Big Ideas. Bold Plans.
It’s About Who We Help
It is hard to believe that this is the last year of our campaign, Big Ideas. Bold Plans. When we started this ambitious journey six years ago, we never imagined that we would quickly surpass our original goal of $250 million and set our sights on $300 million.
As a new academic year is well underway there is no better reminder of the importance of this campaign than seeing students come back to campus and alumni reunite at receptions, lectures, and big events like homecoming.
We are charging toward our goal to raise $300 million across five strategic categories that span the entire University. The contributions from alumni, parents, friends, corporations, and foundations so far have made a difference for students, professors, and facilities. The campaign has also brought to light inspiring stories from every corner of our campuses. Alumni who overcome challenges to realize their potential and launch careers that allow them to give back demonstrate the vital role of a state flagship university like ours. Students who intend to change the world offer promise for the future. And organizations that align their missions with ours create powerful partnerships with wide-ranging benefits.
We hope everyone who feels a connection to URI will find a way to get involved with the parts of the University that they care about most. Your time and interest can mean so much and inspire so many.
Lil Breul O’Rourke
President, URI Foundation and Alumni Engagement
Alfred J. Verrecchia ’67 M.B.A.’72 Hon.’04
Chairman of the Board
Creating New Chances for Success
Karina Montilla Edmonds ’92 recently created the José Ramón Montilla Engineering Scholarship as a permanent endowed fund. She named the scholarship to commemorate her late father and his commitment to education.
“While he never had an opportunity to go to school as he had to help support his family,” said Edmonds, “he brought me and my five sisters to the U.S. so we could have educational opportunities. I credit my dad for my success, because had he not worked hard to immigrate to the U.S., my chances of success would have been incredibly low.”
“I am immensely grateful to URI for the solid education I received that enabled me to pursue my graduate studies. Along with this strong academic foundation, I made lifelong friends and developed a growth mindset.”Karina Montilla Edmonds ’92
Montilla Edmonds majored in mechanical engineering and participated in student senate at URI before going on to earn her Ph.D. at CalTech. As an alumna, she has served as a URI Foundation & Alumni Engagement board member and trustee and as a URI trustee.
“I am immensely grateful to URI for the solid education I received that enabled me to pursue my graduate studies. Along with this strong academic foundation, I made lifelong friends and developed a growth mindset. Serving on the Board of Trustees has been an amazing honor, and I was humbled to serve and give back to a community that has given me so much.”
As for the scholarship, Montilla Edmonds was also motivated by someone else’s act of generosity. “I received the inaugural Tommy Garrick Scholarship while I was a student, so I personally know how meaningful financial support is,” she said. “At a time when tuition continues to rise, URI is a great value for local and out-of-state students. I’m happy to create new opportunities for students to come here and find their own paths to success.”
Endowed scholarships mean that every year, students will receive financial aid based on demonstrated merit and their potential to achieve in their field of study. Two new scholarships established during the campaign have already benefited multiple class years of hard-working students. The Thomas M. Ryan Scholars and the Alfred J. Verrecchia Distinguished Business Scholars are making their mark on URI and sharing their big ideas for the future.
Thomas M. Ryan Scholar
- Sociology and biology double-major
- Leadership studies minor
- Pre-med track
- Tour guide
- Academic Enhancement Center
- Peer Health Educator
- Speaks English, Cape Verdean Creole, Spanish, and Portuguese
“I remember the day I got the scholarship, like all of the events that day, because honestly, I was so happy that I would be able to go to college and really achieve my dreams.”Joceline Rodrigues
Getting the Scholarship
I remember the day I got the scholarship, like all of the events that day, because honestly, I was so happy that I would be able to go to college and really achieve my dreams. I had always wanted to be a physician, but I didn’t think I had the money to be a physician. Having the Ryan Scholarship meant the world to me.
Standout URI Moment So Far
I went through the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program here at URI, which allowed me to do some work at Brown. Through that experience, I learned to code, and I had this moment of thinking, ‘Wow, I never thought I would be in a lab coding on a computer about neuroscience research.’ I also got to run the process of setting up MRIs for different people and looking over the scans of their brains.
I also really enjoy tutoring. I’ve been able to help a lot of students not only with the actual academic portion, but being able to help them see that there are more paths out there.
Goals as a Student
I want to be involved in as many things as I possibly can, get to know more people, and help people on a similar academic track because I know that being pre-med is something that’s very intimidating.
I am working to become a physician, and I want to help address disparities in women’s health. I also think about going into public policy to give us better equity in the health care system in the United States. I have a pretty open path.
Alfred J. Verrecchia Distinguished Business Scholar
- Finance and global business double-major
- Italian minor
- Collegiate Capital Fund
- Theta Delta Chi
- Delta Sigma Pi
“Before I graduate, one of the biggest goals I have is to leave something here that future students could benefit from. I think that’s one way I can repay what I was given.”Brandon Velasquez
Getting the Scholarship
When I found out I got the Verrecchia Scholarship, it was a surreal moment. And I feel like ever since then, it’s just been a dream, because it’s an amazing opportunity to focus on my studies rather than worry about my finances. I think it was an opportunity to also have a great community the moment I arrived at URI. The community of the Verrecchia Scholars is a very tight- knit group, and we are all really good friends.
