Allison Pirolli selected as URI’s Student Commencement Speaker

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KINGSTON, R.I. — May 7, 2007 — Allison Pirolli remembers her first visit to the University of Rhode Island. Her friend was driving down Route 138, the road leading to the University, when a turkey ran in front of the car. Allison screamed: “We have to call the SPCA (the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals)! We have to call the SPCA.”

Her friend didn’t stop laughing. “Allie, wild turkeys are supposed to roam free,” she finally said.

“What did I know?” asks Allison who grew up in the Mount Pleasant area of Providence. “I’m a city girl.”

The city girl became acclimated to rural Southern, Rhode Island and thrived at URI. This month she will deliver the student commencement address during URI’s undergraduate ceremonies Sunday, May 20. Her parents, Guy and Paula Pirolli, and sisters Kristin and Katie will be cheering her on.

Pirolli was selected as the speaker in a Student Senate competition. “It’s a great honor,” she says. She had a leg up on the competition. She wrote her speech last year for a public speaking course. “I really knew that I wanted to be the speaker. I’d been an usher at other commencements and I always thought it would be really cool to speak at my own commencement in front of family and friends,” says the 21-year-old who majored in communication studies and minored in leadership.

She’s been involved in a number of activities on campus. She wrote for the student newspaper, The Good Five Cent Cigar, was a resident assistant in Fayerweather Hall, and a member of the Student Entertainment Committee for all four years, chair this year. She was a mentor and small group leader for the Leadership Institute, helping freshmen adjust to college, and she was Homecoming Queen.

For the past two years, she has worked as the after-school coordinator at Kingston Hill Academy, a charter school for children K-12.

She interned last summer at Duffy & Shanley, a marketing, advertising, and public relations firm in Providence. “I loved it,” she says, noting that she got lots of hands-on experience writing press releases, copy for websites, interacting with national and regional clients.

She interned at North Star Marketing in Wickford this semester. “There’s a lot of innovation and creativity that flows from the team to the clients, and I was happy to be a part of it, “ she says. She explored guerilla marketing, defined as unconventional marketing intended to get maximum results from minimal resources. It should have been called “chicken marketing” since Pirolli donned a chicken outfit and played the part of Willow Tree mascot Willy T. during a public relations campaign in small communities in north central Massachusetts.

“Playing Willy T. was definitely one of the highlights of my time at North Star,” says the URI soon-to-be graduate. “As a fun and outgoing person it was a perfect fit for me. I love to work with people and interacting one-on-one as mascot was hilarious! People are drawn to a giant chicken and respond well.”

Going from seeing a wild turkey to a chicken costume has been part of her URI experience. “I can’t imagine going anywhere else,” she says, noting that her younger sister will follow her “tracks” this fall and enter URI as a freshman.

Pirolli plans to earn a master’s degree in public relations, probably in Boston. Boston? “Don’t forget, I’m a city girl,” she says with a wide smile.

URI News Bureau photo by Michael Salerno Photography