Thursday, March 21, 2024

Courage and Compassion: Celebrating Women's History Month


March is Women’s History Month. Growing up in a family with six sisters and a selfless, compassionate mother shaped my life beyond measure. I am forever grateful for their support, encouragement, and friendship. During my time as an undergraduate at Temple University I had the great fortune to meet my wife Deanna. She has been a constant source of love and inspiration. It has been the honor of my life to partner with her in raising our strong, confident, and caring daughter Lauren. I am enormously proud of the woman she has become.

I encourage you to use the occasion of Women’s History Month to recognize, celebrate, and thank the women in your life. Without doubt, there are influential women from family members to friends, teachers, professors, caregivers and countless other roles who have helped you become the person you are today.

This year’s official theme for Women’s History Month is “Women Who Advocate for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.” At Commonwealth University, we have many exceptional women working to promote and advance these ideals. I am grateful for the work they do every day in service to our students and our communities.

Women throughout history have been indefatigable champions for equality and fairness. Let us be reminded of their brave spirits as we continue the good work they started to ensure that our places of learning, working, and living are warm, welcoming, and open to all.

Inspirational leader and changemaker Malala Yousafzai said, “I raise up my voice—not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard…We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back.” To our students, I say keep raising your voice in support of your future and those around you. Use it to lift up the women in your life and look for ways to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in all that you do. You have the power to challenge and change the status quo—just as so many women before have done.

Finally, as we celebrate Women’s History Month take a moment to reflect on the women who have made a difference in your life and those who have made a difference in the world. Think about the courage and compassion they have shown in their support for you and through their efforts to make the world a little more kind and welcoming. Let’s challenge ourselves to follow their example and act with both courage and kindness. And remember that courage looks different for all of us. In the words of writer Mary Anne Radmacher, “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.”

Bashar W. Hanna, President 


Celebrating our Courageous and Compassionate CU Students 

A group of CU-Mansfield students in the lab

CU-Bloomsburg students volunteering at the annual Big Event. 

The talent of our CU-Lock Haven student-athletes shines on and off the field. 


Monday, February 26, 2024

The Time is Now: Reflections on Black History Month

 “The time is always right to do what is right.”—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

As we near the end of Black History Month, I find myself reflecting on the words of several champions of equality. Dr. King was a pioneer of the civil rights movement and a proponent of kindness, empathy, and social justice.  He believed these qualities when pursued together would make our world a more openhearted, fair, and equitable place for all people to pursue their dreams. That was, after all, Dr. King’s central message—that all people should have the right to dream and the freedom to work toward the fulfillment of such dreams.

I am so proud of the efforts of so many passionate Commonwealth University colleagues who embody Dr. King’s message and are continually doing what is right for our students and our community. Over the past month, close to two dozen Black History Month events have taken place across all CU locations. From “Lunch and Learn” events to movie nights, day trips, and speakers, our students have had the opportunity to engage in a wide-ranging offering of events designed to expand their knowledge, understanding, and appreciation for Black History.

The 2024 Sankofa Conference, hosted by the Bloomsburg Multicultural Center, saw students from all CU locations come together to learn more about the rich cultural heritage of people of African descent. Sankofa has long provided a forum for unity and understanding among students. It is heartening to see students from diverse backgrounds come together with a genuine desire to improve their own understanding and thereby begin to foster change in their own lives and communities.

Students from across CU's locations came together for the 2024 Sankofa Conference 

Sankofa is a tremendous example of what is possible when we strive to live by Dr. King’s principles—to endeavor to do what is right and to bring people along on that journey with us. I want to thank our CU students, staff, and faculty for their heartfelt efforts in celebration and recognition of Black History Month. I truly believe that the work we are doing together is making an impact, both in our campus communities and the communities they call home.

Maya Angelou said, “We may encounter defeats, but we must not be defeated.” Progress does not mean perfection and though there may be times when it feels like every step we take forward leads to two steps back, I encourage you to remember the words of Ms. Angelou. When you encounter defeats or experience hardships, when the world is less than kind and injustice seems to prevail, take heart in knowing that you are surrounded by people who care about you and share your values. Take heart in the words and lessons of leaders like Dr. King who kept pushing forward no matter what. And he did so with the support of good, and kind, and caring people who saw the world the same way he did—for all its beauty, possibility and flaws.

