UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Serena Gray was selected to represent the College of the Liberal Arts as the student marshal for Penn State’s summer commencement, which will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Aug. 14 at the Bryce Jordan Center on the University Park campus.
Gray will graduate with a bachelor of arts degree in psychology and a minor in human development and family studies.
“It's really an honor to have been selected,” Gray said. “I am just really grateful that I have been able to get to this point. Looking back at my freshman year, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do in college or where I wanted to go. Penn State has clearly been a great help and a great experience for me, and I am so thankful for this recognition.”
During her time at Penn State, Gray was a dedicated and decorated student-athlete. She received an athletic scholarship to play for Penn State Women’s Volleyball, starting all three of her seasons with the team and receiving All-American honors in 2018 and 2019. Gray also earned one Academic All-Big Ten honor and one Big Ten Freshman of the Week award.
A native of San Gabriel, California, Gray will continue her volleyball career at the University of Pittsburgh while working toward a master of science degree in applied developmental psychology.
Outside of the classroom and off the court, Gray worked as an undergraduate research assistant in the Cole Emotion Regulation Laboratory, where she focused on the dynamics of self-regulation.
“Professor Cole’s work focused on emotional development in early childhood, so we mainly studied how children regulate their emotions when performing difficult tasks,” she said. “I was mostly in charge of coding video recordings from these studies.”
Reflecting on her time as a Penn State student, Gray emphasized how her liberal arts coursework has been influential in preparing her for the next chapter of her education.
“I would say it opened my mind up to a number of different areas of study that I didn't even know existed,” she said. “I wasn’t previously aware that childhood development was something that needed so much attention … but a lot of mental health issues can actually be averted during childhood, so it’s important to focus on a child’s well-being during those developmental years.”
Moving forward, Gray hopes to work in an educational or recreational environment and help to foster emotional development in children.
“I would love to work in an after-school program or camp-setting where I can help kids to learn, grow, and create meaningful connections,” she said.
Overall, Gray shared that one of her favorite aspects of her undergraduate experience was the connections she was able to form with fellow students and faculty members.
“The connections I made here were very valuable and put me on the right track to achieve my goals,” she said. “I was involved with the Athletic Directors Leadership Institute (ADLI) and my mentor there — Dr. Gary Abdullah — was great. He really helped me narrow down my career goals and find out what resources were available to me.”
For future Penn State students who may be juggling sports, extracurriculars, or even just a heavy course load, Gray advised not being afraid to ask for help.
“Not all stress is healthy. We shouldn’t normalize college as something that is supposed to be one continuous stressful period of our lives. It’s okay to seek out help, especially for your own mental health,” she said.