Commencement 2024: Student speakers announced for college graduation ceremonies

Graduation ceremonies May 17-19 in Ryan Center

KINGSTON, R.I. – May 13, 2024 – The University of Rhode Island has announced the student speakers for Commencement 2024, which will feature eight college-based ceremonies at the Thomas M. Ryan Center over three days, May 17 through 19.

The University is introducing a new commencement format this spring to better celebrate graduates and provide an enhanced and inclusive experience for graduates, families and friends. The individual college ceremonies, which will recognize undergraduate and graduate degree candidates, will each have their own student speaker.

The Commencement 2024 student speakers are: Jaylyn De Leon, Victoria Fulfer, Melany Feliz Garcia, Jacob Iacobucci, Jordan May, Sarah Mayer, Emma Simas, and Victoria Wrage. Rhody Today asked each of them for a preview of their speech.

Victoria Wrage of North Providence, who will graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in finance and also earned the 12-credit Innovation and Entrepreneurship Certificate, will address the College of Business graduates on Friday, May 17, at 11 a.m.

“From initially harboring skepticism about attending URI to ultimately falling in love with my experience at the university, especially within the College of Business, my journey was anything but business as usual—a testament to embracing the unexpected, forging meaningful connections, and finding extraordinary growth in discomfort,” she said.

Jacob Iacobucci of West Greenwich, who is graduating with Bachelor of Arts degrees in film/media and English with a focus on creative writing, will address the College of Arts and Sciences ceremonies on Saturday, May 18, at 10 a.m. He offered a headline for his speech: “Making history: How the Class of 2024 overcame a worldwide shutdown and beyond.”

Melany Feliz Garcia of Providence, who is graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing, will address her fellow College of Nursing graduates on May 18 at 3 p.m.

“My speech recognizes the dedication and sacrifices of nursing graduates, highlighting their journey to becoming compassionate and skilled professionals,” she said. “It encourages them to embrace the future with confidence and determination, knowing they have the ability to impact health care and the lives of others positively.”

Sarah Mayer of East Lyme, Connecticut, who is graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in ocean engineering with minors in robotics and math, will address the College of Engineering ceremonies on May 18 at 6 p.m.

“The COVID-19 pandemic brought unexpected changes—changes which the URI College of Engineering Class of 2024 embraced and successfully adapted to,” said Mayer. “As we venture forward into the next chapter of our lives, I encourage my classmates to continue embracing challenges, always advocate for yourselves, and ensure to leave your own marks on the world.”

Emma Simas of Bristol, who will graduate with a dual degree—a Bachelor of Science in communicative disorders and Bachelor of Arts in psychology, will address the College of Health Sciences ceremony on Sunday, May 19, at 9 a.m. Simas described her speech as an inspirational talk about dealing with hardship that provides “a hopeful and positive outlook” for the graduates.

Jaylyn De Leon of New Milford, New Jersey, who will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree in elementary education with an extension in middle level math and a minor in psychology, will address the Feinstein College of Education graduation on May 19 at 2 p.m.

Victoria Fulfer

“My speech encapsulates the experience of becoming an educator here at URI over these past four years,” she said. “It touches upon the highlights as well as the obstacles we collectively had to face during our college career.” 

Victoria Fulfer of Narragansett, who is graduating with a Ph.D. in oceanography, and Jordan May, of Somers, New York, a graduate in biotechnology, will speak during the joint College of the Environment and Life Sciences and Graduate School of Oceanography ceremonies on May 19 at 5 p.m.

Jordan May

“Our experiences at URI bind graduates together for life and prepare them for their next steps,” said Fulfer, who will offer a message of hope for how graduates can shape that future for the better. 

“Despite the uncertainties and challenges posed by the pandemic,” said May, “our journey at URI has been marked by resilience, adaptability, and the unwavering support of mentors, family, and friends. As we celebrate our accomplishments, let’s remember that our success is not only a reflection of our own hard work but also the collective encouragement from our family, friends, faculty, and community that made this milestone possible.”

The College of Pharmacy will celebrate graduates at ceremonies Friday, May 17, at 3 p.m. in the Ryan Center.