MEDIA, Pa. — Penn State Brandywine hosted its inaugural "Shades of Success" Black Student Union Alumni Networking Event on Jan. 30 to kick-start celebrations for Black History Month.
The event featured six alumni of color as part of Penn State Brandywine’s Alumni of Color Network — Daniel Calderon, anti-money-laundering analyst at SEI; Ashely Carrington, senior financial accountant at CHR Consulting Services; Keyana Cooper, automation validation engineer at Panacea Technologies; Seretha Germany, supports coordinator at Delaware County Department of Human Services; Yvonne Maloy, keystone administrator at Apex Systems; and Shannon Matthews, community resource developer/Perkins coordinator at Delaware County Technical Schools — who spoke about their experiences after graduating from Penn State and provided students with college and career advice.
Angel Asomugha, a fourth-year student and president of the Black Student Union, began planning the event during the fall semester. She said her main goal was to gather alumni of color to share their experiences with students and provide them with insights about life after graduation.
“This event means everything to me. It’s so important to me because I know that looking for internships and jobs can be really challenging — especially for students of color — because you don’t know where to start,” Asomugha said. “Sometimes, as a person of color, you can feel uncomfortable going to certain spaces and asking for help, so I wanted to be able to provide that space for Brandywine students.”
Patton Vo, club adviser and director of campus development, noted how honored he was to be the adviser of the Black Student Union and to help sponsor the event with his department. With his department recently founding Brandywine’s Alumni of Color Affinity Group, he said he was very excited to bring alumni of color back to campus to help current students.
“This event is really about building a sense of community and a culture of belonging. It’s something that our students and alumni of color are united in, and the Department of Development and Alumni Relations feels honored to have helped put on this event," Vo said.
Francis Bockarie, a fourth-year student and vice president of the Black Student Union, noted, as Brandywine is one of the University's most diverse Commonwealth Campuses, how special it was to witness the alumni and students interact with one another.
“It’s really great to see so many people come together at the event. Penn State Brandywine is a very diverse place, but at the same time, as students of color, it can be challenging to find representation on campus,” he said. “When we have events like this, it’s really special because you can see the diversity in person.”
As a recent graduate, Cooper said, she was thrilled to come back and share her experiences with other students. Coming back to Brandywine nearly nine months post-graduation to speak with students was a full-circle moment for her. She said she was excited to guide students who are in the same position she was just one year ago.
“I just graduated in May, and now it’s January, so it’s really neat to see what Brandywine has been up to. When I first started my college experience, I wanted to be an engineer, and I didn’t know any Black engineers, so I wanted to make sure I was that resource for current students,” Cooper said. “I don’t come from a family of engineers, so I didn’t know that being a Black engineer was possible until I read a book. I really just want to show people what career options are out there.”
Carrington, as a 2010 graduate of Penn State, didn’t take the typical career route. After graduating during an economic recession, she took multiple career paths before landing the role she has now. She said she was happy to be able to provide advice to students of color at Brandywine and help be the support system she didn’t have in college.
“This event is so important to me because it allows me to give back to up-and-coming professionals. I get to be the resource for these students that I didn’t have when I was in their position,” Carrington said. “The students I talked with are essentially my successors, so it’s great to be able to give them the tools and knowledge to succeed and learn from the mistakes that I’ve made in the past.”
After this successful turnout, the Black Student Union is planning to host more networking events in the future.