Commencement 2023: Your guide to URI’s 137th Commencement

KINGSTON, R.I. – May 16, 2023 – More than 25,000 people will converge on Kingston, Rhode Island, beginning Friday, May 19, for a weekend-long celebration of the University of Rhode Island’s 137th Commencement Ceremonies. Family and friends will gather on URI’s Kingston Campus to mark the achievements of the 3,331 undergraduate and 769 graduate students who will be awarded their degrees. URI’s Graduate School Commencement ceremony will be held Friday, May 19, in the Ryan Center, and the main Undergraduate Commencement ceremony will be held Saturday on the University’s historic Quadrangle.

This year, the University of Rhode Island will bestow an honorary degree on writer, naturalist, and freedom-of-speech advocate Terry Tempest Williams. Williams will give the keynote commencement address on Saturday. The University will also confer honorary degrees upon Zaven Khachaturiun, widely recognized as  the “father” of modern Alzheimer’s disease research and mentor to countless researchers; Wendy Schmidt, a philanthropist and investor who has spent nearly two decades creating innovative, non-profit organizations to work with communities around the world for clean, renewable energy, resilient food systems, healthy oceans and the protection of human rights; and Clint Smith, an interdisciplinary scholar and inspirational social justice educator, poet, author and renowned speaker.

Here’s what else you should know about this year’s Commencement:

Graduate School Commencement Ceremony
Friday, May 19, 5 p.m.
Ryan Center, 1 Lincoln Almond Plaza
Kingston Campus

Main Commencement Ceremony
Saturday, May 20, 10 a.m.
Procession begins at 9:45 a.m., led by URI’s Class of 1973.
URI Quadrangle (Rain site: Ryan Center)
Kingston Campus

On Saturday and Sunday, the University’s individual colleges will also hold ceremonies on the Kingston Campus.  University of Rhode Island’s 137th Commencement Ceremonies.

How many students will graduate this weekend?

This weekend, URI will confer 4,473 degrees (781 graduate and 3,692 undergraduate) upon 4,100 students. (Some students will earn multiple degrees.)

What are their ages?

Students range in age from 20 to 73. URI’s oldest and youngest undergraduate students to receive degrees on Saturday are 66 and 20, respectively. Among graduate students, the youngest student to be awarded a degree on Friday is 21, while the oldest is 73.

Where are the graduates from?

URI students come from all over the United States and the globe – representing 41 states and 31 countries.

Approximately 53% of undergraduate degree recipients are from Rhode Island, 16% are from Massachusetts, 10% are from Connecticut, 9% are from New York and almost 7% are from New Jersey.

Among graduate degree recipients, close to 61% of students are from Rhode Island, 8% are from Massachusetts, 8% are from Connecticut, 3% percent are from New Jersey and 2% are from New York.

Who are the student speakers?

Mazen M. Taman will deliver the undergraduate commencement address on Saturday, May 20. A former football student-athlete, he will earn a Doctor of Pharmacy degree, and in the fall, enter Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School. The Cranston native worked two paid internships this semester at Rhode Island Hospital and CVS Pharmacy in East Greenwich. He also worked on two research teams investigating the efficacy of home electronic blood pressure monitoring for renal transplant patients and a software platform for managing investigational drugs. While completing URI’s Doctor of Pharmacy program, including six clinical rotations at Rhode Island Hospital, Taman played football for the Rams for four years.

Tania Silva de Oliveira, a chemical engineer and an analytical research scientist at a Boston-based global pharmaceutical company that develops drugs to treat some of the world’s most serious conditions, will give the graduate commencement address Friday, May 19. With her drive and the support of her family, she completed two bachelor’s degrees in her native Brazil and also completed an undergraduate study-abroad experience at URI. After completing her studies in Brazil, she returned to URI to earn her doctorate in chemical engineering in December 2022. 

What else can you tell me about the graduating class?

The University is proud to graduate 49 military veterans this year – 32 undergraduates and 17 graduate students.

The Class of 2023 also includes seven sets of twins and one mother-daughter combo.

How is this URI’s 137th commencement?

How could a University that is 131 years old be holding its 137th commencement? According to University history, from 1943 through 1948, two ceremonies were held each year to accommodate war veterans. Ceremonies were held in June and January or February. In 1944, there were three ceremonies — held in January, May and September.

Are ceremonies always on the historic Quad?

The Main Commencement returns to the Quadrangle for the second time since 2019. In a pandemic driven oddity, URI held nine separate college commencement ceremonies for the Class of 2021 two years ago at Meade Stadium, and then in October 2021, during Alumni and Family Weekend, the University held ceremonies for the Class of 2020 in the Ryan Center.

Can I watch the ceremony online?
The University will offer a live broadcast of the ceremony  online. The webcast will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday and will end at the conclusion of the formal ceremony on the Quadrangle. Streaming for URI’s Graduate School commencement and individual college commencements can also be found here.

What happens if it rains?
On Saturday, if the rain plan is activated, the main commencement ceremony will be held at the Ryan Center. The decision will be made by 6 a.m., and information will be posted on the URI homepage,, and the University’s social media channels @UniversityofRI.




Special Instructions for media:

Members of the media who are scheduled to cover the event should be in touch with Dave Lavallee and Nancy Gillespie, URI Communications and Marketing, no later than Friday, May 19, at 3 p.m. This is especially important if the University switches to its rain plan at 6 a.m. Saturday and holds the main ceremony in the Ryan Center.

If the rain plan is not implemented, members of the media should check in at the URI Department of Communications and Marketing located on the second floor of the Alumni Center, 73 Upper College Road, after 9 a.m. on Saturday, May 20, to pick up a media pass. The pass allows members of the media access to podium guests, provides for seating at the press table, access to a/v hookups and other materials as needed. Staff members will be available for assistance.

In the event of rain, media parking will be available in the Ram Lot at the north entrance of the Ryan Center. Members of the media will need to show credentials to the parking attendant to gain entrance to the Ram Lot. Staff from the University’s Communications and Marketing office will be at the Ryan Center to assist. Media should go directly to the Ryan Center’s main entrance and present press credentials, including a business card and photo ID. 

Day-of questions can be directed to members of the Department of Communications and Marketing: Dave Lavallee at 401-874-5862 or 401-465-4291; Dawn Bergantino at 401-874-4147 or 202-270-3211; Tony LaRoche at 401-874-4894 or 401-837-8275 or Nancy Gillespie at 401-874-4508 or 401-578-8396.