Commonwealth University President Launches New ‘Common Ground’ Podcast Episode Featuring PHRC Executive Director



Wide-ranging Conversation Covers Urban/Rural Student Divide and the State of the American Dream in PA

“Common Ground,” a podcast produced by Commonwealth University and hosted by President Bashar Hanna released a new episode titled “The Beauty of Diversity” on Tuesday, Aug. 1. The episode features guest Chad Dion Lassiter, executive director of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.

In a candid conversation, Hanna and Lassiter discuss the ways urban and rural students have more in common than they realize, why your mentors don’t always need to look like you, and the reasons they believe America is still the land of opportunity. They talk about their transformative education journeys and explore the ways mentorship, vulnerability, and servant leadership have changed their lives.

Hanna immigrated from Syria with his family at a young age and Lassiter grew up in a challenging North Philadelphia neighborhood. Today, they are pioneers in the fields of higher education and social work. Together, they unpack how education communities can rally around students of all backgrounds and support their dreams of changing the world — just as their early mentors did for them.

Hanna serves as the inaugural president of Commonwealth University. He began his career at Temple University and later joined Delaware Valley University as vice president for academic affairs. In 2017 he was appointed the 19th president of Bloomsburg University and went on to lead the team that integrated Bloomsburg, Lock Haven, and Mansfield universities into Commonwealth University. He is a member of the NCAA Division 2 Membership Committee, and serves as a member of the PA Tuition Account Program Advisory Board and DRIVE Board of Directors. In 2023, he was named to City and State’s “Higher Education Power 100” list.

Lassiter serves as executive director of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission and is a nationally recognized expert in the field of American Race Relations. In his role, Lassiter has developed programs, such as a "Global Social Justice Initiative," "Black and Jewish Beloved Community Dialogue," and the "College Race Dialogue Initiative." Lassiter received his master's degree from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Social Work, where he was the A. Phillip Randolph Award winner in 2001. He has been recognized by the Philadelphia Tribune as “The Most Influential African American Leader from 2010-2020.” In 2021, he was named Social Worker of the Year by the PA Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.

“I want to thank Dr. Bashar Hanna for inviting me to participate in this important conversation about diversity and education,” said PHRC Chad Dion Lassiter, MSW. “Educational opportunities are the great equalizer. When we have the opportunity to learn and improve, we can overcome adversity. It is also important for students to find a supporting community who will encourage them, but also hold them accountable. The community can be family, church, schools, or just a group of people who stand with them.”

“It was an honor to host Executive Director Lassiter on the podcast. He is doing incredible work on behalf of the Commonwealth to advance the areas of social justice and race relations and empower individuals across Pennsylvania. His message to our listeners is one of hope and inspiration, and I thank him for sharing his time and valuable perspective,” said Bashar W. Hanna, Commonwealth University President.

The Common Ground podcast brings together leaders from across Pennsylvania to engage in meaningful conversations and explore the pressing issues our institutions, communities, and students and their families face on their path to earning a degree. The Beauty of Diversity is the fourth episode in Common Ground’s first season.

Listeners can subscribe to Common Ground on Spotify, Apple Music and other major streaming platforms, or visit to listen to episodes, learn more about the podcast and submit ideas for future episodes or guests.

For more information, contact Elizabeth Arnold at