Smart Track to Success to benefit from GivingTuesday fundraising campaign

A Penn State World Campus scholarship program designed to help students successfully navigate their first year learning online is one of the beneficiaries of this year’s University-wide GivingTuesday fundraising drive on November 28.

This year, Penn State is celebrating its ninth annual GivingTuesday campaign and invites alumni and friends to help advance its efforts.

Penn State World Campus hopes to secure gifts from 60 donors to support Smart Track to Success, which will be used to create more scholarship opportunities. An early campaign challenge to the board of the World Campus Alumni Society resulted in 100% participation by the board and a generous match of $400 of their gifts by president Mark Poblete and his wife, Carol. The overall campaign has already secured more than 50% of the number of donors needed to meet its goal. Mark and Carol are now pledging to match up to another $400 in additional gifts if the total number of donors for GivingTuesday exceeds 60. 

Last year, the scholarship program also participated in GivingTuesday and received $1,745 in gifts. Due in part to the generosity of the Pobletes, last year’s total has already been exceeded.   

Smart Track to Success is a scholarship program exclusive to World Campus students with financial need who are enrolling in college for the first time or have limited higher education experience. Recipients of the scholarship include adult learners, military veterans, and active-duty service members.

A scholarship program for students with financial need and limited college experience

Smart Track to Success is designed to give support to learners who have taken no more than 18 credits of college courses in previous semesters.

Each semester, as many as 60 students begin the program by taking a two-semester course that focuses on academic and life skills, mentoring from peers and Penn State staff, and assistance in getting involved in the World Campus community. They receive $3,000 in scholarship funding over two semesters.

“Going to college for the first time is both an exciting and challenging step for adult learners, and we designed Smart Track to Success to place learners on the strongest path for achieving their educational goals,” said Renata Engel, vice provost for Online Education. “We would very much like to make this program available to even more students. The gifts from GivingTuesday will help us create additional opportunities to make college a reality for more adult learners.”

To date, 685 students have participated in the program, 352 have completed it, and 41 have graduated with either an associate or bachelor’s degree.

The impact of Smart Track to Success

Participants say the program has been a transformational experience that has helped them progress in their studies.

Brittney Harkness, of Lewistown, Pennsylvania, is a recipient of a Smart Track to Success scholarship and is in her first semester with Penn State World Campus. She decided to start working on a bachelor’s degree to be a role model to her toddler-age son. She is majoring in accounting.

She said the scholarship funding she has received is making her dream more and more a reality.

“I thought it was impossible to do as a single-income mom,” she said. “I am able to give my son the life I never had and myself a life I never thought I deserved growing up.” 


Penn State officially will begin GivingTuesday at 18:55 on the 24-hour clock, or 6:55 p.m. (ET), on November 27, getting a jump-start on the international day of giving that concludes at 11:59 p.m. November 28. An early fundraising window opens on November 13.

GivingTuesday is one of the many ways that World Campus raises funds to support its online learners.

“Smart Track to Success is an evidence-based program designed to help students achieve their dream of earning a bachelor’s degree. We appreciate the financial support from our donors on GivingTuesday and throughout the year to support this life-changing program,” said Susan Kukic, senior director of development and alumni relations for Penn State Outreach and Online Education. “It is very important that we generously support these students, many of whom may have faced substantial challenges or financial hardships that kept them from enrolling in college until now.”

Gifts during GivingTuesday advance the University’s historic land-grant mission to serve and lead. Through philanthropy, alumni and friends are helping students to join the Penn State family and prepare for lifelong success; driving research, outreach, and economic development that grow our shared strength and readiness for the future; and increasing the University’s impact for families, patients, and communities across the Commonwealth and around the world. Learn more by visiting the Raise Penn State site.

Support Smart Track to Success with a gift during GivingTuesday on the website for the fundraising drive.