‘A great achievement’: Penn State summer grads cross stage with pride

Lititz native Austin Miller said after high school, he took four years off from studying because he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. But personal family experiences pushed him to get into psychology.

“Maybe it’s my way of giving back,” Miller said. “It’s always been interesting, and I kind of like to learn.

“It’s just too bad you don’t get paid to learn,” he added with a laugh.

Miller, 27, graduated Saturday with a bachelor’s degree, as Penn State handed out about 3,207 diplomas to students who completed associate, bachelor’s, master’s, law and doctoral degrees, said Penn State spokeswoman Jill Shockey.

Phrases such as “hi, mom,” “we are,” and “hire me,” were written on the blue caps of many Penn State students who walked the stage for summer commencement at the Bryce Jordan Center Saturday.

And for those graduates, it was a bittersweet moment as most said they would miss Penn State, but are looking forward to what their future holds.

Miller said he is going to take another year off from school to build his resume, work and study for the Graduate Record Examinations before he applies to graduate school.

“It’s a great achievement to be able to say you graduated and move on with your education,” Miller said. “I need to do quite a bit of research on where I’ll go, but I’ll definitely continue on with something in the psychology field.”

Penn State spokeswoman Lisa Powers said results are not yet in for summer graduates who will leave the university with full-time jobs awaiting them. But according to past statistics, 47 percent of Penn State graduates already have work lined up at graduation, while 20 percent were furthering their education, 27 percent were seeking employment and about 7 percent were doing other activities.

“We will continue to survey two to three months after graduation and the percentage of employed graduates will increase after the follow-up,” Powers said. “Generally, following three to six months after graduation, we find that of those students actively seeking jobs, 88 to 92 percent report employment.”

And on Saturday, although the Bryce Jordan Center was the site of graduation, the Nittany Lion Shrine was the place to be, as dozen of graduates and their families lined up for pictures.

“It’s special because it represents a symbol of Penn State,” said graduate Lindsay Johnson.

Her family accompanied her from Maryland as she held a thumbs up and a sign that said “We are ... Penn State.”

Penn State opened up the shrine for the weekend but will close it again to finish a summerlong construction project.

David Stachnik, from the Lehigh Valley, said although Penn State’s education is well worth the cost, the thing he’ll miss the most is $1 slices of pizza that he got most nights with friends or on his way to class.

What he said he wouldn’t miss, on the other hand, is taking the bus every day from his off-campus apartment. Stachnik said he and his family came up with a slogan: “I rode my Atherton off.”

“That was a pain, but everything was well worth it,” he said.

Stachnik made the dean’s list for six semesters and is the second in his family to walk the Penn State stage. His older brother, Mike Stachnik, was the first child in his family to do so.

“We’re Penn State proud,” their mother, Carol Stachnik, said.

David Stachnik graduated from the College of Education with a bachelor’s degree in rehabilitation and human services.

“It hasn’t really sunk in yet, but I’m really proud,” Stachnik said. “It just went by so fast.”

Stachnik said he will attend Penn State for his master’s degree and plans to pursue a career in the mental health professions.