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Point Park University celebrated the graduation of undergraduate and graduate students on Friday, April 26, 2024, at PPG Paints Arena.

Graduate Hooding Ceremony

At Graduate Hooding, the University conferred 209 master's degrees and 19 doctoral degrees. Tyler Cook, Ed.D., an alumnus of the Leadership and Administration program, gave the keynote address. Cook, who completed his degree in 2020 and therefore did not have a graduate hooding ceremony, said that he did not take for granted this "full-circle moment." "In many ways, I feel like I'm one of you today," he said. 

Cook encouraged the graduates to lead in a way that is true to their value system and builds up those around them: "This commencement is a byproduct of you pursuing your purpose — a purpose that is not simply just for you but is for your world around you. Because whatever field you enter, whatever career path you're in, whatever opportunity arises in your life, you are a leader. It's plain and simple: you have influence and you have impact. Your life on display impacts the lives of those around you."

Dr. Tyler Cook '20 gave the Graduate Hooding keynote address.


Aryanna Wagner, who received a Ph.D. in Community Engagement, was the student speaker. Wagner, a mother of four, grew up in a family of 10 children and served in the Army. As a graduate assistant, Wagner was instrumental in bringing back a Veteran's Day recognition ceremony on campus. 

"Embrace the diversity of thought and experience you've been exposed to, and use it as a foundation to innovate, lead and inspire change," Wagner said to her fellow graduates. "Remember, the pursuit of excellence is not a solo endeavor but a collective one, where your actions can ignite the potential in others." 

Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony

The University conferred 536 bachelor's degrees at Undergraduate Commencement. In his charge to the graduates, President Chris Brussalis  acknowleded the challenges this class has faced: "You were handed a unique test of your strength, resilience and adaptability, as the world faced unprecedented challenges brought on by a global pandemic. You began your academic journey amidst uncertainty, navigating COVID-19 restrictions, remote learning and the loss of traditional high school milestones like prom and in-person graduation. Despite these obstacles, you have demonstrated remarkable resilience and determination." 

Brussalis went on to call out the unique accomplishments of a handful of graduating students, eliciting cheers from the audience and, in some cases, an emotional response from the student as their success story was shared. 

President Chris Brussalis gave a charge to the graduates.


Daryl Fields, M.D., Ph.D., gave the keynote address. Fields, a neurosurgery resident at the University of Pittsburgh, was recently named to the Point Park University Board of Trustees.

Fields shared his own journey of finding his way into his current career and told students to pursue different experiences as a way of discovering their own calling in life: "Experience is going to inspire passion, and passion is going to define purpose. When you find your purpose, persist and always move forward." He continued, "Journeys are rarely linear, but when guided by passion and a sense of purpose, they are always worthwhile."

Dr. Daryl Fields was the Commencement keynote speaker.


Anna King Skeels, who received a B.F.A. in Theatre Arts, was the student speaker. Skeels encouraged the graduating class to be open to an imperfect future: "I wanted so badly to have the perfect college experience. There's no such thing. It hasn't been perfect. It has been dynamic. It has been inspiring. It has been really, really hard. So, Class of 2024, I don't hope your future is perfect. I hope it challenges you. I hope it shows you things you never could've imagined."

Two faculty members were awarded with the Distinguished Teaching Award. Professors were nominated by students, staff and faculty, and the winners were selected by members of the Campus Academic Resources Committee, chaired by Linda Hippert, Ed.D. At the ceremony, she announced the winners: full-time professor Jessica McCort, Ph.D. and part-time professor and director of the Center for Media Innovation, Andrew Conte, Ph.D. The winners will receive a stipend and framed certificate. 

After turning their tassles to the left, the graduates were officially welcomed into the Alumni Association by Matthew Spadaccia '19 from the Alumni Board of Directors. "It's crazy how small the world truly becomes when you mention that you went to Point Park," he said, encouraging them to utilize their connection to the University to their advantage. 

Jaquel Spivey '21 surprised the graduates with an appearance.


In the final moments of the ceremony, the class of 2024 was given the surprise visit of alumnus Jaquel Spivey '21 who starred in the 2024 feature film "Mean Girls" and was nominated for a Tony for his performance in the Broadway show, "A Strange Loop." Spivey took the podium to thunderous applause and addressed the graduating class with some spontaneous words: "The world is still discovering who Point Park is and what Point Park is, and they don't know the beauty and excellence that is in this university. I hope you leave here today and you are loud and proud that you went to Point Park University."

More About: PPG Paints Arena, commencement, School of Arts and Sciences Alumni, community engagement, School of Education, alumni, School of Communication, Conservatory of Performing Arts, theatre arts, Center for Media Innovation, faculty, graduate hooding, Ed.D. in leadership and administration, Rowland School of Business