As Black History Month comes to an end, my hope is that you will take its lessons and inspiration with you and work to make positive changes through your words and actions. It is truly amazing what can be accomplished when we all make small steps together in the same direction.

Bashar W. Hanna, President 

Thursday, December 7, 2023

Season's Greetings

As we approach the end of the fall semester across our Commonwealth University locations, please enjoy this holiday message

I wish you a safe, happy, and restorative holiday season. 

Bashar W. Hanna, President 

Monday, November 20, 2023

A Spirit of Gratitude

Here in Pennsylvania, the weather has let us know that the holidays and winter are fast approaching. With the changing of the seasons comes the opportunity to reflect and acknowledge the accomplishments of the past year while giving thanks for the remarkable team at Commonwealth University that has made it all possible.

Reflecting on this past year fills me with pride and gratitude for our Commonwealth University family. Together, we continue to work every day toward providing students a life-changing education. I am continually inspired by the classroom stories about everything our students are doing, learning, and achieving together. Great achievements are happening at Commonwealth U thanks to our dedicated faculty and staff who hold our students as their first priority.

It is easy to get caught up in the “busyness” of our life and work—to keep pushing and striving to achieve the next goal, submit the next assignment, complete the next project. This tight focus and striving often prevents us from taking a step back and recognizing how far we have come and all we have accomplished.

As we enter this season of gratitude and thanksgiving, I encourage you to do just that. Take time to consider the strides you have made in your life, your work and your pursuits over the past year. Perhaps this year marked monumental change in your life, moving away from home, beginning a new journey, taking on a challenge that, at the time, seemed insurmountable. Perhaps this year brings you closer to the accomplishment of major goals and milestones. Whatever situation you are in, I urge you to be gracious with yourself—to look back on the achievement of both the big and small goals with pride.

This time of the semester can be challenging as we look to finish strong and complete our end-of- semester tasks and assignments. Taking time to connect and socialize can be difficult this time of year given the expectations we place upon ourselves and the impending rush of the holiday season. I encourage you to reach out for the help and support of your family, friends, professors, and staff. During times of stress and anxiety, it is important to look to one another for support. As a Commonwealth University family, we care about one another. So, let’s protect one another and take time for the things that matter most this time of year.

I encourage each of us, as we endeavor to end the semester strong and tackle our holiday responsibilities, to prioritize time for reflection, self-care, and gratitude. Don’t be afraid to take a break. Go for a walk, call a friend you haven’t talked to in months, have lunch with a coworker or classmate. Tell someone how much their friendship or encouragement has meant to you over the past few months. We are all at our best when we’re surrounded by people we care about and doing the small things that lift our spirits and fill our hearts with gratitude. That is my hope for all of us as we enter this holiday season.

Bashar W. Hanna, President 

Monday, October 30, 2023

Students First: CU Launches Strategic Plan

Earlier this month, Commonwealth University’s Council of Trustees formally approved and endorsed the university’s first-ever strategic plan.

The life of a university is marked by many notable milestones. As Commonwealth University continues to grow and evolve, the launch of our first strategic plan is an important accomplishment. I am proud beyond measure of the talented team members who have devoted their time, energy, and talent to the strategic planning process over the past year. Their collaborative efforts have brought forward a long-range plan that is notable for its focus and commitment to putting students first.

Each of the plan’s four strategic priorities is built around the principle that students are at the heart of our mission, goals, and purpose. Not only does the plan lay out measurements of success through well-defined metrics, but each of the plan’s strategic priorities is buoyed by three core commitments that will guide and inform our work well into the future.  

Strategic Plan Priorities

·         Student Success

·         Academic Excellence and Innovation

·         University Success

·         Welcoming and Inclusive Community


Strategic Plan Core Commitments

·         Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging

·         Strategic Communications

·         Thriving Students, Faculty, and Staff

The four priority areas speak to our areas of greatest urgency and significance, starting with student success. As we implement the strategic plan, we will offer inclusive support to meet the needs of all students as we champion initiatives designed to provide meaningful opportunities for career readiness, grow our exemplary and holistic student support services, offer support to graduates as they launch their careers, and embed financial literacy into the learning process. 

