Pennsylvania Western University will celebrate the academic achievements of more than 2,600 graduates during six spring commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 6.

Ceremonies will begin at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on the PennWest California, Clarion and Edinboro campuses.

Undergraduate and graduate students from the colleges of Arts & Humanities; Business, Communication & Information Science; and Social Science and Human Services will participate in the 10 a.m. ceremony on each campus. The afternoon ceremonies will include students from the colleges of Education; Health Sciences; and Natural Science & Engineering Technology.

In addition to remarks by university, trustee and alumni representatives, five graduates who have showcased a commitment to campus life and community service will address fellow members of the Class of 2023.

Faculty mace bearers will also represent their colleagues at each ceremony. The mace bearer distinction emphasizes the importance of faculty in PennWest’s academic environment and the central role that faculty play in the academic and personal development of students.

Ceremony details:


Dr. Thomas Wickham, interim dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Engineering Technology, will serve as the master of ceremonies at the California campus. Experienced in resource management, community recreation planning and public administration, Wickham joined the California faculty in 2000 and was recognized with the Pennsylvania Geographical Society’s 2011 Distinguished Teacher Award.

Interim Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Brenda Fredette will confer degrees upon nearly 1,000 graduates during the two ceremonies in the Convocation Center.

Dr. Donna Wilson, vice chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs and chief academic officer for Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education, will speak on behalf of the Chancellor’s Office.

PennWest student Alyssa Lambert-Alonso, who will earn dual degrees in criminal justice and psychology, will provide the student address at the 10 a.m. ceremony. She was born and raised in New Jersey, but moved to Uniontown, Pennsylvania, where she graduated from Laurel Highlands High School.

While at PennWest, Lambert-Alonso was a member of the honors program and served as president of the Criminal Justice Club and Alpha Phi Sigma Criminal Justice Honor Society. She also served as the 2022 membership vice president of Gamma Sigma Sigma and a senator for the Student Government Association.

Kristen Hartz, a native of Perryopolis, Pennsylvania, will present the student address during the afternoon ceremony. Hartz will earn a degree in mathematics with a statistics concentration and minors in computer science and finance.

During her time as an undergraduate, Hartz has been a tutor, a supplemental instruction leader and a volunteer peer mentor. In the summers, she was a new student orientation leader. She belongs to Pi Mu Epsilon Mathematics Honor Society and Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society. She also served as the president of PennWest’s Math Club.

Additional speakers include Larry Maggi ’75 (10 a.m.) and Barry Niccolai ’93 (2 p.m.) from PennWest’s Council of Trustees and A. Tereasa Rerko ’79, vice president of the California Alumni Association Board of Directors.

During the 2 p.m. ceremony, a posthumous honorary Doctor of Humane Letters will be awarded to the late Gail Artyth George Lese for her legacy of service to PennWest California. She was a member of the Cal U Alumni Association board of directors and served on the Council of Trustees for more than 14 years. Her husband, Dr. Alexander Lese, will accept on her behalf.

Dr. Elizabeth Gruber, professor in the Department of Counseling, and Joseph Schickel, assistant professor in the Department of Applied Engineering, Technology and Physics, will serve as mace bearers.


Dr. Phillip Frese, dean of the College of Business, Communication and Information Sciences, and Dr. Deborah Kelly, dean of Health Sciences at PennWest, will serve as master of ceremonies at the 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. ceremonies, respectively.

Prior to PennWest, Frese was dean of Clarion’s College of Business Administration and Information Science, beginning in 2013. Kelly was chairperson and a faculty member in the Department of Nursing at Clarion University for 19 years. She taught in the ASN, RN-BSN, MSN and DNP programs.

Degrees will be conferred on more than 600 graduates by James Geiger, vice president for Advancement and Clarion campus administrator, in Waldo S. Tippin Gymnasium.

Sam Shannon of Vandergrift, Pennsylvania, will provide the student address at both Clarion ceremonies. Shannon will graduate summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and a Bachelor of Science in Education in Secondary Mathematics Education – along with honors distinction.

Outside of academics, Shannon was an active student leader in many groups, serving on Student Senate for three years as a general senator, treasurer and president. He also served as president of Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity and has been an active brother since spring of 2020.

Additional speakers include J.D. Dunbar ’77, ’79 (10 a.m.) and Student Trustee Kathryn Robinson (2 p.m.) from PennWest’s Council of Trustees and David Reed ’09, president of the Clarion Alumni Association Board of Directors.

Leading the academic processions and representing their faculty colleagues by carrying the Ceremonial Mace will be Dr. Tony Johns, professor in the Department of Management and Marketing, and Dr. Anthony J. Vega, professor in the Department of Geosciences.


Dr. Mary Paniccia Carden, interim dean, College of Arts and Humanities, will serve as master of ceremonies at Edinboro. Before assuming her current role, Carden was an English faculty member at Edinboro for 20 years, a department chairperson and a two-time Scholar of the Year.

Acting President Bernotsky will confer degrees upon more than 600 graduates during the two ceremonies in McComb Fieldhouse.

Emily Muñiz, a Puerto Rican and Japanese first-generation student from Oxford, Pennsylvania, will deliver the student address at the 10 a.m. ceremony. She double-majored in political science and psychology with a pre-law minor.

This year, she served as president of Model UN and Model NATO, president of Edinboro’s Phi Alpha Delta, and worked as both a student facilitator and a community outreach officer in the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Muñiz was also part of the President’s Leadership Academy, served on several integration committees, was a research assistant and tutored for the writing center. She previously served as president for Edinboro’s Student Government Association and was involved in several clubs.

Fairfield, Pennsylvania, native Page Karsteter will address his fellow graduates at the afternoon ceremony. Karsteter is earning a degree in biochemistry and fermentation science with a minor in biology.

While at PennWest Edinboro, he served as the vice president of the Student Government Association, and he is a brother of Lambda Chi Alpha.

Additional speakers include Kathy Pape ’75, chair of PennWest’s Council of Trustees, and Daniel Higham ’70, past president of the Edinboro Alumni Association Board of Directors.

Retired English faculty member Dr. Roger Solberg will serve as mace bearer. Solberg was named Faculty Member of the Year in 2017.