Penn State Hazleton class of 2020 celebrated in first-ever virtual commencement

'Perhaps our most special class of graduates' honored in socially distanced ceremony

HAZLETON, Pa. — Adhering to tradition while adapting to a pandemic, Penn State Hazleton conferred degrees to its class of 2020 virtually during a socially distanced spring commencement celebration.

With graduates and their families gathered around their laptops, the University’s annual commencement ceremony upheld the customary spirit of graduation day while prioritizing health and safety during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Chancellor Gary Lawler commended the class of 2020 for overcoming the unexpected shift to remote learning, calling them "perhaps our most special class of graduates."

“You graduates have exemplified your determination, commitment and resilience as you navigated new waters during your journey toward a Penn State degree," Lawler said in a recorded message.

Earning those degrees in the 2019-20 academic year were a total of 127 graduates: 77 bachelor’s degrees and 50 associate degrees. 

In addition, an eight-minute video slideshow featuring well-wishes and encouragement from faculty, staff and employees was played. Many held homemade signs and posed with their families and pets.

Elizabeth Wright, director of academic affairs, recognized award winners, students who graduated with honors and military distinctions and graduates inducted in Alpha Sigma Lambda, Penn State Hazleton’s honors society for adult learners.

Tracy Garnick, director of student engagement and affairs, announced the winner of the Eric A. And Josephine S. Walker Award, Andrew Brink.   

Brink, president of the student government association and Class of 2020 member, also spoke during the virtual ceremony and urged his fellow graduates to seize every opportunity ahead of them.

“You're graduating in a century just past its teenage years, at a time in history when our world is dealing with enormous challenges, but at a time when the opportunities created by those challenges have never been greater,” Brink said.

Following formal remarks, graduates broke off into Zoom meeting rooms specific to their degree program

Penn State Hazleton's commencement followed a University-wide virtual ceremony featuring music from the Penn State Blue Band, remarks by Penn State President Eric Barron and conferral of degrees to all undergraduate students at University Park and Commonwealth Campuses, as well as graduate students in the Graduate School.

University leaders noted Penn State remains committed to having graduates and their families back for an in-person celebration of their accomplishments when public health guidelines allow.

Degrees conferred:

Associate degrees:

Associate in Arts in Letters, Arts, and Sciences: Brandon Reshard Mohammed, Albrightsville

Associate in Science in Business: Alexis Lynn Ankiewicz, Mountain Top; David Dewitt, Sugarloaf; Jack Theillon, Bloomsburg

Associate in Science in Medical Laboratory Technology: Nataly Arias, Hazleton; Damaris Ayala, Berwick; Alyssa Marie Casiano, East Stroudsburg; Hannah Eberwein, Altoona; Natalie Iona Faybisovich, East Stroudsburg; Amanda Frances Kalenkoski, Shenandoah; Benjamin Douglas Raines, Scranton; Ryan Sassani, Shamokin; Lizabeth Mary Schrader, Drums; Megan Taylor, Kunkletown; Marc Vella-Hunlock, Berwick; Ashley Vought, Bloomsburg

Associate in Science in Physical Therapist Assistant: Jordan Alguire, Tunkhannock; Nicole Andress, Lehighton; Esmeralda Castro, Wilkes-Barre; Breonna Catherman, Mifflinburg; Jossel Concepcion, Wilkes-Barre; Devin Conlon, Lambertville, New Jersey; Lauren Creveling, Berwick; Erin Dull, Manheim; Ryan Glacken, Scranton; Emma Glezen, Hallstead, Madeline Heim, Pottsville; Emily Howell, Tunkhannock; Nicholas Hreha, Dunmore; Bekah Keim, Mertztown; Kathleen Kenney, Hanover Township; Hailey Kupusnick, Frackville; Selina Malacari, Wilkes-Barre; Amanda Mechling, Nesquehoning; Leatha Monkoski, Sugarloaf; Meghan Moyer, Wilkes-Barre; Torie Naradko, Frackville; Felisha Nunez, West Hazleton; Nicole Paranich, Mountain Top; Cassandra Passamonte, Exeter; Kaylee Rodgers, Exeter; Josey Rupert, Shickshinny; Kelsie Salem, Myerstown; Vanessa Shedlock, West Pittston; Emma Stinnett, Pottsville; Sarah Stock, Minersville; Trevor Wilkinson, White Haven; Emma Wyllie, Benton; Madison Young, Lewisburg; Jessica Zimmerman, Dornsife

Baccalaureate degrees:

Bachelor of Arts in Corporate Communication: Robert Andrew Hopkins, Mountain Top; Abby Kathryn Markle, Hazleton; Mekenzie Wolfe, New Wilmington

Bachelor of Arts in Letters, Arts and Sciences: Breann A. Fetterman, Mountain Top; Katelyn Oldziejewski, Wilkes-Barre; Meghann Maria Principe, Lake Harmony

Bachelor of Arts in Psychology: Yulissa Arias, Hazleton; Nathalie Contreras, Ozone Park, New York; Morine Joseph, Philadelphia; Nathaniel Kocher, Nescopek; Victoria Maldonado-Colombani, Pocono Lake; Janil Munoz, West Hazleton; Angela M. Strohl, Jim Thorpe; Andrew Vargas, Hazleton; Richard Wilcox, Jr., Philadelphia

