Returning to Nittany Lion Shrine caps this grad’s Penn State journey

A recent graduate got to re-create a special Penn State moment she shared with her mom more than two decades ago.

For years, Megh McCane-Howard has had a picture taken by her mother on her refrigerator of her at a Nittany Lion Shrine at one of Penn State’s campuses. McCane-Howard and her mom were visiting colleges in the 1990s, and they stopped at a campus for a photo op. Her mom thought Penn State would be a great place for her.

“Imagine going to a place like this,” McCane-Howard recalled her mother saying.

McCane-Howard went to college somewhere else but had to leave shortly after she started to care for her mother as she battled cancer.

Twenty-five years after that spur-of-the-moment photo op at a Nittany Lion Shrine, McCane-Howard got to have the Penn State moment her mom wanted her to have.

She graduated in May, capping her return to college online with Penn State, through Penn State World Campus. She came to the University Park campus to graduate with thousands of other Penn Staters, and she posed for her own photo at the Nittany Lion Shrine.

“Penn State was a dream my mom had for me when I was a teenager, and the idea that it was within reach at this stage in my life took a while to really sink in,” McCane-Howard said.

Following life’s path

Today, McCane-Howard is married with kids of her own and lives in Upstate New York. She built a successful career and got an associate degree years ago, after a friend encouraged her to go back to school. But she wanted to give her mom’s dream for her a chance.

She began researching online degree programs in human resources and Penn State’s online institution, Penn State World Campus, kept popping up. She was set.

She enrolled in the Bachelor of Science in Labor and Human Resources, which is offered online through Penn State World Campus in collaboration with the Penn State School of Labor and Employment Relations within the Penn State College of the Liberal Arts.

Through her studies, she learned about employment law, human resources policies, and ethics in the workplace. Now she is applying her education to her work at her family’s business.

A highlight for McCane-Howard was a two-week study tour trip to Ireland. The opportunity allowed her to learn how human resources and employment law work in a different country, as well as spend time networking with peers.

She expressed gratitude for the support of Trisha Everhart, the assistant director of online programs for the Penn State School of Labor and Employment Relations.

“Being on the other side of the world with a fellow mom alleviated any apprehension or ‘mom guilt’ I was feeling,” she said. “She made the trip’s educational experiences really engaging and balanced it well with the obvious desire to take in culture and the Irish experience as a whole.”

A dream realized

Megh McCane-Howard and her family spent time exploring campus during the 2024 commencement weekend.
Megh McCane-Howard and her family spent time exploring campus during the 2024 commencement weekend. Courtesy photo.

McCane-Howard celebrated her getting her Penn State degree with her family in May, spending time at the University Park campus and attending her commencement ceremony. Now back home, McCane-Howard recently hung her diploma in her office.

“Knowing my young daughters were there to see me walk the stage after years of sacrifice and hard work, while also knowing my mom was looking down on me proud that I finally saw what she knew was within me, was overwhelming,” she said.

Media Contact:
Mike Dawson