NEW KENSINGTON, Pa. — As a vital part of Penn State’s 20 Commonwealth campuses located across Pennsylvania, Penn State New Kensington not only educates more than 700 students annually, it also drives substantial community impact as an employer. With more than 160 full-time and part-time employees, the New Kensington campus is an asset to the economic health and development of the Alle-Kiski Valley and Pittsburgh region.
During a presentation July 22 to the Penn State Board of Trustees, Nick Jones, Penn State executive vice president and provost, extolled the virtues of campuses like New Kensington that blanket the state, and he provided an overview of one of America’s unique university structures, which can be summed up in the tagline “one university, geographically dispersed.”
“The Commonwealth campuses advance the University’s mission and serve their broader communities in multiple ways,” Jones said. “With campuses throughout the commonwealth, we have a unique presence in, and commitment to, these campuses’ communities.”
The Commonwealth campuses vary in size and program offerings. With a student/faculty ratio of 18:1 and classes that average about 25 students, New Kensington’s small campus setting allows for collaboration and interaction between professors and students. The campus, which serves the five counties of Allegheny, Armstrong, Butler, Indiana and Westmoreland in western Pennsylvania (and beyond), is the perfect venue for the start of a professional career.
“We have the best of both worlds at Penn State New Kensington,” said Kevin Snider, chancellor of the campus. “Our size means that students enjoy being part of a small community of learners. However, because we are Penn State, our students also enjoy the endless opportunities provided by one of the country's largest universities.”
Specializing in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics, better known as the STEM fields, New Kensington offers 10 baccalaureate degrees (Administration of Justice; Biobehavioral Health; Business; Communications; Electro-Mechanical Engineering Technology; Information Sciences and Technology, Nursing, Project and Supply Chain Management, Psychology, B.A. and B.S.) and five associate degrees (Biomedical Engineering Technology, Business, Information Sciences and Technology, Letters, Arts and Sciences and Radiological Sciences).
“Our degree programs are taught by award-winning faculty and prepare students for their careers armed with one of the most respected degrees in the country,” Snider said.
Biomedical Engineering Technology (BET) is unique in that New Kensington is the only Penn State campus authorized to deliver the two-year major. BET graduates are trained professionals who operate, maintain, troubleshoot and repair medical equipment. The campus’ program is one of only four in the nation to be accredited by the Technology Accreditation Commission for the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.
The University’s structure provides for a Penn State education with choices to fit most personal situations, preferences and challenges. About 55 percent of Penn State’s first-year students start at a Commonwealth campus in the 2+2 plan. The plan allows students to spend their first two years of study at a campus and transition for their remaining two years to another Penn State campus. For many New Kensington students, the 2+2 program is the most common path to a degree.
Two former New Kensington students, Matt Cavazza and Mike Cavazza, took this route for their petroleum and natural gas engineering degrees. Both brothers earned Chancellor Fellowships as freshmen which allowed them to do research with Robert Mathers, professor of chemistry at the campus. They studied under him for two years before moving on to the University Park campus to complete their bachelor’s degree work.
Matt, a 2013 graduate, is a drilling engineer for Chevron. Mike, a recent alumnus, is a petrophysicist for Shell Exploration and Production Company. Prior to graduating in May, Mike won the top award of the Eastern North America Regional Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) student research competition for his paper, “Hydraulic Fracking Could Result in Cleaner Streams in Pennsylvania.” He advances to the final international round in September at the SPE Annual Technical Conference in Dubai.
“The Cavazza brothers are excellent examples of what Penn State New Kensington can do for students,” Snider said. “They came to Penn State New Kensington because of the small class sizes and opportunities to be engaged in their education. They distinguished themselves at University Park, and are just two of thousands of examples of students who enjoy the education at a campus before moving on to great success in State College.”
Penn State also is focused on the economic vitality of the communities it serves. One initiative highlighted by Jones is “Invent Penn State,” which debuted in January 2015 as a strategic imperative introduced by Penn State President Eric Barron. The program, envisioned as a way to leverage the University’s size and broad research strengths to help drive job creation, economic development and student career success, has grown to include 13 hubs for innovation spread across Pennsylvania. The New Kensington campus is one of those hubs and received $50,000 from Penn State in seed grant funds to launch the program in the region.
New Kensington parlayed its Invent Penn State grant to develop a new entrepreneur center, tentatively named AKEG (Alle-Kiski Economic Generator), in downtown New Kensington. AKEG is a collaboration of students, faculty and staff working with businesses and communities in the local area. The campus has partnered with the city of New Kensington, Beauty Shoppe, and Westmoreland County Industrial Development Corporation to bring energy and vitality to the local communities. When renovations are completed later in the year, the center will launch a business accelerator program to attract and nurture innovation and small business development across the Alle-Kiski Valley.
“One of the beauties of the Commonwealth Campus system is that it extends the power of Penn State into communities across the state,” Snider said. “At Penn State New Kensington, we are using that power to aid in economic development through entrepreneurship and education. In doing this, we are also providing students with exceptional opportunities for engaged learning.
For more about entrepreneur center, visit AKEG.
For more on completing a degree, visit 2 + 2 Plan.
For more on New Kensington’s academic programs, visit Bachelor's and Associate Degrees.