Posted August 18, 2021

The salt-and-pepper undergrad

At 49 years old, Brian Mengini is pursuing his bachelor’s at Klein, hoping to fulfil a dream of becoming a journalist: “I’m a half-century old, but my dreams and goals didn’t stop. I want to live as fully as possible.”

Brian Mengini standing on Liacouras Walk
Photography By: 
Ryan S. Brandenberg
Nontraditional student Brian Mengini will begin his undergraduate studies at Temple this year at the age of 49.

It’s never too late to chase your dream.

Just ask Brian Mengini, who, at 49 years old, will begin his Temple journey as a first-year student this fall. He will major in journalism at the Lew Klein College of Media and Communication with a minor in history.

“Once I decided that journalism was going to be my path, it was always Temple. If I was going to go back to school and really do this, it would have to be Temple.
-- Brian Mengini, Class of 2025

A career photographer who’s spent more than 14 years shooting ballet and other dance performances, Mengini is setting some new professional goals for himself. For one thing, he wants to earn his bachelor’s degree “before receiving social security,” he explained with a dash of self-deprecating humor.

Already working as a freelance photographer for the Boyer College of Music and Dance, Mengini said enrolling in a program at Temple felt like “playing for the home team.”

“Once I decided that journalism was going to be my path, it was always Temple. If I was going to go back to school and really do this, it would have to be Temple,” he said.
In the mid-90s, when Mengini first considered attending Temple, he admitted, “I just didn’t have the focus, the discipline. At the time, I wanted to travel the world and tell the stories of the third world. I wanted to create change.” Eager to start his life, he “found a local art school with a one-year program and did that instead.”

Around 2007, Mengini found his footing in dance photography. He took a job shooting the Royal Ballet’s final performance of Swan Lake at the Mann Center, an opportunity that launched more than a decade of work in the field. These days, “I guess I’ve grown bored with doing commercial photography. I want to find my purpose again. I’m looking for new challenges,” he said.

For now, the lifelong artist and photographer is hoping to learn the ropes of journalism and find a job at a local news agency. But he says he’s remaining open to whatever opportunities arise: “I’m not sure how I see my path in terms of journalism. I know I don’t want to be on TV—I’ve got a face for radio and a voice for print,” he joked.

Deciding to go back to school full time might be seen as unorthodox, but Mengini says his friends and family have been supportive and even inspired by his decision. 
“I tend to surround myself with people who lift me up and make me better,” he said. “So everyone’s been super, super encouraging, and a few people have even said, ‘You know, I’ve been thinking about doing that myself. Maybe I need to do that, too.’”

More than anything, it seems that Mengini just wants to keep life exciting; he wants to learn more, do more, see more. On his YouTube channel, the photographer recently posted an uplifting speech that seems to address his decision to pursue his bachelor’s.

“Whatever it is that you want to do—a hobby you want to learn, switch careers, whatever the case is—just start. Just get started,” he said in the video. “The older we get, the further we get into comfort and complacency. We become more steadfast creatures of habit.”

“There comes a time when you have to stop preparing and do,” he continued. “Just jump in. Most of my plans are just that, just coming up with an idea and then jumping in head first and traveling down that path and figuring things out as I go.”

-Dutch Godshalk