Penn State Brandywine celebrates graduates at spring commencement

Ninety graduates received their bachelor’s degree during the May 6 ceremony
Two women are walking outside wearing commencement caps and gowns.

Farrell Everett expresses her excitement as she and classmate Brooke Buchakjian process to Brandywine's gymnasium for the campus' spring commencement ceremony on May 6.

Credit: Bill Tyson

MEDIA, Pa. — Ninety graduates received their bachelor’s degree at Penn State Brandywine’s spring 2023 commencement ceremony on May 6 in the campus gymnasium.

Brandywine Chancellor Marilyn J. Wells commended the graduates for their persistence that led to the milestone occasion.

“Persisting through college matters, which is why we celebrate commencement day with admiration and exuberant joy,” Wells said. “You persisted not only through a world-altering pandemic, but through problem sets, writing assignments, laboratories, midterms, finals, research projects, and the personal crises and doubts that are an inevitable part of the college experience and, indeed, of life more generally. Getting to and crossing the finish line is hard, which is why we celebrate you so enthusiastically.”

“We applaud your persistence, your talent, your achievements and your aspirations,” she added. “We send our best wishes as you embark upon the path that lies ahead, and we hope it will bring you back to this campus many times.”

Three graduating students served as commencement speakers: Khafren Smith, Christopher Fill and Dana Hallahan.

Smith, who earned a bachelor’s degree in information sciences and technology, was active on campus as co-captain of the men’s soccer team, a member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Council and the Council for Latinx and African-American Student Success, and a resident assistant.

“As I stand here before all of you today, I am honored to be a part of a graduating class that is so multifaceted in terms of the individuals within it, the careers we are pursuing, and in our stories that have led us here,” Smith said. “Part of what I appreciate about Brandywine is how much individuality is promoted in a smaller community. It allows students to break from the mold and retain the attributes and ways of thinking that make us unique.”

“Having had a taste of outside work environments over the past two years, I have realized the importance of having strong individuals with unique perspectives,” he said. “The stories that make us different also allow us the ability to perceive situations differently and the world requires this.”

Fill, who earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology, is a U.S. Marine veteran. He plans to pursue a doctorate in clinical psychology that will allow him to conduct therapy for veterans.

Fill said there are three major life lessons he learned in the past decade, given his experiences: core values, alignment to your assignment, and the gratitude attitude.

“These days, we can find meaning in one of three ways: the accomplishment or pursuit of a goal, meeting of a new person, and by controlling our response to the unchangeable circumstances life throws at us,” he said. “After we find our long-term meaning, every time we see ourselves making more progress toward accomplishing our conscious-induced goals, we are rewarded psychologically. I like to call this ‘alignment to your assignment.’ The best advice I can personally give to anyone is to find their assignment and align themselves fully to it.”

Hallahan, who earned a bachelor’s degree in biology, was recognized as a Schreyer Honors Scholar. She completed her thesis on the topic “Selective Blocking of Voltage-Gated Sodium Channels in the Frog Optic Nerve.”

Hallahan was among the most active students on campus, and her leadership included serving as president or co-president of the Lion Ambassadors, Brandywine Events and Activities Student Team, and Brandywine Benefiting THON.

“Throughout my academic journey at Penn State Brandywine, I have taken advantage of various opportunities and resources, including joining campus clubs, participating in honors programs, and becoming a campus tour guide,” she said. “What I have learned is that these opportunities are only as valuable as the effort and dedication you put into them.”

“As we reflect on our time here at Brandywine, I encourage each of you to take a moment to think about the goals and aspirations you had when you first set foot on this campus,” she said. “I urge you to keep working on accomplishing the items on your own bucket list as you move forward.”

After the commencement address, Wells and Director of Academic Affairs Wiebke Strehl conferred the degrees. Strehl also recognized graduates who earned academic distinction for graduating in the top 12% of their class within their respective colleges.

  • Summa cum laude: Christopher Fill, Dana Hallahan and Christine Trageser.
  • Cum laude: Amanda Bernens, Emma Cleveland, Jess Kucera and Armin Toshtzar.

Michael Gambol, vice president of the Penn State Brandywine Advisory Board, and Meaghan Daly, president of the Penn State Brandywine Alumni Society, offered greetings and congratulations to the graduates.

The Brandywine Music Association performed Pomp and Circumstance, the National Anthem, A Million Dreams and the Penn State Alma Mater.

Penn State Brandywine, with more than 1,200 students, is a residential campus offering 14 baccalaureate programs and the first two years of nearly all of Penn State’s 275+ majors.