KINGSTON, R.I. – May 3, 2022 – Walking across the Quadrangle during his college tour, Brian L. Martin III had a moment that sealed his commitment to the University of Rhode Island.
The tour guide was talking about his love for the University, how he’d enjoyed his four years, how it changed his life – and it resonated with Martin, who grew up in Glocester and was considering attending college out of state.
“At that moment, I was looking for a spark from a school,” says Martin, who graduates from URI in May with a double major in secondary education and English and a minor in psychology. “That’s when I made the decision that URI might really be the school. I knew I wanted to go somewhere that was going to change my perspective and change the way I view things.”
Martin’s commitment to URI has grown into a devotion over his four years. His favorite events are the annual URI-Providence College men’s basketball games when the full community wears and bleeds Keaney blue. And, like that guide on his URI tour, he’s been eager to share his connection to URI through numerous leadership roles.
Along with being an orientation leader and tour guide, Martin has served as vice president of his fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, and the Student Entertainment Committee, and as a peer leader in the leadership studies program. He was also one of 10 students featured in an episode of “The College Tour” that provided a virtual tour of the University for prospective students that was shown on IMDb TV, Amazon’s premier streaming platform.
On Sunday, May 22, his love for the University will also be a central theme as Martin delivers the undergraduate commencement speech at the 136th Commencement on the Quadrangle of the Kingston Campus. The ceremony starts at 12:30 p.m.
Martin’s speech has been three years in the making, but it was inspired the summer after his freshman year, when he first served as an orientation leader. For three weeks that May, the orientation leaders had the campus pretty much to themselves and the chance to explore what they wanted from the program, the University, and themselves.
“It was a chance for you to really think critically about yourself,” he says. “But the other thing orientation provides is an opportunity to fall in love with the school. You learn about the history of the school, all the different programs and organizations, how people have benefited from different organizations at URI. You get to work with the Talent Development program and with advisers and administrators. All of these people come together to celebrate the incoming students. I got to see every facet of what makes URI such an extraordinary place.”
That summer, he decided the best way to thank the University was to be selected as the commencement speaker his senior year so he could share his feelings with the graduating class, family, friends, faculty and staff.
“I had my speech written probably a month or two before the application was due,” he says. “I always had an idea of what I wanted to say.”
In his four years at URI, Martin, who now lives in Narragansett, has also left his mark on his major, compiling a 3.96 grade-point average and recently being named the Secondary English Education Student Teacher of the Year by the Iota Sigma Chapter of Kappa Delta Pi, the international honor society in education. In the fall, he begins his teaching career at Providence’s MET High School (The Metropolitan Regional Career and Technical Center).
And he is equally as passionate about his future in education and a desire to change the system so all students have an equal opportunity to succeed.
“I went into secondary education because I wanted to work directly with as many young people as possible,” says Martin, who started at URI as a psychology major. “While I want to be a teacher, my long-term goal is to focus on education reform and change education specifically in low-income areas. I feel there’s so many times in public education where students are left behind and not given the individual attention they deserve.”
In choosing his student teaching placement, Martin wanted to be posted at an inner-city school, matching his career plans. This semester, he has been a student teacher at The MET. At the alternative high school, he oversees an 11th-grade class of 16 students, serving as their sole teacher, adviser and mentor. School days find him teaching lessons, creating individualized lesson plans for each student, helping them write resumes or practice interviews for internships, or working with them on research projects.
“It’s not lecturing. It’s not teaching ‘The Great Gatsby’ or ‘Catcher in the Rye’ for six weeks straight so that half the class doesn’t get it,” says Martin. “It’s actually working with students at an individual level to understand what they want and what their interests are.”
Timothy Kenney, a lecturer in Secondary English Education at URI, has had many long conversations with Martin about his interests in education reform and non-traditional ways of teaching English that inspire the students.
“Brian’s passion for education was obvious from the moment I met him,” says Kenney. “He understood how teaching can change lives and can help shape our democracy into what it has always been envisioned to be. Yet Brian also has a vision. He imagines what teaching and education can be and articulates that vision in ways that inspire others.”
As commencement approaches, Martin prepares to inspire those who will attend the ceremony in another way. His friends and family will be on the Quad to hear his speech.
“They know how much I love this school,” he says. “When I got chosen for the commencement speech, I ran home and started screaming about it.”