Hometown: South Kingstown, RI
Major: Communication studies, Italian
Look at Sylvia Bogusz’s resume, and you might think—just another college over-achiever. Think again. Nowhere does she list her triumphs over near-fatal injuries she suffered when a drunken driver hit her in 2007, nor does she let that define her.
When she was struck at 100 miles per hour and thrown 125 feet, Sylvia had just begun classes at URI a week earlier. Despite a traumatic brain injury, a shattered arm, fractures to her pelvis and vertebrae, an injured liver and multiple infections, her will remained steadfast. In 2014 she earned her bachelor’s degree in communication studies and Italian, a 3.4 grade point average, and multiple honors.
After being in a coma for four months and initially unable to communicate, Sylvia completed lengthy rehabilitation stays and continues physical therapy, facing barely tolerable pain on many days. Yet she remains willing to relive the accident when testifying at state hearings for tougher drunk driving laws, or speaking to student groups on the impacts of drunken driving on victims and their families.
“I am proud of my speaking, and I am not scared even when I speak before hundreds, but sometimes I cry because it’s still emotional for me even after seven years,” said Sylvia, who walks with a limp and has limited use of her right hand.
At first easing her way back to school with online courses, she eventually returned to campus, studied in Italy for a summer, and spent her senior year interning at both Lifespan Corp. and URI’s Department of Marketing and Communications. Sylvia credits endless love from her family, constant encouragement from the URI Talent Development program, the camaraderie of coworkers, and caring professors for her success. “They treated me like a normal person. I am going to miss URI.”
Bogusz admits to struggling with anger over the lifelong impacts of her injuries, but doesn’t plan to live that way. “I persevere. I don’t want anyone to pity me,” she says. “There is more to life than that.”