, or lived and worked in countries around the world, from South Africa to New Zealand.

Take Jessica Burr, a wildlife and conservation biology major, whose love of travel and conservation has taken her around the world. She spent last summer in Vietnam, working as a field research technician in Cat Tien National Park, where she was trained as a tree climber able to set up cameras as high as 70 feet up in the forest canopy to observe animal behavior. That summer, she says, taught her a lot about field research and intercultural communication, priming her for future wildlife travels.

They have stories to tell

Pharmacy major Emily Murray along with 20 students in nursing, pharmacy, and health sciences traveled to Jamaica to work with abandoned children and adults with disabilities. The students lived among the patients in residential communities, working with them on managing their medications, caring for the symptoms of their conditions, providing physical therapy, and conducting caregiver workshops. “It was an opportunity bigger than myself and really challenged my capabilities,” she said of an experience she will never forget.

They have plans, goals, dreams

Music educator Elise Felker wants to open a music camp for refugee children. Landscape architect Nick Marotta plans to pursue an M.B.A. in the fall and and to publish a book he’s been working on. Power Kanga wants to give back, to start his own business to help other athletes.

They are URI

These stories provide a snapshot of the University of Rhode Island’s Class of 2020. A glimpse into the stories of some of URI’s newest alumni, what they are made of, and what they have on their minds. They are the tip of the iceberg, in the best possible way.

These are challenging times in so many ways. But these new grads have what it takes. They conducted research in the lab and in the field. They learned to collaborate, to ask questions, to think big. They found opportunities and learned to make new ones. They’re smart, creative, and globally-minded. They have empathy, enthusiasm, and grit. They know how to get it done.

So, meet some of URI’s newest alumni. Hear what they have to say.