More than 50 graduates received their bachelor’s degrees at Penn State Brandywine’s fall commencement ceremony on Saturday, Dec. 18 in the campus gymnasium.
“Commencement is one of the greatest days in the life of a university. Commencement is also a memorable day in the lives of all our graduates,” Chancellor Marilyn J. Wells told the newly minted Penn State graduates and their guests. “Each generation has its defining moments, and for you, completing your world-class education, undergraduate research, community service, sustainability projects and internships at leading corporations through the pandemic is your defining moment.”
“Commencement is one of the greatest days in the life of a university. Commencement is also a memorable day in the lives of all our graduates.”
—Marilyn J. Wells , Chancellor, Penn State Brandywine
“You exemplify our vision — ‘Penn State Brandywine will be a leader in student success, known for educating students to become valued professionals, leaders, creators, alumni, and citizens,’” she added.
Kristen Harootunian, who graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in communications, was one of two student speakers. She is currently a development and alumni intern at Caron Treatment Centers and may continue her work there after graduation.
Harootunian shared her personal story of overcoming addiction and using her experiences to help others.
“Today I can tell you that through Penn State and my recovery, I have found my calling — my North Star,” she said. “I learned how to use my experiences to help others.”
“Every time I stand on a stage and share my personal story, it lights my spirit on fire,” Harootunian added. “In my wildest dreams, I never thought I would be standing here in a cap and gown, about to say that I am a Penn State graduate. I now know that I was put on this earth to help people. I can confidently say that I can reach any goal and achieve any dream.”
“To my classmates, we get the opportunity to leave here with gratitude, kindness, and an open heart to all the opportunities that present themselves to us. I wish all of you to find your purpose — your North Star,” she said.
Casey Siter, who graduated with a bachelor of science degree in psychology, was also a student speaker. She was part of the Active Minds club at Brandywine. She plans to pursue a career in human resources or a similar field and attend graduate school.
“I wanted a lot from my time in college. I wanted new experiences. I wanted to learn, make friends, be part of a community,” Siter said. “Throughout my years here, I have accomplished what I originally hoped for and much more. Through the personal connections I have made with professors and the opportunities the campus has given me, I was able to explore, grow, and learn in my major and my life.”
“We have values at Penn State: integrity, respect, responsibility, discovery, excellence, and community,” she added. “Through the early mornings and late nights of hard work that all of us had during our time as students at Penn State, I feel I was able to understand these values and the roles they play.”
After the students’ remarks, Wells and Director of Academic Affairs Wiebke Strehl conferred the degrees.
“We have values at Penn State: integrity, respect, responsibility, discovery, excellence, and community. Through the early mornings and late nights of hard work that all of us had during our time as students at Penn State, I feel I was able to understand these values and the roles they play."
—Casey Sity , Class of 2021
As she called the names of the graduates, Strehl noted: “For the past 21 months, our fall class of 2021 has demonstrated resilience, flexibility, and a determination to graduate.”
As the ceremony opened, Fatimata Bintou Danfa, who graduated in August with a bachelor of science degree in biology, talked about the U.S. flag on stage as well as the international flags displayed around campus that represent the nationalities of Brandywine students.
“Our American flag is more than a national symbol. The colors of our flag have significance, representing valor, perseverance and justice,” Danfa said. “These values are reflected in our Penn State values – integrity, respect, responsibility, discovery, excellence and community.”
She said the international flags on campus “honor Brandywine’s international students, who come to us from around 60 countries. The flags also represent the many host nations around the world to which our students and faculty travel through our global programs. Our international students travel thousands of miles to be educated right here, in Media, Pennsylvania, at Penn State Brandywine. It is an impressive journey.”
Seretha Germany, who graduated with a bachelor of science degree in psychology, provided closing remarks. She was an active leader on campus, serving as president of the Black Student Union, diversity affairs chair for the student government association and a peer-mentor and coach for the Lion Guidez program.
“Being involved has made me truly value my experience here at Brandywine,” Germany said. “While taking on these leadership roles, I developed skills that will be great attributes for my endeavors after college. To my fellow graduates, I wish you the best of luck with your future endeavors. Whether you are starting a career, going to graduate school, starting a business or if you don’t have a plan at all — that’s okay. You will be successful because you are all leaders, you’re amazing, I believe in you because you believe in yourself.”
Jemimah Mwaba, who graduated with a bachelor of science degree in business, sang the national anthem. The Brandywine Music Association sang Lift Every Voice and Sing and the Penn State Alma Mater. Penn State Brandywine Alumni Society President Devin Zuczek inducted the graduates into the Penn State Alumni Association and the Brandywine Alumni Society.
Penn State Brandywine, with 1,300 students, is a residential campus offering 15 baccalaureate degrees and the first two years of nearly all of Penn State’s 275+ majors.