World Campus alumni pay it forward on GivingTuesday

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — During Penn State’s ninth annual GivingTuesday celebration, Penn State World Campus raised $3,450 to support a scholarship program that helps students navigate their first year of online learning.

A total of 64 donors supported the Smart Track to Success scholarship program on GivingTuesday, which was held on November 28.

The gifts were made by Penn State World Campus alumni and friends, faculty and staff, all 17 members of the World Campus Alumni Society Board, and even a student who completed the Smart Track to Success program. Mark Poblete, the president of the alumni society board, and his wife, Carol, provided matching funds twice, when all board members donated and when the number of donors reached 60.

The funds will be used to provide scholarship support to students next year.

“We are grateful for the generosity of the Penn State employees, alumni, and friends who donated to a program that has a demonstrated impact on students’ success,” said Renata Engel, vice provost for Online Education at Penn State. “Thank you for investing in our vision to help enable students to be successful online learners.”

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.

Of the 352 students who have completed the program to date, 41 have graduated so far with either an associate or bachelor’s degree.

“Each contribution on GivingTuesday was an investment in the potential of students who are on a journey toward realizing their academic goals,” said Susan Kukic, senior director of development and alumni relations for Penn State Outreach and Online Education. “We are excited to have exceeded our goals and to create the opportunity for students in this life-changing program.”

Kathy Colbert is a student who completed the Smart Track to Success program after enrolling in the spring 2022 semester. She said it was vital to her success, and that is why she and her husband donated on GivingTuesday.

“The Smart Track to Success program was a lifeline to me,” said Colbert, who is majoring in organizational and professional communication. “After a career of more than 40 years, deciding to attend college was quite scary. Gaining this information from the onset of my endeavor made my first two semesters manageable and productive.”

Colbert said the resources on how to use the Canvas learning management system for accessing grades and using calendars and rubrics were vital to her success. She also praised the program’s resources on writing strategies.

“The contribution made to the Smart Track to Success program by my husband and myself is to demonstrate our belief in the program from first-hand experience of all the good it offers and our desire for its continued success for other students,” Colbert said. “The design of the Smart Track program is for individuals like me.”

Gifts made on GivingTuesday are advancing 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 Giving to Penn State site.