Commencement 2013: Two URI seniors graduate with real-world experience, accomplishments – and a friendship

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KINGSTON, R.I. – May 15, 2013 – Many college students don’t get the opportunity to enter the professional world until after their degree is in hand. However, two University of Rhode Island students will walk across the commencement stage Sunday with plenty of experience in their chosen fields.

Seniors Victoria Antonelli of South Kingstown, R.I., and Danielle Sanda of Warwick, R.I., have completed multiple internships during their time at URI to help prepare them for their future careers, most recently in URI’s department of Marketing and Communications.

Antonelli, a journalism major, and Sanda, a public relations major with a minor in writing and rhetoric, joined the department as writing interns in 2011. Since then they have written numerous news releases and feature stories about URI faculty, staff and students. Some of their stories have even been picked up by outside media.

Sanda recalls a story she wrote almost two years ago about a URI alumnus and entrepreneur, Matt Michaelsen, who moved to California after graduation. “He and his wife created a product to reduce headaches due to chronic computer use, and 50 Cent ended up investing in it. [Michaelsen] also started managing social media for Lady Gaga,” she said. “After the story ran, the Associated Press picked it up. I didn’t expect it. I just thought it was an interesting story to work on.”

Marketing and Communications is not the only internship that Antonelli and Sanda have completed. During the summer of 2012, Sanda worked as a corporate communications intern at Amica Mutual Insurance Co. at the company’s headquarters in Lincoln, R.I. Antonelli worked as an intern at Rhode Island Monthly, also during the summer of 2012.

“My internship at URI definitely helped me when I began at Rhode Island Monthly,” Antonelli said. “I’d write stories for the magazine, and my supervisor would look them over and tell me that there was nothing to correct. That’s due to my internship with Marketing and Communications.”

Sanda says the same about her internship at Amica. “At Amica, I was the only intern, and learned a lot on my own. At URI, there is always more than one intern, like Victoria, so I’m able to learn from them as well as myself. Both were great experiences, and both taught me different things because I worked in two totally different environments,” she said.

While writing news releases and stories were Antonelli and Sanda’s primary responsibilities, the two also dabbled in filming University events. Recently, they collaborated to produce a short video about the SMILE (Science and Math Investigative Learning Experiences) Program’s Middle School Engineering Challenge Weekend. The video is uploaded to the University’s YouTube page.

Antonelli and Sanda are not just students and interns, however. Both are involved in multiple on- and off-campus groups and organizations. Sanda served as president of the URI Public Relations Society, as well as a campus tour guide and a “Harrington Ranger” student ambassador for the Harrington School of Communications and Media within the College of Arts and Sciences. This year, Sanda also received the Public Relations Excellence Award for Dedication to the Public Relations Program, a departmental award presented by the public relations program. Antonelli writes for URIRamblings, the unofficial online magazine of the University, which includes opinion-based blog posts written by URI students. She has also been a student model at Model Talent Management since January. Both Antonelli and Sanda are members of various honor societies.

They both loved their time at URI. “I chose URI because it actually offers a public relations major, and not just a concentration,” Sanda said. “That was important to me.”

“The journalism department impressed me,” Antonelli said. “I actually began at another university and transferred to URI because of the journalism major here.”

Both will walk at graduation on May 19. Antonelli is a May graduate, while Sanda is an August graduate. Sanda is graduating a year early.

“I really went back and forth about it. I was afraid I’d miss out on a true senior year if I graduated early,” she said. “But I realized that entering the professional world now, full-time, would actually be OK. I still get to have my senior year with my friends – just on the weekends, without the homework!”

Sanda needs to complete a summer internship to earn enough credits to receive her degree in August. She has secured a full-time, paid internship at Duffy and Shanley, an advertising, marketing and public relations firm in Providence, R.I. Sanda is excited to start, especially since she will continue to work in Rhode Island.

“I love Rhode Island,” she said, fondly. “I would love to work here forever. It’s a great state. I don’t see myself going anywhere else.”

Antonelli’s aspirations beyond graduation may or may not include Rhode Island, but they certainly include journalism. “I’d love to get into photojournalism,” she said. “I still love writing, but photos can tell a story too.”

On the whole, Antonelli believes that people have lost faith in the news and journalism in general. “My goal is to help the public see that they can trust journalism again,” she said. “We’ve moved so far away from where the news began. It used to inform people. I believe we can get back there, and I want to be a part of it when we do.”

This release was written by Rachel Donilon, a URI Marketing and Communications intern and senior writing and rhetoric major.

Pictured above:

Victoria Antonelli, left, of South Kingstown, R.I., and Danielle Sanda of Warwick, R.I., 2013 graduates of the University of Rhode Island and interns at URI Marketing and Communications.

URI Marketing and Communications photo by Michael Salerno Photography.