Rhode Island College, Office of College Communications and Marketing, News Release


Rhode Island College Announces Commencement Speakers


International advocate for social justice Sonia Nieto and acting commissioner of postsecondary education (and RIC alum) Brenda Dann-Messier to serve as commencement speakers; ceremony will mark the first for new RIC President





CONTACT: Kristy DosReis, (401) 456-8683, kdosreis@ric.edu


PROVIDENCE, RI – Renowned author and researcher Sonia Nieto will serve as the undergraduate commencement speaker at RIC’s 163rd commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 13, at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence.


The baccalaureate ceremony will begin at 9 a.m., and the advanced degree ceremony will begin at 2:30 p.m. RIC is expecting to confer more than 1500 undergraduate and more than 240 graduate degrees.


Nieto has devoted her professional life to questions of diversity, equity and social justice in education. With research focusing on multicultural education, teacher education and the education of students of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, she has written or edited 11 books and dozens of book chapters and journal articles, as well as the memoir, “Brooklyn Dreams: My Life in Public Education.”


RIC President Frank D. Sánchez said, “Dr. Nieto is a champion for inclusiveness in education, with an impressive track record of activism and advocacy. I am confident her powerful message will resonate with our graduates.”


Neito will also receive an honorary degree in Education from Rhode Island College.


RIC alumna and Rhode Island’s acting commissioner of postsecondary education Brenda Dann-Messier ’73 will serve as the commencement speaker at the advanced degree ceremony, which will take place at 2:30 p.m. Throughout her career, Dann-Messier has focused on promoting student success and developing the workforce at every level. Under President Obama, she served as assistant secretary of education of career, technical and adult education, where she led the U.S. Department of Education’s efforts in adult education and career and technical education and helped shape the Obama administration’s policies on community colleges and correctional education.


Sánchez added, “A well-regarded leader in higher education and esteemed RIC alum, Dr. Dann-Messier will be a strong supporter of students and schools in our state. I look forward to working closely with her in her new role, and am honored to have her speak to RIC’s advanced degree recipients.”


This year, RIC will also award two presidential medals, bestowed upon individuals of special distinction within the college community:

  • Prime Minister Rui Maria de Araújo leads the Sixth Constitutional Government of one of the world’s youngest democracies – the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, founded in 2002. A physician, he practiced general medicine and established Tuberculosis clinics throughout the country while concurrently supporting the struggle for his country’s independence from Indonesian occupation.
  • Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão is the first President, former Prime Minister and current Minister of Defense and Security for the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste. Gusmão spearheaded the struggle for his country’s independence when Indonesia invaded and annexed Timor-Leste in 1975.

“RIC has a long history of supporting Timor-Leste and the work and advocacy of these two important leaders,” said Sánchez. “We are proud to honor them for their continued efforts to advance democracy in their country and around the world.”


Ambassador of Timor-Leste H. E  Domingos Sarmento Alves will accept the honors on behalf of Araújo and Gusmão.


Established in 1854, Rhode Island College serves approximately 9,000 undergraduate and graduate students through its five schools: the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the Feinstein School of Education and Human Development, the School of Social Work, the School of Management and the School of Nursing. For more information, visit www.ric.edu