Westerly resident makes most of URI experience; fills every moment with community service, leadership

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Melissa Callahan to graduate May 17, starts sales job in South Windsor

KINGSTON, R.I. – May 6, 2009 — Melissa Callahan hadn’t planned to attend the University of Rhode Island, but a mix of circumstances led her to enroll anyway. “Those circumstances were the best things that ever happened to me,” she said with enthusiasm. “I can’t imagine going anywhere else. I found a home at URI; I found the most remarkable people in the world.”

As she prepares to graduate on May 17, she looks back with fondness to a college career filled to the brim with enriching and memorable experiences leading student organizations and serving the community.

A resident of Westerly, Callahan arrived at URI with little idea of what career to pursue. “I had no clue what I wanted to do,” she said. “So I went to Career Services and took a test to see what I should become, and I learned that communications was where my heart was.”

She also registered for minors in leadership, women’s studies and psychology.

“I went to the Leadership Institute when I first came to URI, and I found it was a perfect fit for me,” she explained. “I’ve always been involved in the community and in my school, and I wanted to make an impact on campus. As for the women’s studies minor, I had felt disconnected from women as a whole, but my women’s studies classes made me proud to be a woman and create a better world for my daughters.”

While Callahan’s academic success is notable, her legacy at URI will be in her leadership role in extracurricular activities. She served as a mentor to freshmen, interned in the Student Programming Office, performed in the cast of The Vagina Monologues, and volunteered for Habitat for Humanity, Make A Wish, the Rhode Island Community Food Bank, and Hasbro Children’s Hospital.

As a member of the executive board of the Student Entertainment Committee, Callahan gained experience planning major events, like performances by Dane Cook, Will Ferrell and Bill Cosby, and gained confidence as a leader.

“From deciding who was going to perform to paying for hospitality and doing security, I was very fortunate to have had that opportunity,” she said. “Many people just go to the show, but I got to see it from behind the scenes.”

As a junior, Callahan joined the URI Student Alumni Association, which aims to build pride in URI and strengthen the link between alumni and students. And she helped to organize a letter writing campaign to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Hospital, which raised more than $30,000 for cancer research.

“I got a chance to go down to the hospital and meet the patients and meet the doctors,” she said. “Had it not been for my time at URI, I never would have been able to have this amazing experience with other students who want to make a better world for our children.”

When Callahan first began thinking about life after URI, she attended a career fair to explore her options and came away with a full-time job.

“It was back in October, and I was really just looking for a summer internship,” she said with amazement. “But the first booth I visited, we just clicked. They set the bar for every other company I visited that day, and no one else compared. I had never considered a job in sales, but it turns out that this is the dream job I was looking for.”

Callahan begins work as a sales associate in June at Carousel Industries in South Windsor, Conn., which provides technology services and equipment to major corporations like IBM, Sony, General Dynamics and the Boston Red Sox. After a two year training program, she could get transferred to a wide variety of other locations in the U.S. or London.

“I’d love to be able to go to Europe and work and live there,” she said. “But we’ll see how it goes and hope for the best.”