Fall 2019 Commencement Set for Dec. 14

KU diploma

KUTZTOWN, Pa. - Nearly 550 students will be awarded degrees during Kutztown University's fall commencement at 9 a.m., Saturday, Dec. 14, in O'Pake Fieldhouse. Dr. Kenneth S. Hawkinson, university president, and Dr. Anne Zayaitz, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, will preside.

Two graduating seniors and one faculty member will speak at the ceremony. Leah K. Lazzaro will serve as the graduate speaker, Michele L. Wagner will serve as the undergraduate speaker and Dr. Christopher F. Sacchi, professor and department chair of Biological Sciences, will serve as the faculty speaker.

Kutztown University will provide complete coverage, including live video, photos and more, of its commencement ceremonies. A special thank you to students and professors from the Department of Cinema, Television and Media Production and technician Barry Peterson, for teaming with the Marketing & Communications office to provide Saturday's live coverage. Further information on commencement coverage can be found on the commencement coverage website.  

Faculty speaker, Dr. Christopher F. Sacchi of Lower Macungie Township, Pa., is the biological sciences department chair and professor of biology at Kutztown University. Dr. Sacchi teaches courses in botany, ecology and environmental science. Sacchi graduated cum laude from Fairfield University with a Bachelor of Science in biology. He earned a Master of Science in zoology/ecology from Rutgers University and a doctorate in biological sciences with a focus in zoology and plant ecology from Northern Arizona University.

At KU, he has been co-principal investigator on three separate educational grants, written with his colleagues. Two of these grants have brought significant innovative technology to the university's biological sciences department. These included digital imaging technology and physiology equipment. Sacchi is a plant ecologist specializing in the reproductive biology of native and introduced plant species, with a focus on abiotic and biotic factors influencing plant growth and reproduction as is evident from his dissertation, “Reproductive Ecology of the Arroyo Willow, Salix lasiolepis.” He has a particular interest in plant-herbivore and plant-pollinator interactions. Despite an impressive list of publications, awards and honors, research work and presentations, Sacchi’s true love is teaching.

Teaching since 1978, Sacchi has been with KU for 22 years. Even when not in the classroom, he maintains his passion for teaching with his avid volunteerism. He is a plant and eco-tour guide as well as a research associate with Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, and serves on the Environmental Advisory Council in his local community.

Graduate speaker, Leah K. Lazzaro of East Brunswick, N.J., graduates with her doctorate in social work. She holds bachelor degrees in psychology and women’s studies from The Pennsylvania State University and a Master of Social Work concentrating on international and community development. Lazzaro has presented her work at conferences across the U.S., co-authored an essential grant proposal and is a contributor to the publication, “Forensic Social Work: Psychological and legal issues in diverse practice settings.”

Lazzaro wrote her dissertation on social work educators’ perceptions of their leadership and management competencies. She holds a position as an adjunct professor at Monmouth University. She has more than 13 years experience in social work education, where she coordinates a robust field education program for bachelor and master of social work students, and a professional education program that provides continuing education workshops for social workers in the community.

Lazzaro has two children, a supportive partner and extended family to whom she attributes much of her success. She is incredibly proud of her experience and as one of the students graduating from the fairly new Doctor of Social Work program at KU. Commencement is a moment to celebrate her endeavors to contribute high-quality teaching and effective social work to her community and the world.

Undergraduate speaker, Michele L. Wagner of Fredericksburg, Pa., graduates with a Bachelor of Science in criminal justice. After receiving an associate's degree in arts from Lehigh County Community College in 1989, she halted her pursuit of higher education to move into a meaningful career. This path led her to return to KU after years of working and raising a family.

Wagner started a 15-year career with the Pennsylvania State Police as a police communications operator, later moving to the Pennsylvania Criminal Intelligence Center (PaCIC) as a research analyst and then climbing higher to her current position as an intelligence analyst. Her journey to further her education began with the endeavor to further a career she loves, which took time to discover. Balancing her academic success with a family and demanding career, she continues her path with new achievements in education.

Wagner’s real-world experience has been invaluable to both her classmates and professors as she brings up-to-date insight from the field. Her long journey has been filled with twists and surprises which she shows can be framed as opportunities, rather than obstacles. After graduation, she plans to continue with PaCIC, taking on new challenges and seizing opportunities in her career.

For more information, visit www.kutztown.edu/commencement.