Rousing music greeted new students at Bucks County Community College on the last day of August. It was orientation with a twist as Karen Gross of “She Rocked It” generated enthusiasm for the year ahead.
It was the second annual President’s New Student Convocation held in the gymnasium on the Newtown Campus. Students, board of trustees members and faculty, including the college president, Dr. Felicia Ganther, wore bright blue T-shirts to herald the day.
The convocation is the official introduction to academic life at the college and it welcomes new students and their families with a ceremony to mark the milestone.
Karen was the keynote speaker – not your ordinary speaker. With guitarist Tim Motzer, she sang and pounded the keyboard, rocking the gym and energizing the students who were beginning a new phase of their lives. An international entertainer, Tim is a composer and improviser in the world of modern dance, who creates alongside master choreographers at Princeton University and the University of the Arts. But for this occasion, he strummed his guitar to a rock beat.
The rocking was music with meaning. Karen guided the students with her “Rock-It Roadmap” – a series of six lessons for a courageous life, education, and career. The empowering lessons (one for each letter of R-O-C-K-I-T) are drawn from Karen’s experience as a performer, as a business owner, and as a journalist and podcast host who has interviewed trailblazing leaders.
To students she said, “Through both words and music, you’ll get energized to raise your unique voice, follow your audacious dreams, build a supportive community at Bucks – and maybe even sing along.”
Karen happens to be an old friend. Fresh out of Wesleyan University, she was the first of the editorial staff hired to work for the fledgling Bucks County Herald. She was a resident of Carversville and a graduate of Central Bucks East High School, where she and Justin Guarini were voted the two members of their class most likely to succeed in the entertainment world.
In 2002, Guarini was the runner-up on the first season of “American Idol.” In the same year, Karen started working in the Herald’s first office, a storefront in Hollyberry Square, Lahaska. Karen dug in her heels and helped get the Herald off to a good start 21 years ago, but she was restless, always drawn to music and writing songs.
Karen left the Herald to work in Philadelphia, as a public relations writer, a speechwriter, communication strategist for prestigious organizations, universities, and philanthropies. She said in her debut blog, “And it’s been a tremendous honor. And in fact, I’ve had the opportunity to write for some incredible women as their writer, speechwriter. And, prior to launching my own business, I had the chance to be a journalist and I interviewed some really outstanding women.”
While she was working in communications day jobs, she was performing at night in cabarets in Philadelphia and New York. Recently, Karen has been focusing on inspiring others with the blog “She Rocked It” and a network of “Rock Stars,” an online community of “creative, courageous women who are committed to showing up for themselves and one another. This is a safe and welcoming space – off social media – to explore and activate your big dreams.”
Karen said in her first blog, “The Journey to She Rocked it,” “We’re raising the volume on women’s voices because I believe, you know, with my whole heart, that women’s voices are essential to a thriving world.
The community college presentation, however, was directed to young men and women.
“Karen brought alive an inspiring keynote to our new students – her energy and passion were evident. Students and faculty alike walked away inspired and ready to tackle a new semester. She truly rocked it,” said Dr. Rodney Altemose, interim associate vice president for student affairs, who arranged the convocation.
“We’re proud to keep this tradition going for our new students and really let them know how monumental this moment is in their academic careers,” Altemose said.
Thomas Jennings, president of the Board of Trustees assured the students that the community college would guide them to their future careers.
President Ganther had introduced the convocation in 2022. “The start of our students’ academic journeys is an exciting time for them and for the college – it’s a new beginning, the next step on their pathway to their educational and life goals –and the entire college community is happy to celebrate the occasion,” she said at the start of what would become a tradition.
And this year, each student’s seat at the convocation held a pair of Centurion socks, a comforting gift for a college warmup. Brutus the Centurian is the BCCC mascot.