In the Spotlight: April 30 Campus Connections

Alumni Spotlight
Ninette Irabaruta, commencement speaker

Ninette Irabaruta fled violence and political oppression in her central African homeland before earning a degree at SMCC. On May 20, she will be the featured speaker at SMCC’s 71st commencement.

After losing her parents to violence in Burundi in the 1990s, Ninette and her siblings lived in an orphanage and later with family members. She was separated from her siblings when she moved to the U.S. in 2012 seeking political asylum and at first lived in a Portland shelter where she worked to overcome language and financial barriers.

After earning a degree in Liberal Studies from SMCC in 2015, Ninette earned a bachelor’s degree from St. Joseph’s College. She’s now working toward a master’s degree in Sustainable International Development at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass.

She was eventually granted asylum and now lives in Yarmouth with her husband while attending Brandeis University.

“The message of my story is to not give up, to always look forward, to not be defined by your past. Always work toward what you believe in for yourselves and your community.”

Staff Spotlight
Matt Richards, athletic director and more

Matt Richards’ titles include athletic director, basketball coach and associate dean. But you’ll also find him maintaining the baseball field, cleaning the basketball court, pulling out the gym bleachers and otherwise doing whatever it takes to make for a successful athletics program.

Richards was hired as athletic director and men’s basketball coach 15 years ago after spending six years in the athletics department at the University of New England. He has a bachelor’s degree in sport management from Colby-Sawyer College, and a master’s in sports administration from the University of Northern Colorado.

Since arriving at SMCC, he has formed the SeaWolves Athletics Club and the SeaWolves Hall of Fame. He’s expanded the sports offerings available to women athletes, improved the athletic facilities and overseen construction of the fitness center.

Richards puts a premium on academic performance and is especially proud of the high student-athlete retention rates. SMCC athletes, he said, develop relationships and learn leadership, teamwork and other skills that last them a lifetime.

“The student-athletes at SMCC get an experience here that goes well beyond simply playing the games.”