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ACN Alumni Panel

March 28, 2024
4:30-7:30 p.m.

Memorial Union
50 Lower College Road
Kingston, Rhode Island


ACN Panel

Students are invited to grow your personal and professional skills at the Alumni of Color Network Alumni Panel. Alumni panelists from a range of careers are returning to campus to discuss their experiences and challenges as professionals of color. Don’t miss this opportunity to listen, learn, participate, and build community with alumni during the complimentary networking dinner!

Arrive early to meet URI and community partners who will be on hand to share information about career readiness and resources. Plan to visit our professional photographer for a complimentary head shot until 5:15 p.m.

Alumni are invited to attend this event to network with students during the dinner following the panel.

4:30 p.m. doors open
4:30–5:15 p.m. professional headshots available
5:30 p.m. panel discussion
7 p.m. dinner

Business casual dress is recommended but not required.

Cost: Complimentary. Registration is required. This event is expected to reach capacity.

Register by: Friday, March 22, 2024


Jessica M. Blandin ’16, M.B.A.’21 (College of Engineering), Senior System Engineer, Raytheon
Jessica BlandinJessica Maritza Blandin earned a B.S. in biomedical engineering, B.A. in Spanish language and literature, and an M.B.A. with Human Resource Certification and Yellow Belt Certification from URI. She is a senior system engineer at Raytheon, where she has worked in several programs and is the engineering resource group lead for the Hispanic Organization for Leadership Advancement (RI HOLA). Prior to Raytheon, she worked at Electric Boat as a test engineer. Blandin is also a pastor at the Restoration Church of RI Latino Campus. To better serve the local Latino community, she is pursuing dual master’s degrees at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary with the goal of becoming an ordained minister.

George Derefaka ’07 (College of Nursing), Certified Nurse Anesthetist
George Derefaka '07George Derefaka is a certified nurse anesthetist for Broward Health in Florida. He earned a B.S. in Nursing from URI in 2007 and went on to obtain a Master of Science from the University of Miami in 2013 and a Doctor of Nursing Practice with specialization in Anesthesiology from Barry University in 2016. He is a member of the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists. As a URI student in the Talent Development program, George was a member of the football team, Underground Railroad, and the dance group Da Team.

AGONZA, Angela I. Gonzalez ’15 (College of Arts and Sciences), Artist
Angela Gonzalez '15Angela Gonzalez, known as AGONZA, is a Latina artist born in Providence, R.I. She lived in the Dominican Republic from ages 9-17 before returning to the U.S. She entered URI through the Talent Development program, graduating in 2015 with a major in fine arts and minor in theater design. After URI, AGONZA worked in human resources while painting professionally as a muralist. During the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests in Providence, she demonstrated her solidarity by painting boarded-up windows. In 2021 she became the first muralist to complete two side-by-side exterior wall murals at the Providence Housing Authority complex where she grew up, and she was one of six BIPOC artists to complete the largest mural in Rhode Island in 2022. AGONZA shares her work on Instagram @AGONZAART.

Rex Porte ’06 (College of the Environment and Life Sciences), Board-certified Family Physician
Rex Porte '06Rex Porte is a board-certified family physician practicing in Arkansas. He earned his bachelor’s degree in biology from URI in 2006 and participated in the Talent Development Program. As a biology research student, he studied drosophila and molting hormone in lobsters. He was also president and co-founder of URI’s Underground Railroad organization, which assists incoming minority students, and participated in dance organizations on campus. After URI, Rex went on to receive his medical degree from American University of Antigua in New York and completed his family medicine residency at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS NW-AHEC) in 2016.

Estifanos (Steve) Shay ’14, M.S. ’15 (College of Business), Senior Auditor, FM Global
Steve Shay '14, M.S.'15Estifanos (Steve) Shay earned B.S. and M.S. degrees in accounting from URI and is now a senior auditor at the property insurer FM Global. Before joining FM Global, he was an auditor for the medical device company Hologic, an audit analyst at Johnson & Johnson for more than five years, and an auditor general for the State of Rhode Island. In addition to his full-time job, Shay is a part-time CPA helping small businesses and is a member of the Rhode Island Society of CPAs. He is also interested in real estate investment and enjoys learning about business strategy.

Bernadette Tavares ’06 (College of Arts and Sciences), Director of Career Pathways, Foster Forward
Bernadette Tavares '06Bernadette Tavares has a great passion for working with youth and aiding them in the successful transition into adulthood. She is director of career pathways at Foster Forward, and agency that provides programming for youth affected by foster care. Tavares has 10+ years of experience in the child welfare system ranging from mentoring and direct support to program management. Additionally, she has provided adjunct educational support to incoming Talent Development students at URI. A Talent Development scholar herself, she earned bachelor’s degrees in English and journalism from URI in 2006 and was involved with Uhuru Sasa. She is also on the boards of several community organizations.

Tammy Vargas Warner ’99, M.S.’06 (College of Health Sciences), Founder and Owner, Distinctive Success Solutions
Tammy Vargas Warner '99, M.S.'06Tammy Vargas Warner is a board-certified executive coach, master facilitator, strategic consultant, higher education leader, speaker, and author. Born in the Dominican Republic, she was a first-generation college student, earning B.S. and M.S. degrees in human development and family studies from URI and a Ph.D. in higher education from the University of Massachusetts Boston. Dr. Warner recently launched the coaching and consulting firm, Distinctive Success Solutions. Before that she was a higher education leader for the state of Rhode Island, first at URI and culminating as the state’s assistant commissioner for postsecondary academic and student affairs. She is on the boards of several community organizations and is a member of the Providence alumnae chapter of Delta Sigma Theta sorority.

URI Foundation & Alumni Engagement welcomes individuals with disabilities to participate in its programs and activities. If you need accommodations or have questions about access to the event, please call 401.874.2242 at least five business days in advance. For TTY assistance, please call the R.I. Relay Service at 711.