Bachelor of Science in Engineering: James Dotzel, Mountain Top; Cody Freeman George, Mountain Top; Bryan Kowalick, Hazleton; Gregory Lyons, Millville; Melanie Mejia, West Hazleton; Panayoti Saras, White Haven; Lilly Singh, Sugaraloaf; Isaac C. Whitenight, Benton; Emery Zaleski, Wilkes-Barre

Bachelor of Science in Biobehavioral Health: Catherine Pizarro-Rosario, Hazleton

Bachelor of Science in Administration of Justice: Christopher Adames, Bay Shore, New York; Eric Macker, Frackville; Kaylee E. Chyko, Weston; Carlos Enrique Colado, Jr., Hazleton; Jonte William Washington, East Stroudsburg

Bachelor of Science in Business: Andrew Brink, New Columbia; Mark Buchinsky, Shenandoah; Kaitlee Dewitt, Mahanoy City; Olivia Elswick, Hazleton; Casey Alexa Grover, Beaver Meadows; Tristen J. Johnson, Wapwallopen; Rylee Marie Kane, Mahanoy City; Anthony T. Kimsal, Drums; Carina Madera, Hazleton; Carolina Madera, Hazleton; Catherine Maher, Freeland; Elizabeth Michalochick, Hazleton; Salma Munoz Hernandez, Hazleton; Cordell Muthler, Mill Hall; Frederick Pfeiffer, Gillett; Miguel Alexander Polanco, Hazleton; Joshua Provost, Hazle Township

Bachelor of Science in Information Sciences and Technology: Caleb David Carpenter, Lehighton; Jerrika Sage Chorba, Bloomsburg; James Cusate, Hazleton; Aaron Kacyon, Fern Glen; Christopher C. Kurdziel, Lehighton; Andrew Lowin, Albrightsville; Crismery Paredes, Hazleton; Sean Paterson, Lehighton; Madison Polumbo, Freeland; Seth Porpiglia, Tresckow; Andry Sanchez, Hazleton; Joshua Sterling, Mountain Top; Joseph Vanik, Hazleton

Bachelor of Science in Project and Supply Chain Management: Hernan Aquino, Hazleton; Jared Kolbush, McAdoo; Christopher William Jones, Drums

Bachelor of Science in Psychology: Sha-Lyjha S. Moore, Bushkill; Joanne Barbara Supko, Mountain Top

Bachelor of Science in Rehabilitation and Human Services: Andrea Nicole Alcantara, New York City, New York; Cassandra Lynn Book; Sugarloaf; Samantha Catania, Kunkletown; Lauren Degler, Fleetwood; Tahiry Dominguez, West Hazleton; Lauren Dragon, Inkerman; Moriah Graaf, McAdoo; Molly Granza, Peckville; Kasey Jackson, Sinking Spring; Leeishla Marie Jimenez, Mahanoy City; Jacob Peters, Gillet; Ariel Rowlands, Wapwallopen; Francis Tapia, West Hazleton; Victoria Warg, Hazle Township

Graduation with honors:

Students who are in the top 12 percent of their graduating class in their college and who have completed the required number of credits at the University receive special recognition. The 12 percent is divided into 2 percent “summa cum laude,” 4 percent “magna cum laude,” and 6 percent “cum laude.”

Summa Cum Laude: Josey Rupert, Shickshinny; Nicole Paranich, Mountain Top; Kasey Jackson, Sinking Spring

Magna Cum Laude: Kaylee E. Chyko, Weston; Rylee Marie Kane, Mahanoy City; Hailey Kupusnick, Frackville; Miguel Alexander Polanco, Hazleton; Felisha Nunez, West Hazleton

Cum Laude: Mark Buchinsky, Shenandoah; Robert Andrew Hopkins, Mountain Top; Anthony T. Kimsal, Drums; Carlos Enrique Colado, Jr., Hazleton; Caleb David Carpenter, Lehighton; David Dewitt, Sugarloaf; Nicholas Hreha, Dunmore; Meghan Moyer, Wilkes-Barre; Ryan Sassani, Shamokin

Frank C. Kostos Awards

Presented annually to three students, the Frank C. Kostos Award is named for the late Frank C. Kostos, who ended a 27-year affiliation with Penn State Hazleton when he retired in 1973 as campus director.

  • Mark Abeldamek, a biology major from Drums, received the honor for the full-time sophomore enrolled in a Penn State degree program.
  • Kasey Jackson, Sinking Spring, who earned a bachelor of science degree in Rehabilitation and Human Services during the ceremony, was honored as the graduate earning the highest grade-point average in a Penn State Hazleton baccalaureate degree program.
  • Josey Rupert, Shickshinny, who earned an associate in science degree in Physical Therapist Assistant, was recognized for the highest grade-point average of a graduate in a Penn State Hazleton associate degree program.

Eric A. and Josephine S. Walker Award

This award recognizes students from Penn State Commonwealth campuses whose outstanding qualities of character, scholarship, leadership and citizenship have been directed into programs and services that have positively influenced fellow students and have contributed to the prestige and well-being of their campus and hence, to the reputation of the University as a whole.

  • Andrew Brink, New Columbia

Faculty of the Year Award

This award recognizes outstanding teaching at Penn State Hazleton. The recipient is nominated by students.

  • Assistant Professor of Biology Megan Schall

Schall joined Penn State Hazleton in August 2018. She holds a doctorate in ecology from Penn State, a master’s degree in wildlife and fisheries science from Penn State, and bachelor’s degrees in cellular and organismal biology and environmental and ecology biology from Lock Haven University.