Penn State Brandywine Celebrates Graduates at Spring Commencement


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.
Image via Bill Tyler, Penn State Brandywine
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.

Ninety graduates received their bachelor’s degree during the Penn State Brandywine graduation ceremony May 6 in the campus gymnasium.

The graduates were commended by Brandywine Chancellor Marilyn J. Wells for their persistence that led to the ceremony and conferring of diplomas.

“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.”

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.

“Part of what I appreciate about Brandywine is how much individuality is promoted in a smaller community,” Smith said. “It allows students to break from the mold and retain the attributes and ways of thinking that make us unique.”

“The stories that make us different also allow us the ability to perceive situations differently and the world requires this,” he said.

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.

Once we find our long-term meaning and make progress toward conscious-induced goals, we are aligned to our assignment and are rewarded psychologically, he said.

“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.”

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 percent 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.

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.

Find out more about the Penn State Brandywine graduation.

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