Penn State World Campus students define Smart Track to Success

Levi Yost is a father of five, works full-time, and is a disabled veteran. He delayed his education while serving in the United States Army. Yost was in Afghanistan when he received a career-ending diagnosis that did not allow him to finish his tour. He was medically discharged and began a career in sales. A few years later, Yost decided he needed a change.

“I was inspired to apply to Penn State World Campus when I was feeling unhappy in a sales role I had been doing for a few years,” Yost said. “I remembered I had my Post-9/11 GI Bill and told my wife I wanted to spend more time with my family and provide better for them financially.”

Yost is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in software engineering offered in partnership with Penn State Behrend’s School of Engineering through Penn State World Campus. He is enrolled in the Smart Track to Success program, designed for first-year students who are new to Penn State and have less than 18 credits.

“After being accepted, I received an invitation by email to apply to the Smart Track to Success program. It offered a scholarship and assistance in learning how to transition to taking classes online,” Yost said. “This program has been a blessing for someone who hasn’t been in school for over 10 years.”

Yost said his scholarship money enabled him to buy books and a computer so he could save his own resources for his family. He said the program also provided connection with other students, which contributed to the adjustment of going back to school.

“I am now in my second semester, and this program has helped me to realize that I am not alone,” said Yost. “One of the most beneficial pieces was having discussions with other people. Seeing what others are dealing with and getting advice about how to overcome has been amazing. My experience as a student would be a whole lot different without it.”

Lynne Johnson, director for Academic Development Services for Penn State World Campus, said the Smart Track to Success program continues to give new students the opportunity to get a head start on their education online and become familiar with the support services that are available when they find themselves in need of help.

“Each semester that we offer the program, we see the students go from being anxious and asking themselves ‘what have I done?’ to a confident ‘I’ve got this!’ It’s exciting to see this transformation and humbling to be a part of this initiative,” Johnson said.

“To ensure we’re meeting the needs of students, we survey them at the end of each course and make revisions based on their feedback. Overall, we’ve received very positive feedback, but we do try to make improvements to the courses when possible,” Johnson explained. “We are very cognizant of the time commitments of our students and try to balance the work in Smart Track to Success with the assignments in their academic courses, knowing that most of our students are working adults with families.”

The Smart Track to Success program is in its third year of providing scholarships and support for Penn State World Campus students. Since Smart Track to Success was created, 279 students have participated. Generous donors have provided student support by creating the following scholarships:

  • Richard and Claudia Fischer Open Doors Scholarship in Penn State World Campus
  • Deborah Dubin Hedley Open Doors Scholarship for Penn State World Campus
  • Judy and Stephen Loy Open Doors Scholarship for Penn State World Campus
  • Renata and Leland Engel Open Doors Scholarship for Penn State World Campus in Memory of Edward M. and Margaret C. King
  • Charles E. and Carol E. Snyder World Campus Alumni Society Open Doors Scholarship in the Penn State World Campus
  • Nancy W. Hallberg Open Doors Scholarship (Donor: Brian Hallberg)
  • Sid and Lee Strand Memorial Open Doors Scholarship for Penn State World Campus (Donors: Rick and Barbara Bentz)
  • David and Traci Capperella Open Doors Scholarship for Penn State World Campus
  • Laura Lee (Hannon) and Jeffrey Joseph Smith Open Doors Scholarship for Penn State World Campus in Memory of Marie Sabina (Schwenzer) and Peter Aloysius Dirr
  • David and Kimberly Brannon Open Doors Scholarship for Penn State World Campus
  • Guy Montag Open Doors Scholarship for Penn State World Campus (Donor: anonymous)

Those who are interested in creating a scholarship to benefit students can visit the Smart Track to Success page on the Penn State World Campus Alumni and Friends website.

These gifts advance “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” a focused campaign that seeks to elevate Penn State’s position as a leading public university in a world defined by rapid change and global connections. With the support of alumni and friends, “A Greater Penn State” seeks to fulfill the three key imperatives of a 21st-century public university: keeping the doors to higher education open to hard-working students regardless of financial well-being; creating transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and affecting the world by fueling discovery, innovation, and entrepreneurship. To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” visit