Communications senior worked to make URI inclusive to all community members

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KINGSTON, R.I. – May 3, 2011 – Whether it is changing the culture of intolerance on campus, or the educational climate in his hometown of Providence, University of Rhode Island senior Brandford Davis is committed to improving life for everyone.

The first in his family to graduate from a four-year university, Davis was determined to make the most of his time at URI. When he saw incidents of hate involving race and homophobia on campus, Davis took action. He and fellow student Devinne Rivard met with URI President David M. Dooley to discuss hurtful events.

Through the URI student group Classy Leaders Achieving Student Services (C.L.A.S.S.), Davis organized the March for Equality and Inclusive Community on April 14. He led a group of more than 100 students, faculty and staff members in a peaceful march around the campus, letting the community know that hate would not be accepted on campus.

This type of work helped Davis earn a Diversity Award from the University for undergraduate student excellence in leadership and service this year. He was honored for his unique vision of a multicultural campus in which all students are able to learn and develop, and for the range of initiatives he has led to realize this vision.

A member of the Student Senate Executive Board and chair of the Student Senate Cultural Affairs Committee, Davis also was the principal convener of the Multicultural Unity and Student Involvement Council (M.U.S.I.C.).

A communications major and triple minor in leadership studies, African American studies and English, Davis views all members of the URI community as pixels of a larger picture.

“At the end of the day, when all of the pixels are put together, that picture is going to be great, something beautiful,” Davis said. “URI is the University of Rhode Island. We should be able to represent the culture of Rhode Island.”

Though URI was initially Davis’ backup choice for college, the decision to come here is one he would never change. In fact, after graduation, he plans to pursue a second degree in African American studies next fall before pursuing a master’s degree in the College Student Personnel program in January. This summer, he’s also studying in Cape Verde and participating in URI’s Non-Violence Institute.

While his experience at URI has been strong, Davis might not have wound up here had it not been for struggles early in high school. Born in Providence, he spent several years living in Chicago before moving back to Rhode Island before his freshman year of high school.

He was accepted to Classical High School, provided he did well enough for one year at Hope High School.

“My freshman year in high school, I did not do well. But honestly, if I had not stayed at Hope, I don’t know if I would be the person I am today,” Davis said. “I don’t know the road that I would have traveled if I had gone to Classical, and I don’t care. I love and appreciate the road that I am on now. I am URI, and I appreciate this place so much.”

Once he completes his master’s degree, he plans to share his experiences with young people around the state, to help them understand that they can go to college and be a difference maker, too.

“A lot of high school kids lack that positive role model who gives them the confidence to say, ‘I want to go to college. This is what I want to do with my life,’” Davis said. “By sharing my experiences, I can help change their outlook.”

Pictured above

URI Senior Brandford Davis (middle of second row, with glasses) led students, faculty and staff on a march for equality around campus this spring, helping raise awareness for the differences that exist on campus.

Photo by Michael Salerno