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Choices and Change Are Topics of Student Reflections at Spring Commencement

Two graduating seniors have been selected to speak at this year’s Commencement ceremonies. Both students were nominated by their academic departments and selected by a vote.

Abbie Marie Bender, a biology and philosophy double major with a chemistry minor from Waynesboro, will give her reflection at the morning ceremony, and Kasi Hicks, a communications media major with a minor in journalism from Harrisburg, will speak in the afternoon.

Abbie BenderBender chose to speak about persistence and change.

“Although it may sound counterintuitive at first, I don’t believe anyone has ‘changed’ in college,” Bender said. 

“I believe that we grow and expand. I want to focus people to the qualities about them that are permanent, and how growing is a life process in every way. And to accomplish that, I use a metaphor. I don’t want to give away the punchline, but that’s where the biology comes in.”

A student in the Robert E. Cook Honors College, Bender is a provost scholar and is graduating summa cum laude. She is a member of the IUP Ambassadors, Alpha Chi Sigma scientific service fraternity, Beta Beta Beta biology honor society, and the American Chemical Society. She served as an announcer for WIUP-FM, studied abroad in South Africa, presented a paper at a statewide philosophy conference, and worked with the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life and hospices in two counties.

Following graduation, she will attend Jefferson Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University. 

Kasi HicksFor Hicks’s speech, she looked to use allusion and drew inspiration from one of her favorite literary characters—Albus Dumbldore, J.K. Rowling’s headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” —Albus Dumbledore.”

“My main message is about choices,” Hicks said. “IUP has given us the skills and abilities to be successful in the real world, but [IUP] also taught us how to use them to make the right choices.”

Hicks, a provost scholar, is a member of the IUP chapter of the Golden Key International Honour Society. She was active with IUP-TV, the university’s student-run television station, and is a member of the IUP Relay for Life team raising funds for the American Cancer Society.

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