CEO Insights: Celebrating 25 Years of the World Campus

This article originally appeared in the July 2023 edition of the “AlumnInsider” by the Penn State Alumni Association and distributed on July 5, 2023. 

One of the things that sets Penn State apart is its focus on community. The pride that comes with being part of the Penn State family is deeply ingrained in the hearts of all alumni. A Penn State degree is more than just an academic achievement; it signifies a shared identity as a Penn Stater for life.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Penn State World Campus, which has transformed the way Penn Staters learn and had an enormous impact on countless lives. As a land-grant university, making the benefits of higher education more accessible is fundamental to Penn State, and World Campus has transformed how we pursue that mission in the 21st century. World Campus has extended Penn State’s reach around the globe, fostering a diverse and inclusive environment, and it has opened doors to people who could not pursue a traditional on-campus education.

For Penn State, offering courses online was the next step in its long history as a pioneer in delivering higher education through correspondence and distance learning, exemplified by world-famous offerings like the Ice Cream Short Course. World Campus began modestly, with an initial offering of online courses in turfgrass management in January 1998, but the platform expanded rapidly. Today, World Campus offers a comprehensive portfolio of more than 175 online undergraduate and graduate degree and certificate programs.

World Campus has proven that geographical boundaries are no longer barriers to accessing a world-class education. It has also proven beyond any doubt that earning a Penn State degree, regardless of campus, is a source of immense pride and a lifelong connection to a truly exceptional institution.

Graduates of World Campus — who number more than 35,000, including the 1,524 graduates who earned their degrees in spring 2023 — embody the same values, knowledge, and integrity that define Penn State. As a World Campus graduate myself, I can personally attest to this truth. In recognition of the importance of our World Campus students, the World Campus student government leader is a member of the Alumni Council, joining the leaders of the University Park Undergraduate Association, the Graduate and Professional Student Association, and the Commonwealth Campus Student Government.

What’s more, World Campus grads are very loyal to Dear Old State, even if they’ve never set foot on a physical Penn State location. The proportion of World Campus graduates who are members of the Alumni Association is the highest of any college at Penn State, and the World Campus Alumni Society, under the leadership of Mark Poblete, is a very active and dynamic organization. If you’re a World Campus graduate, I strongly encourage you to get involved.

I discovered just how enthusiastic and loyal World Campus graduates are during one of my first events with Penn State in 2016. I was traveling with then-President Dr. Eric Barron in Phoenix, and the first two people to arrive were World Campus alumni. They approached me and asked, “Are you from Penn State?” I said “Yes,” and they were both very excited to let me know that I was the very first Penn State staff member that they met in person.

As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of Penn State World Campus and recognize and applaud the achievements of its students and alumni, let us also celebrate the fact that the definition of Penn Stater has many meanings and many routes to earning that designation. We are all proud Penn Staters, forever connected by the indelible mark that our Penn State education has left on our lives.

For the Glory,