Standout URI Moment So Far
A great experience for me was the CEO roundtable. It was an opportunity to hear from two professionals, one in wealth management and one in startup venture capital. Learning about their experiences was incredible for us finance majors—to understand where they came from, how URI benefited them, and how we can use the resources here to advance our careers. It’s also an example of how the business school offers us a great network of people that we can access at any time as long as we are interested.
Goals as a Student
Before I graduate, one of the biggest goals I have is to leave something here that future students could benefit from. I think that’s one way I can repay what I was given. I’m also eager to advance my business career. I thought about my career as soon as I got here. So I’m trying a lot of different areas: accounting, portfolio management, wealth management, trading, and other topics. I try to get out there and talk to people who are in finance to get more of an understanding and find opportunities in the industry.
A Healthy Respect for Education
Stedman Gyamfi-Darkwah ’23 grew up in a home where health care was a valued profession. His mother is a nurse, as is his older sister.
During high school, he transported patients to appointments and procedures around Rhode Island Hospital.
“TD enabled me to attend URI. Tuition expenses were hard for my family, and TD made it possible. The TD staff were incredibly supportive, and I gained strong leadership skills through my various activities.”Stedman Gyamfi-Darkwah ’23
“I loved talking to the patients and trying to make them more relaxed and happy,” said Gyamfi-Darkwah. “I decided a long time ago that I wanted to become a doctor so that I could help people in the best way possible.”
Coming to URI was the first step in that journey, and the Talent Development (TD) program made that dream a reality.
“TD enabled me to attend URI,” said Gyamfi-Darkwah. “Tuition expenses were hard for my family, and TD made it possible. The TD staff were incredibly supportive, and I gained strong leadership skills through my various activities.”
Now he is applying to medical schools and working as a medical receptionist at Thundermist Health Center. His ultimate goal? Provide care for adolescents and young adults—and be a role model for them.
The Teagle Foundation has awarded URI a $250,000 grant to implement the Forgiveness is Freedom Academy: A Knowledge for Freedom Program for Rhode Island’s urban high school districts. The program strengthens URI’s vital connection to the state and the local community.
“This program will support URI’s efforts to develop meaningful partnerships with K–12 educators across the state so together we can cultivate students’ interests in the humanities and ultimately encourage them to pursue a college degree.”Skip Mark, project leader, assistant professor, and director of the Center for Nonviolence & Peace Studies
The program includes a two-week summer residential experience seminar that pairs selected readings with the 2019 documentary film Emanuel, which examines a mass shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015. Students will apply their learnings in a year-long academic project where they will bring the concept of forgiveness to the local context of issues of injustice, inequality, and violence in their community. URI faculty and students will guide the high school students through the program.
The Chance to Stay
During her first year at URI, Alicia Johnson ’15 flourished. She loved her classes. She made lots of friends. And her view of her potential was expanding.
Entering her sophomore year, financial realities almost derailed her ambitions. Alicia sought help from URI staff and received support and scholarships that let her continue and eventually graduate.
“I am a first-generation college graduate,” said Alicia. “I was raised in a single-parent household, and finances were tight. The scholarship I received turned my dream into reality.”
Her education and experiences led to a job at Habitat for Humanity immediately after graduation. More recently, she returned to work at URI Foundation & Alumni Engagement.
“I am a first-generation college graduate. I was raised in a single-parent household, and finances were tight. The scholarship I received turned my dream into reality.”Alicia Johnson ’15
Alicia’s personal appreciation for the importance of scholarships inspires her to speak passionately about how each gift, of any amount, helps students.
Ken and Laura Kenerson met as students at URI. Now, the double-degreed alumni couple (Ken ’71, M.A. ’73 and Laura ’73, M.P.A. ’79) is contributing to the protection of oceans and marshlands by creating a new scholarship for marine affairs students.
The Kenersons have spent much of their lives on the Kingston campus, by Narragansett Bay, and around local marshland, living on Point Judith Pond in Wakefield for 40 years. From their home, they have a front-row seat to a diverse array of marine and bird life.
“It’s hard for me to imagine anyone loving URI more than I do,” said Laura. “It’s been such an important part of my adult life, as it has been for Ken’s and that of our children. Ken and I feel fortunate that we are able to pay it forward.”
“Laura and I have always had a mutual love of the water, especially the ocean,” said Ken. “Both of us grew up on the water and have been on the water—boating and fishing—our whole lives.”
“It’s hard for me to imagine anyone loving URI more than I do. It’s been such an important part of my adult life, as it has been for Ken’s and that of our children.”Laura Kenerson ’73, M.P.A. ’79
The Kenersons recognize the importance of marine ecosystems and have found a way to contribute to improvement and conservation while helping hard-working students complete their degrees and launch their careers.
Big Ideas. Bold Plans.
Big Ideas. Bold Plans. The Campaign for URI has made all of these things and more possible, advancing URI and creating new opportunities across five strategic areas:
- Student Access
- The URI Learning Experience
- Transformative Faculty Leadership
- Innovative and Distinctive Programs
- Strategic Opportunities
But the work is not yet done! It will take everyone across the URI community working together to bring the University to the next level of educational and academic success.