Commencement - Penn State Altoona

Spring 2015 Commencement

Penn State Altoona's spring 2015 commencement ceremony will be held on Saturday, May 9, 2015 at 10:00 a.m. in the Jaffa Shrine in Altoona.

GRADUATES, click Commencement Details on the menu to find out more about the ceremony.

#PSUgrad — Share the experience!

Soon-to-be graduates and families of soon-to-be graduates: Tell the world about your tremendous accomplishments. Share your photos and your thoughts and include the #PSUgrad hashtag on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and Google+.


Because of the large number of seats available at the Jaffa Shrine, no tickets are required for guests to attend the ceremony. Likewise there is no limit on the number of guests per graduate.

Professional Photography

To commemorate this milestone occasion, a professional photograph will be taken of each graduate being congratulated by the chancellor. No pre-orders will be taken. Rather, photos can be viewed and ordered after commencement by visiting the Film Center's Web site.

In order to avoid congestion and to maintain decorum during the ceremony, we ask that family and friends refrain from approaching the platform when taking pictures or using a video camera.

About the Jaffa Shrine

Altoona’s Jaffa Temple was chartered on July 9, 1903; the dedication of the Jaffa Mosque at Chestnut Avenue and Seventeenth Street occurred on August 29, 1920. Rapid growth of membership resulted in the establishment of larger headquarters.

Thus, on September 25, 1930, the present Jaffa Shrine was dedicated and opened, celebrating twenty-seven years of growth and development.

Although the Jaffa Shrine has not changed since its dedication, through efforts of the trustees and the Jaffa Improvement Association, thousands of dollars have been expended each year to update and improve the building. Various activities, both social and philanthropic, have been the source of the Shrine’s success over the years.

The Shrine Circus each spring is the biggest and most successful activity at the Shrine, hosting nearly 6,000 persons, including hundreds of school children. The Jaffa Shrine also is host to concerts, seminars, trade shows, banquets, and other events throughout the year. Penn State Altoona celebrated it seventieth anniversary at the Jaffa Shrine on October 25, 2009, with a concert by the Doobie Brothers.

Commencement Speaker

Cameron Conaway

Cameron Conaway

Cameron Conaway, an Altoona native and a 2007 graduate of Penn State Altoona, is a former mixed martial arts fighter, a certified personal trainer through the National Strength & Conditioning Association, a human rights activist and the author of five books, including Malaria, Poems (Michigan State University Press, 2014), one of only five poetry collections to make NPR’s Best Books of 2014 list.

In his four years at Penn State Altoona, Conaway had three professional fights; was nominated for an Irene Ryan National Acting Scholarship for his role as Jason in Medea, an ancient Greek tragedy by Euripides; received the 2006 Richard Russo Award for Creative Writing and the 2007 Richard Russo Award for Literary Criticism; and worked part-time at the produce department at Martin’s Food Market while pursuing a dual major bachelor of arts degree. His first major, criminal justice, allowed him to explore the nature of local and global crime through the lens of social and restorative justice. His second major, English, provided him with the tools to write in a variety of genres, but, more importantly, it helped him answer the difficult question many college students have to face: What do you want to be? Through the guidance and mentorship of Penn State Altoona’s English program faculty, Conaway found his answer: he wanted to be a writer.

Upon graduation he became the Poet-in-Residence at the University of Arizona’s MFA Creative Writing Program. This allowed him to pursue a Master of Fine Arts degree while teaching poetry to at-risk youth throughout Arizona. This took him to the Tohono O’odham Native American Reservation and into the Pima County Juvenile Detention Center, which became the spark and setting for his first book Until You Make the Shore, a book one reviewer described as inhabiting “the humanity of mind, justice and traumatic childhood as it carves its way through system and harsh realities to see where empathy shines.”

Conaway then lived in Thailand for nearly three years. During this time he trained in muay Thai kickboxing—Thailand’s national sport—and traveled throughout Southeast Asia where he worked as a freelance journalist with a particular interest in one of the most pressing human rights issues of our time: modern-day slavery. Conaway wrote about such topics as slavery in the shrimp industry of Thailand, the disempowerment of women in Vietnam, gender-based violence in India, the sexual exploitation of boys in Cambodia, and the human and environmental abuses within the shipbreaking yards of Chittagong, Bangladesh.

Conaway’s writing has appeared in publications such as Newsweek, ESPN and The Guardian, and has led to speaking engagements with Al Jazeera America, the University of Richmond, the University of Tennessee, Dartmouth College, and the Child Labor Coalition, among others. His commitment to wielding words for the sake of positive social change have led to him receiving writing grants from the Wellcome Trust, a biomedical research charity in London, and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, a non-profit organization that supports independent international journalism on underreported global issues.

Conaway has served as a United Nations Social Good Fellow, as a Rotary International End Polio Now “HistoryMaker” and as the Emerging Writer-in-Residence at Penn State Altoona. He currently serves on the Editorial Board at Slavery Today: A Multidisciplinary Journal of Human Trafficking Solutions. Conaway now lives with his wife in Philadelphia, where he’s an instructor at Penn State Brandywine.

For questions concerning commencement ceremonies:
Contact the Office of University Relations
Beech House, 814-949-5105

For questions concerning graduation requirements:
Contact , Registrar
E130 Smith Building, 814-949-5035