Penn State Brandywine celebrates graduates at spring commencement

May 4 ceremony showcased 130 graduates receiving their bachelor’s degrees
A person wearing a graduation gown stands at a lectern to speak at commencement.

Jessica James, a three-sport student-athlete at Penn State Brandywine, earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She is also a member of the Army National Guard.

Credit: Bill Tyson

MEDIA, Pa. — One-hundred thirty graduates received their bachelor’s degrees at Penn State Brandywine’s spring 2024 commencement ceremony on May 4 in the campus gymnasium. An additional four students were awarded associate degrees.

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

“To our graduates, you have earned your degrees today in many ways and for many reasons, but not least because you persisted brilliantly throughout your time on this campus and away from it,” Wells said. “You persisted not only through world-altering events, 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. ... I know that, whatever you do, you will make Penn State proud and that you will put your talents, creativity and character to work in ways that we can scarcely imagine today."

Director of Student Affairs Stephanie Jones, who served as emcee for the ceremony, introduced Jessica James for recognition of the flags and welcome remarks. James graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, played on Brandywine’s softball, soccer and basketball teams, and is in the Army National Guard.

“Juggling academics, three sports and military commitments was no small feat, and it never would have been possible without an incredibly supportive network of mentors and peers,” James said, thanking her family, her teammates and her coaches. “You encouraged me to embrace challenges, even those that seemed daunting at first. ... Serving our nation is something I am extremely proud of, and as I look out at all the faces of generations in this room, I am honored to know I am serving something much more than myself, but all of you.”

Three graduating students served as commencement speakers: Jessica Gore, Zhane Brooks and Fallah Bockarie.

Gore, who earned a bachelor’s degree in biology, was active in numerous campus clubs and served as president of the Student Government Association for two years.

“My own journey to Penn State started thousands of miles away, in the small, vibrant island nation of Trinidad and Tobago,” Gore said. “Since landing here, I've been on a learning curve that has been steep, but rewarding. These experiences opened my eyes, broadened my perspective and allowed me to understand the nuanced complexities of the American experience. ... In this world that puts an emphasis on the outward appearance, focusing on who we are is a unique challenge, but it is a challenge worth undertaking. The impact of having strong character is not always immediately apparent, but can surely have a positive effect on your mental well-being.”

Brooks, who earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology, served as president of Lion Pride.

“As we stand here today, on the cusp of a new chapter, it's impossible not to reflect on the journey that brought us to this moment,” Brooks said. “We've weathered storms that we never could have anticipated, faced challenges that tested our resolve, and shed tears in the darkness and times of uncertainty. But through it all, we persevered.”

She added that leading the Lion Pride club and advocating for the LGBTQ+ community were among the accomplishments of which she is most proud.

Bockarie, vice president of the Black Student Union, earned a bachelor’s degree in information technology.

“Our time at this institution has been a melting pot of cultures, ideas and perspectives,” Bockarie said. “Let us carry forward the spirit of inclusivity and celebrate the diversity that enriches our world. Embracing the unique stories and experiences of others fosters empathy, compassion and understanding. Let us strive to create an inclusive society where every voice is heard, and every individual is valued.”

Justin Rosenberg, a 2004 Penn State graduate, was the keynote speaker. Rosenberg is founder and chief executive officer of honeygrow, a fast-casual stir-fry and salad concept founded in Philadelphia in 2012 that has grown to 42 restaurants in seven states.

“At Penn State, I discovered my love for creativity and desire to spend my life doing something that truly excited me,” Rosenberg said. “I discovered resilience and the need to push ahead no matter what. I learned how important connection and positivity are in everyday moments, especially in my line of work. I learned what it meant to fall in love. I learned what it meant to have a friend die. But I really learned that time is everything and equivalently, is nothing.”

He said customers want to go to restaurants where they know the team cares.

“Life is no different. Be the person who cares,” Rosenberg said. “Be the person who holds the door for others, even though people don’t hold it for you. Be the person who actually will listen during a conversation rather than drowning out the noise and thinking about what’s for dinner. People need warmth, they need connection, and they need understanding. In a world where communication has gone so cold, be the light that makes it warm for everyone again. Be the exception, not the standard.”

After the commencement address, Wells and Chief Academic Officer Jennifer Nesbitt conferred the degrees. Nesbitt also recognized graduates who earned academic distinction for graduating in the top 12% of their class within their respective colleges.

  • Summa cum laude: Katrina Robinson
  • Magna cum laude: Azadeh Ghashami and Cuong Pham
  • Cum laude: Khalidah Ballan, Nicholette Becker, Naimah Dristi, Michael Hertzler, Nathanial Laskey, Obaid Al-Rehman Mohsin and Nicholas Alexander Salvey

Michael Gambol, 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 Lenape Brass Ensemble performed Pomp and Circumstance, the National Anthem 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.