Pennsylvania Western University’s California campus will hold spring commencement ceremonies at 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Saturday, May 4, in the Convocation Center.

Undergraduate and graduate students from the College of Education, Arts, and Humanities and the College of Science, Technology, and Business will participate in the 10 a.m. ceremony. The afternoon ceremony will include students from the College of Health Sciences and Human Services.

10 a.m.: California Commencement Livestream
2:30 p.m.: California Commencement Livestream

“We look forward to celebrating the outstanding achievements of the Class of 2024, remembering that education isn’t a destination; it’s a lifelong adventure of curiosity, exploration and knowledge,” said Dr. R. Lorraine Bernotsky, interim president of PennWest. “There’s no doubt that the hard work and commitment that fueled these graduates on our campuses will propel them forward throughout the next steps of their personal and professional journeys.”

Bernotsky will confer associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees upon graduates during the two ceremonies.

Dr. Brenda Fredette, dean of the College of Science, Technology, and Business, will serve as master of ceremonies at the California campus. A strong proponent of active, student-centered learning, Fredette joined the California campus in 2018.

Sarah Seader, a Centerville, Pennsylvania, native and member of the PennWest University honors program, will provide the student address at the 10 a.m. ceremony. Seader will graduate summa cum laude with dual degrees in business administration management and management information systems, and a pair of certificates in innovation and entrepreneurship and data science, all of which she accomplished in three years while maintaining a 4.0 GPA.

Seader serves as California’s student representative to the PennWest University Council of Trustees and editor-in-chief of the CalTimes student newspaper. She is president of Student Association Inc., president of DECA, vice president of the Student Government Association, vice president of Finance Club, treasurer for the Accounting Club, senior advisor and past president of Alpha Lambda Delta and a member of several student and professional organizations.

Following graduation, Seader will work at PNC Financial Services in Pittsburgh. She plans to simultaneously pursue her MBA and remain an active alum of PennWest California.

Olivio Russo, who will earn a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a minor in political science, will speak at the afternoon ceremony.

The Verona, Pennsylvania, native maintained two work-study positions on campus while serving as treasurer and vice president of Rainbow Alliance and working as a student senator and committee chair for the Student Government Association.

After graduation, Russo plans to pursue a master’s degree in legal studies at PennWest and later attend law school to specialize in public interest or environmental law. She aims to be a lifelong advocate for change and a champion for social justice.

Additional speakers include Kathy Pape (10 a.m.) and Larry Maggi (2:30 p.m.) from PennWest’s Council of Trustees and A. Tereasa Rerko ’79, ’20, president of the California Alumni Association Board of Directors.

Leading the academic procession and representing his faculty colleagues by carrying the Ceremonial Mace will be Dr. Sean Madden, professor of history and director of global studies in the Department of Criminal Justice, History, and Politics.

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.

Members of California Army ROTC will present the colors at the beginning of both ceremonies. Music will be provided by the PennWest California choir, directed by Yugo Sava Ikach, and organist Yana Tyulkova.

During the 10 a.m. ceremony, a posthumous Bachelor of Arts in theatre will be awarded to California alumnus and emeritus professor Dr. C. R. Thomas. His wife, Linda, will accept on his behalf.

Thomas retired in 2002 after more than 35 years of teaching English at the California campus. A U.S. Marine Corps veteran, accomplished writer and lifelong learner, Thomas was studying theatre at PennWest when he passed away in September 2023. Among his five college degrees were a BSBA in finance and economics and an M.Ed. in social and emotional behavior from the California campus.

Additional information for graduates and guests is available here.