NEW KENSINGTON, Pa. — Incoming Penn State New Kensington students receiving scholarships for fall 2017 were honored March 22 at the annual Spring Scholarship Breakfast at Oakmont Country Club.
The social gave the new Penn Staters a chance to meet campus faculty, staff and students, and get a preview of college life. More than 200 freshmen earned awards for the upcoming academic year.
Kevin Snider, chancellor of the campus, and Sean Bridgen, associate director of academic advising, were the special guest speakers. Snider spoke of the quality of a Penn State education and the small-campus experience. He noted that scholarships are a critical component of the campus' mission and reward students for hard work in the classroom.
“The scholarship breakfast is a wonderful event that brings together students whose academic accomplishments have been rewarded with a scholarship,” Snider said. “They are really excited about coming to Penn State New Kensington, and it is terrific to be able to meet them personally, hear a little about where they are coming from, and where they want to go.”
Bridgen dealt with the advising component of academics, which complements the teaching component. He quoted an excerpt from an article, “If Advising is Teaching, What do Advisers Teach?” The piece was written by Mark Lowenstein, dean of professional studies at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.
“Excellent teachers help students to make connections throughout the course,” said Bridgen, quoting the article. “Excellent advisers help students to make connections across the curriculum, and enhance their education with co-curricular opportunities.”
Advising is a part of the campus’ Academic and Career Success Center, a collaboration of three offices — Learning Center, Career Services, and Academic Advising — that help students define and achieve their academic and career goals. The center offers students a three-pronged approach: high quality career and professional development, academic advising, and tutoring.
“We view career and academic success as two sides of the same coin,” said Bridgen, who holds a doctorate in administrative and leadership studies from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania. “That is, academic and career decisions are separate sets of decisions, but they are related. Career decisions are constantly evolving throughout life. We teach the skills needed to navigate those decisions.”
Following Bridgen’s remarks were scholarship stories by current students. Danielle Richardson, a senior communications major, and Jon McCabe, a junior in the psychology program, articulated the importance of scholarships as a part of the college experience.
Richardson talked about how scholarships allowed her to get involved with extracurricular activities, and enjoy what college offers, both inside and outside the classroom. An honors student, Richardson served in a variety of campus positions: vice president of the Lion Ambassadors; vice president of the Student Government Association; student representative of the Student Activity Fee Committee; a New Student Orientation leader; and staff writer for the Nittany Pride, the student newspaper. She offered sage advice to the newcomers.
“You need to take risks, such as taking classes you wouldn't normally take or joining a club or organization you wouldn’t normally join,” said Richardson, a recipient of the New Kensington Advisory Board Trustee scholarship. “You need to build meaningful relationships and help others. I couldn't have done these things without scholarships.”
McCabe offered a different tact on the value of scholarships, which are financed through a blended model of University funds and private donations. He views them as an important tool in providing access to higher education to everyone.”
“Scholarships bring students to the classrooms, and essentially bridge the gap between students and learning,” said McCabe, who was awarded a Charles H. Booth Jr. Trustee Scholarship last fall. “Without scholarships, many students would not even think attending a university like Penn State would be possible.”
The Lower Burrell resident also spoke about the value of education. Through education, people can learn empathy and discipline, as well as how to find solutions to unexpected problems.
“For me, education was a light in a dark room I grew up in,” McCabe said. “It kept me going and still does.”
McCabe could relate to the incoming scholarship students because three years ago, he was one of them. In the spring before his freshman year, he received the Dr. N.A. Kopelman and Freda D. Kopelman Trustee Scholarship. He attended the reception and was inspired by the upperclassmen’s stories.
“I channeled that motivation and inspiration into my speech so that the students who were there would feel the same,” McCabe said.
A networking session followed the speakers’ remarks.
“We have an impressive group coming to us for an education,” Snider said. “I think our faculty will be pleased with the talented students who will be walking through the doors this fall.”
The campus and University awarded more than $850,000 in scholarships to current students for the 2016-17 academic year. Approximately 55 percent of the student population received an average award of $2,000. Based on a multitude of factors, including academic achievement, financial need and diversity, the scholarships were distributed to deserving students from cities and towns from across the commonwealth and the country. The campus has 54 scholarship endowments, annual gifts and program awards.