The Pennsylvania Western University branch of the American Democracy Project will celebrate Constitution Day at 11 a.m. Sept. 18 on the California, Clarion and Edinboro campuses. Distinguished alumni will form a panel to discuss “Constitution Day: Is Civic Engagement Important?” Constitution Day commemorates the Sept. 17, 1787, signing of the United States Constitution.
Panelists will join by Zoom and will talk about their civic engagement on campus and how it has shaped the work they do today. The audience can attend in person at Duda 210 on the California campus, Founders 114 on the Clarion campus, or Hendricks Hall G56 on the Edinboro campus, or by Zoom.
Andrew Bostjancic, a 2011 graduate of PennWest Clarion. After graduation, he worked on President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign,then ran political campaigns in his hometown of Pittsburgh. He holds a Master of Public Policy degree from the Trachtenberg School at The George Washington University. He was a congressional fellow for the late congresswoman Louise Slaughter. He served as director of policy and government affairs at Catholic Charities USA, working with members of congress on poverty reduction issues. He was a policy consultant for Tom Steyer’s 2020 presidential campaign. Bostjancic is the open research policy and external affairs manager at Taylor and Francis, working with federal lawmakers around the issue of open science in America. He is a board member of YouthBuild PA; CHORUS, which facilitates access to and information about funded research; and Chi-Town GVP Summit.
Mari Boyle, who graduated from PennWest California in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in political science. While at California, she was president of the SAI board of directors, president of Delta Zeta, vice president of Student Government, news editor of Cal Times, and was involved in many other ways. She received her juris doctorate in 2021 from Penn State Dickinson Law, where she was senior editor of the Dickinson Law Review 2020-2021. She is a corporate litigation associate for Richards, Layton &Finger.
Courtney Cochran, who earned a bachelor’s degree in political science in 2012 and a master’s degree in legal studies in 2013, both from PennWest California. She has served as the interim executive director of the Campus Election Engagement Project (now Civic Influencers) and previously held positions as national, associate, fellowship and regional director. A veteran of creating and managing client relationships, Cochran has served on the boards of directors for many organizations, including chairing the Special Events Committee for California University of Pennsylvania Foundation, CARE Ownership and California University Alumni. Having had a successful career helping others engage in their communities and advising campuses on incorporating long-term sustainable programs, Cochran now works as communications associate for Hearing First.
Betty Cruz, a 2008 graduate of PennWest Edinboro with a bachelor’s degree in history. She holds an MPA from University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. In January 2020, Cruz became president and CEO of the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh. Prior to joining the council, she was a leader of Change Agency and project director for All for All, an immigration inclusion initiative. Cruz has extensive experience in community outreach, communications, partnership building and program management. She has developed city-wide initiatives for Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto, managed major accounts for a national nonprofit, and supported public relations for global brands. In recent years, Cruz has received the following accolades: 25 Essential Pittsburghers by NEXTpittsburgh in 2019, Pittsburgh Magazine 40 Under40, Global Pittsburgh Immigrant Champion, 2018 Women of Achievement, 2018 CLASS Community Heroes Award, Islamic Center of Pittsburgh for Humanity Day, The Incline as a Community Leader, Peace Islands Institute and Turkish Cultural Center for Public Service, 2014 YWCA Racial Justice Awardee in Government, and GSPIA 4 Under 40 Distinguished Alumnus. In 2015, Governor Tom Wolf appointed her to the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Latino Affairs. Originally from Miami, Florida, she is a daughter of Cuban immigrants and a first-generation college student. She is fluent in Spanish, Portuguese and English.
Caleb Gilliland, a 2019 graduate of PennWest Clarion with degrees in political science and secondary education. He is a real estate specialist for PennDOT, responsible for calculating settlement amounts for landowners whose property will be impacted by transportation projects. In college, Gilliland worked on a voter registration initiative for Next Gen Climate, interned briefly during the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, interned for Judge Debbie Kunselman (who won a seat in 2017 on Pennsylvania Superior Court) and managed the Conrad Warner for State House District 63 campaign. He was elected to Knox Borough Council in 2017. After graduating, he turned to public service and advocacy, working as a community development specialist for the Northwest Regional Planning and Development Commission. He also worked in the transportation planning department and helped with the PennDOT highway planning process.
Jeff Person, who brings 20 years of professional experience and relationships with consultants, candidates, elected officials, fundraisers and donors. He began working on campaigns in 2003 when he volunteered on the Dean for America presidential campaign. In 2006, he was a field volunteer for Jim Webb for Senate, and in 2008, he volunteered for Obama for America and was instrumental in getting out the vote in both Pennsylvania and Virginia. After graduating from PennWest Edinboro in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in political science, he was a field organizer in the Virginia House Democratic Caucus. In 2014, Person joined Virginia Victory 2014 and helped to re-elect Senator Mark Warner. In 2016, he moved to Michigan and worked on a congressional campaign, helping to increase voter turnout by 3%. He returned to Virginia to manage a state house primary with a $50,000 budget. In fall 2017, he managed a successful city council campaign and won by 800 votes. Person was a Joe Biden delegate from Virginia to the 2020 Democratic National Convention. He worked at Polity Fundraising & Strategies then Sterling Strategies, during the 2022 primary season. Person launched Blue Commonwealth Strategies, LLC, in March 2023, and a full-scale political consulting shop. He also launched Able Dems PAC to get Democrats with disabilities elected to office.
Tree Layton Zuzzio, a 2020 graduate of PennWest Clarion with a bachelor’s degree in business management and political science. He continued his education at the University of Pennsylvania to earn a master’s degree in social policy. He is an executive policy specialist in the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, based in Harrisburg. During his time at Clarion, he served as a student trustee, administrative chair of the Student Association and a new student mentor, and he participated in theatre. Zuzzio has volunteered for numerous campaigns on the state and local levels.