Student Commencement Speaker Raby-Reeger Finds Her Passion

Posted on 5/8/2019 1:09:31 PM

Stephanie Raby-Reeger Stephanie Raby-Reeger, of Blacklick, who will receive her bachelor’s degree in anthropology on May 11, 2019, at the 2:00 p.m. Commencement ceremony, was selected as the student commencement speaker.

Raby-Reeger isn’t bound by the traditional definition of success, and she isn’t afraid to change paths.
An IUP anthropology major with minors in English and religious studies, she is also a graduate of Wyotech, with a certification in automobile collision-refinishing, trim/upholstery, chassis fabrication, and high-performance motors. She received her certification (graduating with a perfect 4.0 grade point average) from the automobile repair certification program from Skyline Community College. 

But her passion is helping people—especially those with addiction and mental health issues—and eliminating the stigma of addiction. She’s interested in shedding light on the language we use and the beliefs we have about the people in our communities suffering from addiction and mental health issues.
She’s worked on a number of research projects as an undergraduate: “At the Intersection of Addiction, Spirituality, and Stigma: How Women Currently Navigating Recovery Define and Experience Stigma” (she hopes to further this research one day soon), and “The Adventure Learning Trail of Indiana, Pennsylvania,” which she also presented on with her Cultural Anthropology class at the Appalachian Regional Commission 2016 Appalachian Teaching Project Conference in Washington, DC. 

Raby-Reeger has been offered a position working in Allegheny County’s Department of Human Services; she’d eventually like to go on to earn a master’s degree in public health so she can one day influence public policy.

“I worked in hard, manual labor jobs before coming to IUP, and my body was affected,” she said. “I had to change paths. It was scary at first, I felt a little out of place among the traditional students, but as I got more comfortable, I became even more excited to learn,” she said. 

That excitement helped her to be successful in her studies, and she especially credits her faculty for encouraging her love of learning.

“The faculty here are phenomenal people, who really do care about teaching. For sure, the entire faculty in the Anthropology Department take a dedicated interest in their students.”

Raby-Reeger believes that anthropology is one of the disciplines that helps to tie the world together. One of her favorite quotations, from anthropologist Ruth Benedict, explains that “The purpose of anthropology is to make the world safe for human differences.”

“I’m very interested in learning about the actual lived experiences of women navigating recovery from addiction,” Raby-Reeger said. “I believe that if we start to share these stories, these experiences, with the larger community, we can help those who do not quite understand why these things happen, why people struggle with these types of issues, and help people better understand these issues and these women.

“If we can stimulate enough compassion from these shared experiences, then we can pull in more community members to help generate ideas for and implementation of real solutions that help uplift those who are struggling.”

Raby-Reeger and her husband, Jason, are the parents of two sons, Marcus and Matthew. She is an Addison Gibson Foundation Scholarship recipient and received an Academic Success Scholarship. She is a dean’s list student and provost scholar, and a member of the Lambda Alpha National Collegiate Honors Society for Anthropology (Epsilon chapter). She served as a member of the Dean’s Student Advisory Council; volunteers at the Evergreen Conservancy; volunteered at the Indiana Community Garden, and participated in collecting data used to initiate the Adventure Learning Trail of Downtown Indiana.

“I’m so honored to have been asked to speak, especially knowing that every department nominated one of their graduates. It’s very gratifying to have been given this honor.”

Her commencement remarks will focus on the theme of success and her own life’s journey, stressing that everyone needs to create their own definition of success, and that no one should be using another person’s definition to measure their own situation.

“I want my fellow graduates who hear my speech to realize that while it can be scary to leave the rewarding and enriching environment of the university, especially a place where we generally feel safe, that it’s okay to be unsure of your decisions. You’ll be making many decisions—some very big decisions—and your path might change many times. I want to remind everyone that it is in our control to define success—your success is defined by you, and that vision of success can change, and still be your right path.”