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Penn State Law in University Park celebrates Class of 2021

Students, faculty, staff, friends, and family all gathered together—in person and online—to celebrate the Penn State Law in University Park Class of 2021 at a hybrid commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 15.
2021 commencement collage

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Students, faculty, staff, friends, and family all gathered together—in person and online—to celebrate the Penn State Law in University Park Class of 2021 at a hybrid commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 15. The ceremony, which was held on the lawn of the Lewis Katz Building and livestreamed for those not in person, recognized the achievements of 117 juris doctor (J.D.) and 20 master of laws (LL.M.) graduates.

“The Class of 2021 embodies the Penn State values of integrity, respect, responsibility, discovery, excellence, and community, and they have already achieved so much during their time at Penn State Law," said Dr. Hari M. Osofsky, Dean of Penn State Law and the School of International Affairs, Distinguished Professor of Law, and Professor of International Affairs and Geography. “Our graduates have shown resiliency, support for one another, and leadership, particularly during the intersectional challenges of this past year. We are so proud of them and excited for all that they will contribute to the legal profession.”

Among the accomplishments of the Class of 2021:

  • Filed a petition for certiorari before the U.S. Supreme Court;
  • Will present oral argument to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in May 2021;
  • Represented Penn State Law in mock trial and moot court competitions, including members of the Black Law Students Association (BLSA) advancing to nationals;
  • Helped three widows of Vietnam veterans obtain survivor benefits for life;
  • Two graduates selected for commissioning as Judge Advocates in the U.S. military;
  • Raised money for student scholarships and a veterans organization;
  • Developed trainings on inclusive excellence and immigration for the local school district and partnered with the municipality to welcome international students; and
  • Played a crucial leadership role in developing and advancing action steps on diversity, equity, and inclusion 

Commencement opened with the singing of the National Anthem by Rebecca Heisner, member of the 2021 graduating class, and included remarks by Dean Osofsky and an address by this year’s commencement speaker, the Honorable Erika M. Edwards.

Justice Edwards is a Penn State alumna and current New York County Supreme Court Judge. In her remarks, Justice Edwards explained what it means, from her perspective, to be a Penn State lawyer.

“To me, a Penn State lawyer is a problem solver, not a problem starter. It's a negotiator, a great listener. It's a social engineer, someone who finds ways to make things better, who finds ways to help people using concepts of justice, fairness, advocacy, civic engagement, leadership, and equality at all times,” she said. “A Penn State lawyer finds a way to make the world a better place than it was before you even got here.”

Effecting positive change, Justice Edwards added, starts with yourself.

“I don't want you to think that you have to do everything and save the world, and I'm not expecting you to solve all of the world's problems on your own,” she said. “But what I am expecting you to do and what I ask you to consider, is to never stop trying. Always find a way to make yourself better so that you can help others and make the world a better place.” 

In addition to Justice Edwards and Dean Osofsky, the commencement ceremony included two speakers—graduates Lindah Mhando and Ryan Morrison—who were selected by their peers to represent them as class speakers during commencement. In their remarks, Mhando and Morrison emphasized the themes of justice, advocacy, and community.

“At this juncture, the world so desperately needs committed advocates like you to serve just causes and protect the vulnerable,” said Morrison, who earned a J.D. degree. “I am so proud to know so many of these committed advocates in my beloved Class of 2021. It pleases me to know that so many of you will go on to serve the just causes of those who need us.”

And as the Class of 2021 takes the next step in their professional and personal lives, they will not be alone. As Justice Edwards and others remarked, they will have the strength of Penn State and the Penn State Law community behind them.

“I hope we will use this network we have created to enact change; we have a responsibility to humanity,” said Mhando, who earned an LL.M. degree. “Congratulations again to the Class of 2021 and cheers to your bright future.”

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