Hear from one student who landed a highly-coveted Silicon Valley job after getting the experience he needed from Happy Valley — all remotely
This fall, students around the world debated whether to attend classes in a brick-and-mortar institution or take classes virtually. For one group of learners, the decision was easy: enroll in a school that U.S. News ranked in the top 10 for four years running, working toward a degree from the university that the Wall Street Journal says produces the ‘most hirable recruits.’
Since 1998, Penn State World Campus has strived to create a full college experience in an online setting. “A degree from Penn State World Campus is exactly the same as a Penn State diploma from University Park Campus,” says Mike Dawson, a spokesperson for Penn State World Campus. “It’s the same curriculum being taught by the same professors, just in an online setting.”
Students can choose from 150 accredited graduate degrees, undergraduate degrees, certificates and minors, working on their own schedules, in their own hometowns, while living their already-busy lives.
This summer, 934 students graduated from Penn State’s World Campus. Some started out with Penn State years before, and just finished their degrees, while others were enrolled for the very first time. Some studied while juggling full-time jobs and young children. Students were scattered across the country and the globe, from Pennsylvania to California, South Korea to Italy.
“Checking all the right boxes”
Corey Wheeler is back with Penn State World Campus after graduating this spring with a degree in information science and technology and a minor in security & risk analysis. He is currently pursuing his MBA online from his home in San Diego while he works as a technical solutions architect for a major Silicon Valley tech giant. He credits his Penn State undergrad degree with helping him to land the highly-coveted job, and says that a master's from Penn State will further equip him to start his own technology consulting firm in Southern California.
“I spent more than a year looking at dozens of colleges and universities with online programs, but wasn’t finding any school that felt right for me,” Wheeler says. “They either didn’t have the program that I was looking for, they didn’t have a strong academic reputation or they viewed their online students differently than their on-campus students.”
He says that Penn State World Campus checked all the right boxes. “It met all my requirements and a whole lot more. They had the program I needed at the right cost, and I knew that the academic rigor would be the same as any on-campus program.”
Dawson says that is exactly what the World Campus was built to accomplish. In the mid-1990s, professors like Al Turgeon, who taught the turfgrass science course, were among the first to champion learning via an internet connection.
The Obvious Choice
“Educators have always pushed the limits of using technology to teach,” Dawson says. “They used radio, and then TV. So it was common sense to use the internet to reach students.”
Penn State did what would soon seem like an anomaly; instead of buying curriculum or having classes that existed online in a vacuum, they took the rigorous, research-heavy classes that they were already offering, and moved them online with the same requirements and same support that they had in physical classrooms.
The faculty who lead the renowned agricultural science program at the University Park campus teach the turfgrass science program. Faculty from the Penn State Harrisburg School of Public Affairs teach the master's in Homeland Security. Over the years, more undergraduate and graduate majors have been added until they’ve totalled 150 accredited degrees, teaching more than 14,000 students from 130 countries along the way. Today, nursing students can pursue a Bachelor of Nursing, a Master of Science in Nursing and a Doctor of Nursing Practice, all within the World Campus.
“Penn State was an obvious choice for me,” Wheeler says. “I wanted to attend the best of the best and I did just that. My Penn State pride overflows anytime someone asks where I’m studying for my master’s. I am a proud Penn Stater.”