UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The Penn State Law in University Park class of 2023 celebrated commencement on Saturday, May 13, 2023, in the Eisenhower Auditorium. Students, faculty, staff, alumni, family, and friends all gathered to mark the end of the graduates’ law school journey and the beginning of their next chapters. The class included 114 J.D. students, 134 LL.M. students, one S.J.D. student, and two M.L.S. students.
Each speaker to address the class throughout the ceremony noted the unique circumstances under which they attended law school, having begun under strict COVID-19 protocols, including Zoom classes, social distancing, and other pandemic-related challenges, as well as travel restrictions for international students.
“You navigated through beginning school remotely and then transitioned into a hybrid format, as together, we all learned how to adjust to social distancing and masking,” said Victor Romero, interim dean of Penn State Law and the School of International Affairs, Maureen B. Cavanaugh Distinguished Faculty Scholar, and professor of law.
“Nonetheless, you stepped up to lead and support one another in extraordinary ways. While there were probably more Zoom classes and meetings than you care to remember, still you carried on: With student organizations, law journals, moot court, mock trial – the life of the law school continued because of your fortitude and perseverance.”
Anny Gabriela Molina Ochoa, selected by her fellow LL.M. graduates to offer remarks, reflected on the diversity of this year’s LL.M. class, encouraged graduates to keep their “hearts full of compassion and their minds open to new ideas.”
Anny Gabriela Molina Ochoa, LL.M. graduate
As we go forward from this day,” she said, “let us not forget the responsibility that comes with the knowledge we have gained.”
This year’s commencement address was delivered by Zachary Brecheisen, a University Park graduate of the Penn State Dickinson School of Law class of 2012, who is currently a Partner at Jones Day in Pittsburgh, Pa. Throughout his speech, he emphasized that this class of attorneys, the “COVID Generation,” will be the ones to help older generations of lawyers to adapt and innovate to solve problems, but he also acknowledged the importance of simply showing up.
“To learn and to start your career, you need to show up,” Brecheisen advised. “As a new lawyer, you’re constantly going to be learning, almost through osmosis. You learn the skills that you can’t just read in a book or in an article. Those experienced lawyers didn’t get to where they are today by reading it, but by doing it. So, make an effort to show up and be present as much as you can.”
Zachary Brecheisen, '12, 2023 Commencement Speaker
Brecheisen concluded his speech with a focus on the future of each graduate and the strength of the network that backs them. “You are going to join an active and passionate alumni network who are equally proud to call ourselves Penn State lawyers. We will be there to support you. Nothing that happens in the future will change that. Be proud of your school, be proud of your degree, be proud of your colleagues, and most of all, be proud of yourself. You are all Penn State Lawyers.”
Following the conferring of the degrees and the individual recognition of each graduate, the final speaker, Chase Youngman, elected by the J.D. graduating class, took to the podium to deliver his remarks. After clarifying that ChatGPT did not, in fact, write his speech, he offered words of gratitude and encouragement to his fellow graduates.
“We are now equipped with the tools to make a difference in the world. We have the power to stand up for what is right, to fight for those who otherwise would not have a voice, and to advocate for justice in a world that desperately needs it.”
Chase Youngman, J.D. graduate
When I say that this class of 2023 will do amazing things, I’m not speaking out of some vague hope based on unfounded optimism,” he continued, “but of confidence rooted in an established track record of exemplary work.”
You can view the full Penn State Law 2023 Commencement Ceremony here.