The Academic Excellence and Innovation priority focuses on incorporating high-impact practices, accelerated programs, and innovative credentialing opportunities into the educational offerings, as well as investments in both employee professional development and student-faculty engagement to foster innovation and the development of scholarly and creative works that make an impact far beyond the campus community. 

The University Success priority focuses on student enrollment, retention, and graduation rates, as well as employee recruitment and onboarding. It includes the launch of strengthened marketing efforts and fundraising campaigns to support our plan’s progress. 

The Welcoming and Inclusive Community priority seeks to build a culture that embraces change, improves communication across the complex organization, supports the affinity groups that foster a sense of belonging through student organizations, athletics, and other co-curricular programs, and enhances the university’s mutually beneficial relationships with its surrounding communities. 

As we begin the important work of bringing our strategic plan to life, I want to thank our entire strategic planning committee, especially our core team members who have worked tirelessly to lead this process with a robust and bright vision for the future of Commonwealth University and its students. Cori Myers, John Bodenman, and Amy Osborne are to be commended for the yeoman’s work they have done in shepherding the strategic plan from concept to completion.

Dr. Cori Myers, Associate Vice President for Institutional Effectiveness, notes that, “CU engaged in a consultative, data-informed process that identified priorities essential to delivering transformative educational experiences that will be life-changing for our students. The plan emphasizes having a culture that embraces change and an inclusive environment that celebrates diversity of thought and intellectual inquisitiveness.  Work to operationalize the plan currently ensues as all divisions and units have defined actions that will mark definitive progress toward the achievement of key measures of success and excellence.”

“Now that we have a dynamic plan, the most important part lies ahead of us to bring our institutional priorities to life,” shares Assistant Provost Amy Osborne. She says, “The plan is bold and simple, which will allow us to execute with focus and speed.  There is so much we are already doing, but the plan intentionally embraces innovation from the experts across all levels of our new institution.  It will be exciting to see everyone emerge and engage.” 

Dr. John Bodenman, Professor of Environmental, Geographical and Geological Sciences, acknowledges the challenges Commonwealth University has faced in its early stages, but also recognizes the significant achievement in launching our first strategic plan. He says,  “For many of us, aspects of integration have certainly been challenging and difficult, but most surprising to me was how well the students, faculty, staff, coaches, administration, and alumni representatives from each of our four campuses--serving alongside our partners at Blue Beyond—were able to come together as a Committee and create a strategic plan for Commonwealth University that reflects input from our many stakeholder groups--a truly unique experience, and a pleasant surprise indeed!”

Witnessing our university community work through the process of developing a strategic plan and now beginning to bring it to life through dynamic and impactful initiatives has affirmed my belief in the strength and heart of our Commonwealth University family. I look forward to continuing this important journey together in service to our students as we work to ensure a promising future for them.

If you want to learn more about the strategic plan, visit 

Bashar W. Hanna, President 

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Workforce Development: Creating Pathways for Education and Employment

 Earlier this month, Commonwealth University announced the launch of a partnership with Google for a public-private partnership enabling our students to earn industry-recognized certificates during their regular undergraduate degree programs. The program will prepare students for careers in the fields of cybersecurity, data analytics, digital marketing/e-commerce, business intelligence, IT support, project management, and user experience (UX) design.

Partnerships like this continue our foundational mission to expand the opportunities available to both our students and the people in the communities our campuses call home. Inaccessibility to education often stands as a barrier for individuals looking to upskill and reskill and earn relevant credentials that today’s employers need. I am pleased that this program will address the critical access issue in a way that offers real-world skills in the most relevant and rapidly growing fields.

Cynthia Shapira, PASSHE Board of Governors chairwoman

Google developed its Google Career Certificates specifically for in-demand fields. Numerous Pennsylvania-based companies are part of Google’s employer consortium, including Bayer, CMI Media Group, SAP, Expedient, and The Project Management Institute. Other employer consortium members include Deloitte, Walmart, Verizon, and, of course, Google.  All provide input into the skills and competencies their employees need, and those are incorporated into the training. 

