My Road to Commencement: Mary Odei

Mary Odei wears her cap and gown in front of the Nittany Lion statue at Penn State Harrisburg

Mary Odei will receive her bachelor of science in marketing as part of Penn State Harrisburg’s Class of 2024.

Credit: Mary Odei

Mary Odei will receive her bachelor of science in marketing as part of Penn State Harrisburg’s Class of 2024. Here, Odei discusses her journey to commencement:

"Since starting college, I have aspired to be part of something bigger than myself, and I was blessed to have served as Student Government Association (SGA) president at Penn State Altoona in my second semester of my first year. This opportunity arose solely from my desire to challenge myself and get out of my comfort zone. Subsequently, I made the difficult decision to switch majors from nursing to marketing and change campuses, a transition that underscored my realization of adulthood and the impact of my actions on my future. Fortunately, Dani Fry, director of civic and student engagement at Penn State Altoona, facilitated my connection with Dr. Todd Clark, senior director of student services, here at Penn State Harrisburg, who introduced me to the SGA president at the time here and offered me the treasurer position."

"With my sister being an alumna of Penn State Harrisburg I had visited the campus a few times, so it was not completely foreign to me. The experience with SGA ignited my passion for our campus, allowing me to immerse myself in its heart through involvement with SGA and interactions with fellow students. I discovered the value of teamwork, community, and behind-the-scenes collaboration in planning events and advocating for my peers. Later, as a resident assistant, overseeing 40 plus residents, I honed my communication and leadership skills, fostering personal and academic growth amidst the demands of college life and maintained a place on the Dean’s List.

"My personal perseverance has been instrumental in shaping my college experience. Thanks to my faith and family, I continue to believe there is always a way to achieve anything. This mindset has enabled me to view failure not as a roadblock, but as an opportunity for growth. It has helped me to always keep my eyes on my end goal, instead of focusing on the obstacles that come along. There have been many instances that seemed insurmountable but my determination to succeed kept pushing me forward."

"A significant example was when I lost the SGA elections last year. It felt like the world was looking at me and my every move, looking at my failure. However, I still felt like I had unfinished business in serving the student body, in some way.

"Luckily, with incredible staff and the late Sheela Pandey, associate professor of management, we talked about having leaders, community speakers, and philanthropists come talk to students, as Dr. Pandey had done successfully in one of her classes.  I talked to Michelle Weber Colón, associate director of student DEI and student engagement, who referred me to Adrienne Thoman, coordinator of student leadership programs, and we re-established the Chancellor’s Leadership Access Student Program (CLASP) with me as an administrator. We had amazing cohort of determined and resilient students, and we got to hear from leaders from all over who were invited to campus, including national speaker Jia Jiang, the author of the 'Rejection Proof,' a book I read the summer after I lost the SGA election."

"Penn State Harrisburg has provided me with a community where I have a sense of belonging — a place I will always acknowledge playing a role in who I am and become in the future. Everyone was amazingly supportive, kind and encouraging. I have formed relationships that I see myself carrying into my next chapter of life. I value the relationships with professors, and how it is for them being advisers to some of the clubs and organizations students are involved in, and improving the understanding of course material. The staff here has made my journey an exceptional one with their unconditional reassurance, advice and dedication, all characteristics I will take with me as I graduate.

"Penn State Harrisburg has exposed me to be a true leader, self-less but also self-caring. I thank the campus for its diversity as a whole. The cultural awareness through various cultural festivals and celebrations I wouldn’t be able to participate in otherwise; volunteering trips through the Alternate Spring Break program, where we contributed to build a house; the honor to represent our university in competitions through the ProSales Club and connect with students all over the world; the Christian community I got to be part of that refreshed me every time we met, be it women’s group with InterVarsity or Impact Fellowship Sunday service have all enriched my college experience and my time here, refining who I am."

"After graduation I’ll spend half of the summer visiting family in Ghana. Later, I will begin a position as a marketing account specialist at WebFX, Until then I will focus on my YouTube channel, Kommarly, which I started my first year to discuss everything college-related and share my experiences and advice with viewers.

"I am grateful to Penn State Harrisburg for the people, memories, and experiences I’ve gained. When I reflect on great memories, friendships, and the Oprah Winfrey quote I live by — ‘You get in life get what you have the courage to ask for’ — I think of Penn State Harrisburg."