Four military veterans studying at the University of Rhode Island’s College of the Environment and Life Sciences will be honored at the College’s commencement ceremonies May 17.
Briana Grenier of Sherman, Conn., Zachary Fisher of Roanoke, Va., Dean Pimentel of East Providence, and Donald Ruggieri of Cranston will each be recognized by John Kirby, dean of the college, during graduation exercises.
"We are honored to recognize those who have stepped up during these difficult times to serve our nation as members of our Armed Forces, setting aside their personal goals to serve all of us,” said Kirby. “It is my personal hope that the degrees they have earned will help empower them to find the opportunities and personal and professional successes they so richly deserve."
Grenier, who will receive a degree in geology and geological oceanography, served four years as a food service specialist in the U.S. Coast Guard stationed in Homer, Alaska, and Rockland, Maine. From that experience she developed a great interest in deep-sea exploration, especially in the polar regions, and it inspired her to travel the world.
She spent a semester abroad in Antarctica with the Geological Society of America, joined a humanitarian trip to Nicaragua with the URI Surf Club, visited Switzerland and France with the URI Snowboarding Club, and enjoyed a SEA Semester sailing the coast of New Zealand. The recipient of numerous scholarships and awards, she is planning a career as a commissioned officer in the NOAA Corps, one of the U.S. uniformed services that operates ships and aircraft to facilitate marine research around the world.
“I believe there is a great need to connect the maritime realm with scientists to help create more efficient ocean-going experiments to help solve the world’s climate and natural resource issues,” Grenier said. “I’m also excited to continue exploring our oceans and planet to see what’s out there.”
Fisher served in the Marine Corps from 2004 to 2008 and for 15 months was deployed to Iraq, where he planned convoy movements and coordinated the clearance of supply routes for U.S. forces. He then worked for a defense contractor before enrolling at URI to study environmental science and management.
“My time in Iraq changed my perspective of the world around us and gave me a great appreciation for the freedoms we have here at home,” said Fisher. It also convinced him to pursue a career in an environmental field.
Prior to enrolling at URI, he interned at the Rhode Island office of the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Warwick, which provided him with an opportunity to visit URI and meet several professors. “I quickly knew this was the place I wanted to continue my education,” he said.
Fisher was awarded a scholarship from the URI Watershed Watch Program in 2014 and has been selected to receive an academic excellence award as the top student in his department. He plans a career as a soil conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Pimentel served two tours in the Marine Corps, including deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The Marines instilled in me a dedicated work ethic and strong time management skills that definitely helped me succeed at URI,” he said. “Coming to college at an older age, I found myself more focused on my studies and my future.”
Pimentel will graduate with a degree in landscape architecture, a discipline he chose because of his childhood interest in drawing, designing and learning how things work. The treasurer of the URI chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects, he said he “wanted a career that I felt made a difference in people’s lives and in the world around us.”
Ruggieri, whose degree will be in animal and veterinary science, served in the Marine Corps for five years as a dog handler, first in the Military Police in Japan and later as an explosives detector in Iraq. He also served alongside the Secret Service as a dog handler when Presidents Bush and Obama visited Japan or San Diego.
“I chose URI not only because Rhode Island is my home state, but also because out of all the schools I applied to, I found the admissions staff at URI to be the most helpful in getting my application process started and enabling me to roll right from the military into college,” he said.
The founder and president of the URI chapter of the Student Veterans Organization, he plans to continue his education to become a veterinarian.