Commencement Speaker Finds Power in Personal Growth and Community Building

Randazzo at Flyers
Randazzo (third from left) has volunteered their time at the Ronald McDonald House, where they had the opportunity to meet Philadelphia Flyers players Scott Laughton, Ryan Poehler and Owen Tippett

Cosmo Randazzo has always wanted to be an engineer. Their aptitude for math and science pushed them toward STEM-related activities growing up, but their heart wasn't set on a specific discipline when they entered Drexel as a biomedical engineering major.

The engineering aspects of the program made Randazzo feel they were on the right track, but "[I] wasn't sure if [I] wanted to stick with medicine," they recall. Searching for a new direction, Randazzo spoke with Maureen Tang, PhD, associate professor of chemical and biological engineering (CBE), who advised them to pursue chemical engineering.

“All of the classes looked really interesting to me,” they said. “It felt like I was going to learn a little bit of everything, and I thought, 'This is perfect.'" They switched their major to CBE and haven't looked back since.

Although they developed an interest in sustainability through their work on projects centering microbial electrolysis cells and ozone electrocatalysis with Dr. Tang, Randazzo's generalist mindset has allowed them to find fulfillment as an engineer in other capacities, such as their co-op at the Hershey Company, where they helped execute innovation projects by collaborating with vendors, performing quality assessments, and providing manual assistance and quality support.

The experience paid dividends — Randazzo has secured a full-time position with Hershey as a Process Development Engineer after graduation. "The culture there is fantastic,” they said. “I learned that it was possible to be happy as an engineer.”

Cosmo Randazzo

But happiness hasn’t just come from engineering. Randazzo has explored all that Drexel has to offer, both on campus — by representing the CBE major during incoming and prospective student panels and participating in Writers Room, a community that embraced them as both an engineer and a writer — and off, exploring the great outdoors through their involvement with Weekend Warriors and serving meals to guests at the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House, an experience that mixed their love for food with their growing attachment to the city.

Originally from Swedesboro, New Jersey, Randazzo has found a comfortable place in Philadelphia over the past five years. "I'm queer, I'm a writer, and there are lots of parts to my identity that I felt were fully supported by the city," Randazzo explained. "I make sense here."

Randazzo's deep affection for Philadelphia has naturally extended to the support they've received at Drexel. “Coming to Drexel has given me opportunities to express myself and be heard," they said. "Drexel will kick your butt, but it will also provide you with a great community to grow in both painful and wonderful ways. Part of what made my experience really great was that I had both of those experiences. That's the duality of growth at Drexel."

Randazzo's various forms of growth throughout their time at Drexel have culminated in their selection as the undergraduate student speaker during the College of Engineering’s commencement ceremonies on June 13. "I am incredibly grateful that I can represent the voice of my class," Randazzo stated. "At the end of the day, my time at Drexel was great because of the people around me. So, even if I can't give a nod to everyone who deserves it, I will still try to make this point: community is everything. Be it, build it, and believe in it!"