URI honors student leadership excellence at Rainville Awards

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KINGSTON, R.I. – May 7, 2013 – The University of Rhode Island honored student leaders April 9 at the 25th annual A. Robert Rainville Leadership Awards.

The awards are presented by the URI Office of Student Involvement to students who have shown exemplary leadership and teamwork skills while maintaining good academic standing. Students are nominated by faculty, staff, and fellow students. They are then asked to submit an application showcasing their accomplishments, as well as two letters of recommendation.

This year’s winners were announced at a banquet held in the Memorial Union Ballroom. Four awards were presented: the A. Robert Rainville Student Leadership Award, Student Employee Award, Team Excellence Award, and the Robert L. Carothers Servant Leadership Award. Three of the awards are named for A. Robert Rainville, who served as vice president for Student Affairs from 1980 to 86, and who was considered a friend and mentor to students. The Servant Leadership Award is named for Robert L. Carothers, who spent 18 years as the 10th president of URI.

This year’s recipient of the Student Leadership Award is Elena Dempsey of Greenville, R.I. A senior with a double major in global business management and Chinese language and literature, Dempsey received the award for her leadership accomplishments in on-campus organizations. She has served as president of the Student Entertainment Committee and Colleges against Cancer and as chairperson for Relay for Life. In addition, Dempsey is a tour guide for the Office of Admission at URI and a member of the Business Students Advisory Council, as well as the honor societies Phi Eta Sigma, Phi Kappa Phi, and Omicron Delta Kappa.

“Looking back to my freshman year, I never thought I would have gained so much throughout my four years here,” Dempsey said. “That growth is due to all my leadership experience, new skills I’ve developed, and the opportunities I’ve had at URI and abroad.”

Senior sociology major Shawn Miner was awarded this year’s Student Employee Award. The Providence, R.I., resident has been a building manager for Memorial Union Building Services since 2011. Recently, he was promoted to senior building manager. Miner attributes many of his skills and much of his personal growth to his job as building manager. “I would definitely say the biggest personal gains of mine are due to my position as a building manager and working as a member of a team, as well as confidence,” he said. “My recent promotion to a senior building manager only strengthened these skills, making me a team leader and knowing I have the confidence to guide fellow employees, as well as customers.” Miner also volunteers as an emergency medical technician at URI Emergency Medical Services. He holds dual positions as corporal and recruit training coordinator. Working with URI EMS is an extra 20-hour per week commitment, but Miner says that effective time management is something that every student employee should possess in order to be an asset to their workplace and successful in their schoolwork and extracurricular activities.

Mecca Smith of Providence, R.I., and Melissa Reilly of Mahopac, N.Y., were both awarded the Robert L. Carothers Servant Leadership Award. Smith, a senior, is double majoring in cultural anthropology and film media studies and double minoring in leadership and nonviolence & peace studies. She is a founding member of the URI Anthropology Society and the URI Film Collaborative, and served as treasurer for the URI Outing Club and secretary for the URI chapter of the freshman honor society Phi Eta Sigma. Smith has also traveled abroad extensively. Her destinations include Belize, Nepal, and Mexico. “From the first time I stepped foot on this campus during the Talent Development summer program, until now, my last semester…it has been my passion to work with my peers and with potential incoming students,” she said. “I love mentoring. It is one of those rare win-win scenarios in life where everyone benefits.”

Reilly, a fourth-year Pharmacy student with a minor in Biology, has continued her servant leadership at URI even in the face of adversity. She has overcome numerous obstacles, and was able to channel those experiences into positive energy by practicing meditation. “Through the power of mediation I began to calm my mind and get back on track with my mental sanity, which helped me to organize my academic life,” she said. Reilly has not let her struggles slow down her community and campus involvement. She has coordinated an in-state Alternative Spring Break since 2012. Instead of going to popular spring break destinations, students participate in a week of community service with local organizations such as the Rhode Island Community Food Bank, Welcome House of South County, and Crossroads Rhode Island. In addition, Reilly volunteers at Clinica Esperanza/Hope Clinic, a free clinic for uninsured Rhode Island residents, an experience which she credits with helping her decide to open her own free clinic in the future.

This year’s Team Excellence Award was awarded to URI S.A.V.E.S. (Students Actively Volunteering and Engaging in Service). According to the organization, its goal is to “maximize the amount of students actively volunteering on campus and in the surrounding communities.” While much of the organization’s service is centered on Rhode Island, URI S.A.V.E.S. has partnered with Habitat for Humanity to offer alternative spring breaks around the U.S. In March, 24 students traveled to Nashville, Tenn., to work with Habitat for Humanity and other non-profit agencies. The organization raises 100 percent of the trip cost, and more recently has begun raising even more to provide a donation to the agency being served. In total, URI S.A.V.E.S. estimates that it has completed more than 7,500 hours of community service since its inception.

In terms of getting involved, the organization says that there are many different opportunities to do so. “Whether it’s taking part in service projects as a group around URI or going on our alternative spring break trip each year to serve in different parts of the nation, being actively involved is the greatest thing to do to strengthen your leadership skills, discover new ones, and be engaged in numerous forms of service.”

Organization members include: Chelsea Bolmer of Burlington, N.J., Alexandra Hayes of Westerly, R.I., Alexis Hayes of Westerly, R.I., William Law of Charlestown, R.I., David Maggio of Lenox, Mass., Nick Silvestri of Westerly, R.I., Lindsey Streich of North Kingstown, R.I., Ashley Toland of Tewskbury, M.A., Emily Tradd of Merrimac, Mass., and Joe Walter of Bayonne, N.J.

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


Elena Dempsey of Greenville, R.I., winner of the 2013 A. Robert Rainville Student Leadership, with URI President David M. Dooley.

Shawn Miner of Providence, R.I., winner of the 2013 A. Robert Ranville Student Employee Award, with URI President David M. Dooley.

Mecca Smith of Providence, R.I., and Melissa Reilly of Mahopac, N.Y., winners of the 2013 Robert L. Carothers Servant Leadership Award, with URI President David M. Dooley.

Members of URI S.A.V.E.S., winner of the 2013 A. Robert Rainville Team Excellence Award, with URI President David M. Dooley.

URI photos by Joe Giblin.