• Afghan Women’s Rights Leader, Shabana Basij-Rasikh, to Deliver Roger Williams University Commencement Address

    May 17 ceremony to celebrate leaders in education, environmental justice, and the law 
    Roger Williams University announces that Shabana Basij-Rasikh, a changemaker and founder of the School of Leadership Afghanistan (SOLA), the first and only remaining boarding school dedicated to educating Afghan girls in the world, will deliver the keynote speech and receive an honorary degree at the RWU Commencement ceremony on Friday, May 17. 
    This year's RWU Commencement exercises will celebrate leaders across diverse fields, from education and women's rights, law and diplomacy to environmental science and social activism, as the university’s distinguished recipients of honorary degrees.  
    Basij-Rasikh, 34, began her fight for girls’ education when she was six years old. Growing up in Kabul under the Taliban’s rule, she and her sister courageously attended hidden schools despite the risk of severe reprisal from the regime. After the Taliban’s fall in 2001, Basij-Rasikh traveled to the U.S. through the State Department’s Youth Exchange Studies program to attend high school and college, and during this time, she co-founded SOLA with the mission of providing access to formal education for girls across her homeland. When the Taliban seized power following the U.S. military withdrawal in 2021, she coordinated a harrowing escape for her students and re-established the school in Rwanda. As the world has watched the Taliban eradicate women’s rights once again and force girls out of school, Basij-Rasikh’s SOLA has remained the sole school that provides an education to Afghan girls anywhere in the world. 
    During her visit to Roger Williams University in 2021, Basij-Rasikh spoke about women’s rights and access to girls’ education in Afghanistan. At that time, RWU committed to providing full-tuition scholarships and secured philanthropic donations to fund room and board for two SOLA students to attend the university, and the Afghan women are currently enrolled at the university. RWU will welcome another two SOLA students under full scholarships, room and board, in the 2024-25 academic year. 
    “Shabana Basij-Rasikh is the embodiment of how an individual’s passion and perseverance can make a profound impact on our world,” said RWU President Ioannis Miaoulis. “As we celebrate the extraordinary contributions of the exceptional leaders in our Commencement ceremony, we reaffirm RWU's commitment to fostering inclusivity, diversity, and empowerment within our university community and beyond. These remarkable leaders will serve as an inspiration to our Class of 2024, as they prepare to head out to become the changemakers and leaders our world needs next.” 
    At the Commencement ceremony, RWU will also present honorary degrees to Elizabeth Moore, a conservationist and philanthropist who has supported environmental conservation efforts and science education in New England and the Gulf Coast, and current board member and past president of the TREE Foundation; and to Arlene Violet, the former Rhode Island Attorney General and the first woman attorney general in the United States, and a trustee emerita of the Roger Williams University Board of Trustees.  
    The RWU School of Law will present honorary degrees to Anita Earls, Associate Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, who has led a distinguished career in civil rights legal advocacy and litigating voting rights and other civil rights cases; and to William E. Smith, Judge of the U.S. District Court of Rhode Island, who has served on the state’s federal bench since 2002, and will complete more than a decade of service on the RWU Law Board of Directors this spring, including six years as board chairperson. Justice Earls will serve as the keynote speaker in the School of Law ceremony. 
    This year’s Commencement ceremony recognizes trailblazers who are making a collective impact across the globe. Guided by the belief that an education has the power to change lives and transform communities, Roger Williams University provides students with real-world learning opportunities focused on social and environmental justice that empower them to make a real-world impact. With leadership in the blue economy, coastal resiliency, and education, and as home of the only law school in Rhode Island, RWU harnesses the power of our faculty, staff and students in collaborative work with community partners and meaningful research that creates change for our region and the world.  
    COMMENCEMENT DATE: The university-wide Commencement celebration for undergraduate, graduate and law students of the Class of 2024 will be held on Friday, May 17. The university ceremony will take place on the main athletic field. The processional steps off at 8:30 a.m. with the ceremony beginning at 9 a.m. Individual school ceremonies will follow throughout the day. 
    RWU will celebrate 1,154 graduates in the Class of 2024, conferring 61 associate degrees, 806 bachelor's degrees, 114 master’s degrees, 161 law degrees, and 13 certificates. 
    LIVESTREAM: RWU will provide a livestream enabled for broadcast and radio recording of the main university ceremony. To watch a livestream of the RWU Commencement, visit: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-ldE4pfPj3DEeu4SpHxkng/live
    For additional Commencement details, please visit: https://www.rwu.edu/academics/commencement.  
    PHOTO CAPTION: Shabana Basij-Rasikh, founder of the School of Leadership Afghanistan (SOLA), will deliver the keynote speech and receive an honorary degree at the RWU Commencement ceremony on Friday, May 17.
    About RWU: Roger Williams University is a comprehensive university providing over 45 majors and 70-plus minors spanning liberal arts and professional programs, with campuses on the coast of Bristol and in the state capital of Providence, Rhode Island. Across eight schools of study, we provide real-world learning focused on social and environmental justice, small classes, and direct access to faculty and staff. Our students create powerful combinations of degrees, credentials, research and internship opportunities, study-abroad programs, and involvement in clubs, student organizations, and athletics. Our Northeast location facilitates a strategic network between New York and Boston for community-engaged research and career opportunities for our students and alumni. Graduating with a unique skill set and the passion to make an impact in their careers, our students become the changemakers and leaders our world needs next. 

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