Penn State Wilkes-Barre announces commencement speaker

A headshot of a woman in glasses outdoors

Ashley Hoeffner is the speaker for Penn State Wilkes-Barre's 2024 commencement.

Credit: Ashley Hoeffner

DALLAS, Pa. — Ashley Hoeffner, a senior director at Indeed and a Penn State Wilkes-Barre alumna, will serve as the commencement speaker during the May 4 ceremonies, Chancellor and Chief Academic Officer Lynda Goldstein announced. Commencement will be held at 10 a.m. in the Athletic & Recreation Building and will also be livestreamed for those who cannot attend in person.

“We are excited Ashley has accepted our invitation and look forward to her message to our graduates,” said Goldstein. “Her connections to our campus community, coupled with her achievements at a company known for its career assistance, make her an ideal choice to inspire and guide our graduates as they take their first steps into the professional world. Ashley’s insights and experiences will undoubtedly resonate with our graduates as they move forward with confidence and determination.”

Hoeffner attended Penn State Wilkes-Barre for two years before completing her bachelor’s degree in marketing with a minor in international business from the Smeal College of Business at University Park. She graduated in December 2008, a semester early, and moved to New York City to begin her career with a role as a customer equipment specialist for an office solutions provider. A native of Duryea, she is a graduate of Pittston Area High School and completed a marketing internship at Pepperjam while at Penn State Wilkes-Barre. She lives in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, with her wife, Melissa Kravitz Hoeffner, and their rescue dog, Finley.

“I am honored and humbled to be asked to be the commencement speaker," Hoeffner said. "Penn State Wilkes-Barre was a formative experience for me that has carried through in a number of different ways in my life, including the relationships I’ve made and maintained. It allowed me to flourish in a new environment and see the value in relationships I could build and the contributions I could provide to other people.”

She has worked at Indeed for 12 years in nine different roles, rising to the rank of senior director of global product solutions and sales readiness. She leads a team of about 100 people who serve as conduits between product and engineering teams and Indeed’s sales team, working to bring new products to the marketplace and helping clients adopt Indeed’s new solutions.

Hoeffner learned the importance of volunteering and giving back as a member of her church youth group and continued that path at Penn State Wilkes-Barre and into adulthood. On campus, she was part of THON, Lion Ambassadors and Student Government Association (SGA), serving as public relations chair and vice president. She has volunteered her time to Identity House in New York, which provides counseling services for LGBTQ+ adults, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, which matches adult mentors with youth. She has also participated in employee-led groups within Indeed, including the Black Inclusion Group and iPride & Gender Identity Group.

“College helps us gain knowledge and experiences. And being part of activities enabled me to be part of the full college experience—making new friends and creating many new connections and memories,” she said. “It also helped me think about how I spend my time, including volunteering.”

Hoeffner chose to attend Penn State Wilkes-Barre due to the scholarship offers she received.

“In retrospect, that was the smartest decision I ever made,” she said. “I learned to think in new and innovative ways and open my mind, which taps into creativity. I bring things from those classes into my day-to-day interactions in my career.”

She also made connections that have influenced her life: in particular, her close friend, Jess Wysocki, daughter of Assistant to the Chancellor Sue Gross, and her friend Erik Vannucchi, who passed away just months before they planned to move to University Park together.

“Early in my time at Penn State Wilkes-Barre, I got into a car accident on a snowy morning,” Hoeffner recalled. “I didn’t have a car for a few weeks and I didn’t have a way to get to school. Jess and her family let me stay at their house near campus. I would have struggled to continue my education if they didn’t let me stay with them. And Erik shaped a lot of things in my life during our friendship. At only 19 years old, he made a lasting impact on everyone who knew him.”

During her commencement address, Hoeffner plans to highlight the students’ achievements and share some advice that has inspired her about the importance of choices one makes in life.

“Your life is a series of choices. I’d like to talk about the ways you can make those choices, along with some experiences I’ve had,” Hoeffner said. “I’d like to emphasize the importance of being thoughtful about who you want to be and giving your best effort no matter what it is and no matter who you think is watching.”