Most university students work to pay for their education while in college. These credentials help students start jobs while still in school. The training can be offered through workforce development on a non-credit basis. Certificate programs offer more options and opportunities to earn skills and acquire education.  Earning certificates can help people enter high-growth jobs and continue earning more advanced credentials or enroll in the university to pursue associate and bachelor’s degrees. When paired with a degree, certificates add value and often increase entry-level salaries.

So far in the U.S., more than 200,000 people have graduated from Google’s program. Of those, the vast majority have reported a positive career impact such as higher pay, a promotion, or a new job. Earning certificates in high-demand fields adds value to a degree. A study done in 2022 by Strada Outcomes Survey showed that history majors who acquire data analysis skills increase their entry-level salary by 38%. Sociology majors who acquire UX/UI design skills increase their entry-level salary by 32%.

These results are why we are so eager to provide this opportunity to our students. By embracing a student-first mentality and collaborating with employers to bring initiatives like the Google partnership to Commonwealth University, we’re positioning our students for success in a rapidly evolving economic landscape.

In addition to the Google Career Certificates, Commonwealth University is pursuing many other workforce development initiatives across the region. We have teamed up with Thrive International and UPMC to offer free courses in English as a Second Language (ESL) at our Lock Haven location. Removing the language barrier is the first step that unlocks the promise of education for many students, as it did for me. This leads to employment and enables degrees. Our evening classes are reaching some 50 area students. In the spring, Commonwealth U students in our ESL certificate program will volunteer as part of their field experience.

We have partnered with Career and Technology Centers across the region to form 15 articulation agreements for career and educational pathways into Commonwealth U’s Criminal Justice and Early Childhood Education programs. This fall we are welcoming new students in these two areas. With the success of this program, we are working toward additional pathways in business. Over the past year, our Public Safety Training Institute has grown the total number of training and contact hours by more than 70%.

I am excited about the work taking place in Workforce Development and what it means for our students and our communities. When we work together to find opportunities and entry points to education that make learning accessible, we improve the lives of those around us and help to ensure a more vibrant living, learning, and working environment.

Read more about the Google Partnership here:

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

A Message to Commonwealth University Students


As the end of August nears, Commonwealth University is off and running in its second academic year. Last week we were thrilled to welcome our students to campus and witness the successful start of classes.  As President, I am eager to see the achievements our students will realize this year under the mentorship and guidance of our dedicated faculty and staff.

To our students—whether you are beginning your first year of college or are returning to campus—I ask you to pursue your dreams with all your energy. The beginning of a new school year is full of promise and possibility. The university holds the promise of exceptional academic experiences and the possibilities offered by extracurricular activities designed to position you for success. It’s up to you to turn possibilities into opportunities.

I have no doubt that every Commonwealth U student has the potential to graduate and go on to make a real difference in the world, no matter what degree you choose to pursue. That is why we want your time as Huskies, Bald Eagles, and Mounties to be rich with learning and growth. I encourage you to fill your time at Commonwealth U with new experiences. Don’t be afraid to push past your comfort zone, reach for unexpected goals, and boldly imagine your path for the future. The world needs your talent, your perspective, and your unique gifts.

Students walk to class at CU-Lock Haven

As educators, your faculty and staff are here to do all we can to support, encourage, and challenge you on the path to success. We always encourage students to reach out for help when you need it. It’s true that we do all we can to support you. But let me also urge you to seek out ways to get involved. Ask your professors how you can enhance your academic experience through research, field experiences, or internships.

CU-Mansfield ushered in the start of the semester with a Convocation Ceremony 

Your college years can change and shape your life. They will provide you with new perspectives, expand your horizons, and help you envision how your unique talents can change the world. I hope you will make good on the Commonwealth U promise by developing a lifelong love for learning and a passion for excellence in all that you do. Get involved on campus through our many clubs and organizations. Try something new. Join your campus student government association. Attend an athletic event and cheer on your fellow students. Get to know the local community your campus calls home. Explore the experiences for networking and personal growth available through Professional U.

Students pause for a photo during the first day of classes at CU-Bloomsburg 

Your college years are what you make them—so make the most of them!

Our campuses are filled with future leaders and changemakers who will go on to make an impact in their communities by using the lessons they learned, the skills they gained, the connections they made, and the opportunities they seized as Commonwealth U students.

I believe in you. And I wish you a wonderful year ahead.

Bashar W. Hanna, President