UMass Dartmouth Announces 2014 Student Commencement Speakers

Student Speakers Reflect Diverse Excellence of Class of 2014

UMass Dartmouth announced today its student commencement speakers for the University's 114th Commencement Exercises taking place May 16-19, 2014. Tricia Breton of the College of Arts & Sciences, Louis D'Amarino of the UMass School of Law, Rola Hassoun of the College of Engineering, Nikita Rao of the Charlton College of Business have been chosen to address their fellow graduates of the UMass Dartmouth Class of 2014. 

"We are honored to have students whose story represents the very best of the Class of 2014," said Chancellor Divina Grossman. "Their journeys, while separate, create a narrative that holds true for our graduating class -- one of civic and academic engagement and achievement with regional, national, and international impact." 

Tricia Breton 
College of Arts & Sciences 

After a 15-year hiatus from pursuing a college degree, Tricia Breton returned to UMass Dartmouth. Over the last four years, her life experiences and double major in English and Women and Gender Studies have ignited a passion that has set her on a new course. Ms. Breton is driven by the belief that everyone deserves a second chance. 

She is a single mother who decided that a college degree was essential to accomplish her dreams. Along the way she has found strong support at UMass Dartmouth. College of Arts & Sciences Dean Jeannette Riley hired her to write and edit the College's monthly e-newsletter, giving Ms. Breton communication experience that broadens her skill sets. 

Her second major in Women's and Gender Studies enabled her to research the connection of economically disadvantaged women, the current welfare system, and the power of education. In particular, her research has focused on the role of education in the lives of low income, single mothers. 

Immediately following graduation, Tricia will begin a summer internship with the Southeastern Women's Fund and support the Lifework program by performing research on funding sources and writing grants. Lifework is a three-year pilot program that hopes to improve career opportunities for low-income women by providing a path to education. In the fall she will enter UMass Dartmouth's Professional Writing master's program. 

Ms. Breton has her bachelor's degree and now she has a new dream. She hopes to create an organization - Second Chance - that helps encourage and fund education for low-income, single mothers. 

Louis D'Amarino 
UMass School of Law - Dartmouth 

Louis D'Amarino earned his Bachelor's degree in Political Science from Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut, and a Master's degree in Public Policy from Stony Brook University. After four years as a legislative aide to a New York State county legislator, Mr. D'Amarino enrolled as a full-time student at UMass School of Law, where he has excelled in his studies and taken center stage as an energetic and trustworthy student leader. 

Mr. D'Amarino has been a member of the Student Bar Association (SBA) for the past three years, and served as the President of the SBA this last year. He is a three-year member of the UMass Mock Trial team and the legal fraternity Delta Theta Phi. In addition, he has been a two-year member of the UMass Law Review and recently helped found the Parents Attending Law School group. 

His student Note, Connecting the Dots: Forming a Uniform Voter Identification System Through Established Law, was published the UMass Law Review. Mr. D'Amarino was awarded the Sara C. Bernstein Law Scholarship for demonstrating academic excellence, an extraordinary level of service to the law school, and an overriding commitment to the Law School, the community, and his fellow students. 

He intends to sit for the Massachusetts Bar Exam in July and the New York Bar Exam in February 2015. Mr. D'Amarino would like to practice in criminal, trust and estates, or real property law. Additionally, he sees a run for public office in his future. 

Rola Hassoun 
Civil & Environmental Engineering 

Rola Hassoun's experience as an UMass Dartmouth student embodies the true spirit of the University - one of academic achievement and civic engagement that has local, regional, and global impact. 

Ms. Hassoun has been actively engaged with the UMass Dartmouth Center for Women, Gender and Sexuality (CWGS) and received funding from the Center to attend a Society of Women Engineers conference in her junior year. This conference introduced her to an array of people, including representatives from Unilever, a global producer of consumer goods. She was offered a position as a Safety, Health, and Environmental intern at Unilever's Covington, Tennessee, location, the world's largest manufacturer of ice cream. 

For Ms. Hassoun, the supportive nature of the UMassD community is what makes the University so special. She has been active on campus as the treasurer of Engineers Without Borders (EWB), an Engineering Senator of the Student Government Association, and a member of the Society of Women Engineers and National Society of Black Engineers. Through EWB, she had the opportunity to participate in the design of a water aqueduct system for a Panamanian village. 

Ms. Hassoun has secured an environmental engineering position at CDM Smith, a major engineering firm. She looks forward to providing lasting and integrated solutions in water, environment, transportation, energy and facilities to public and private clients worldwide. 

Nikita Rao, MBA'14 
Charlton College of Business 

As a double major in UMass Dartmouth's MBA program, Nikita Rao put her education to work through research and community engagement activities. Most recently, Ms. Rao served as graduate research intern for several applied research projects in UMass Dartmouth's Center for Policy Analysis. Previously, she served as a research assistant for Charlton's Business Innovation Research Center (BIRC). 

An essential component of Ms. Rao's education was community engagement both on campus and off Ring Road. She worked closely with the sustainability office on campus as a Green Navigator, in order to make the University and the SouthCoast community more sustainable. Ms. Rao has also served as a senator on the Graduate Student Senate and co-founder and vice president of the MBA Association. Both of these groups add value to the UMassD educational experience through community and corporate engagement initiatives that benefit students. Ms. Rao is a member of the American Cancer Society and was actively involved in fundraising and Relay for Life Events. 

Ms. Rao has been a student advisor on the MBA Student Advisory Board, which serves as the voice of business students. Recognizing the need for the late night transportation service for business students who take evening courses, the Board made a proposal to the Dean and was successful in extending the bus schedule until 9:30 p.m. on weekdays. 

Ms. Rao plans to focus on marketing research following graduation, build her professional experience, and then pursue a PhD in customer behavior and market research. 

UMass Dartmouth will celebrate its 114th Commencement, May 16-19, 2014. The ceremonies will take place in the Vietnam Veterans Peace Memorial Amphitheater located next to the Claire T. Carney Library. In the case of rain, the ceremonies will take place in the Tripp Athletic Center.

News and Public Information