Commencement 2016: Communication studies major to be URI Commencement student speaker

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KINGSTON, R.I. – April 29, 2016 – Caitlin Runyon said she was suffering from the sophomore slump when she was walking through the Ram’s Den and saw a fellow student sitting alone in the depths of sadness. Instead of walking past him and not saying anything, Runyon decided to sit down and talk. That conversation changed both of their lives. Runyon decided to get more involved on campus, and her lunch partner shook off his homesickness and began to thrive at the University of Rhode Island.

Now well out of her slump, Runyon has been selected as this year’s student commencement speaker. She will present her speech to about 15,000 people – including roughly 3,000 fellow graduates on Sunday May 22, at URI’s 130th Commencement.

“Becoming the student commencement speaker is a great way to wrap up my experiences at URI,” said the Clifton Park, N.Y., native. “I have been asked many times as to why I want to be the student speaker, and it is because I love public speaking. I will never say that public speaking is easy for me; I am always nervous, but I love a challenge, especially one that involves communicating and speaking,” Runyon said.

As a freshman and sophomore, Runyon said she was unsure of her major and had no sense of her future beyond graduation. “I knew that I was going to find my major, I just wasn’t sure how I was going to do it,” she said. “By exploring different disciplines, I was able to take classes with different professors, and figure out that communication studies was best for me,” Runyon said.

She has maintained a 3.97 GPA as a communication studies major, with a minor in leadership studies and international relations.

Runyon was able to incorporate her public speaking ability into a leadership minor. During her years at URI, she was also able to travel to other countries for volunteer work as well as feed her passion for helping others.

During the summer of 2015, Runyon traveled to Austria to participate in the Salzburg Academy on Global Media and Social Change. There, she worked with peers from around the world to develop media-based solutions for the United Nations, Red Cross, and Global Voices.

Over spring break, she traveled to Santa Fe, N.M., where she worked for Habitat for Humanity, rebuilding houses and working for food depots.

Runyon was also an assistant instructor/peer mentor for first year leadership development courses at URI where she also found some of her best friends.

“I am so thankful for the people I have met through my mentoring program. My Ram Family has been there through the ups and downs of my college career,” said Runyon. “My peers supported and believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself, and I am forever thankful for that,” she said.

After graduation, Runyon will run a 4K for Cancer, a 49-day, 4,000 mile relay from San Francisco to Baltimore to raise money for the Ulman Cancer Fund for young adults.

Runyon hopes to teach and work abroad, and can see herself one day going back to college to pursue a masters in higher education.

URI photo by Nora Lewis