Coast Guard veteran and stay-at-home dad earns Penn State degree

New Jersey adult learner will graduate Dec. 18 with an associate degree in business earned online through Penn State World Campus

University Park, Pa. — Being a full-time Penn State student enrolled online through the World Campus and a stay-at-home dad caring for three young children has been a challenge for Eric Aberle, but his service in the U.S. Coast Guard has prepared him to manage multiple responsibilities while his wife serves in the Coast Guard. Aberle will graduate with an associate in business administration degree from Penn State in December and plans to continue on for his bachelor's degree in business.

"I like having the versatility of online learning and the support the World Campus offers," said Aberle, 31, who enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard two months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and served until his medical retirement in 2006. "You have to be very structured [with online learning]. You make your schedule and stick to it while handling what life throws at you. And Penn State's professors are usually great about any scheduling problems that come up."

Aberle learned about discipline and staying on task during his Coast Guard service. His first assignment was with the Cutter Juniper, a buoy tender responsible for New York Harbor. He met his wife Erica on the Juniper, stationed in Newport, R.I. They married in 2004 and spent time in California for training and then were stationed in Kodiak, Alaska, where Eric also was enrolled in Thomas Edison State College. Erica Aberle, a health specialist, is serving at Air Station Atlantic City, but expects to move to Texas in 2011 for X-ray medical training.

Aberle will remain behind in Absecon, N.J., with their twin boys Samuel and Carson, 3, and infant daughter Raegan. He will continue taking online courses through World Campus, focusing on management and marketing. His goal is to work in advertising.

He chose Penn State to use his veteran retirement benefits partly because of watching Nittany Lion football games with his grandfather Gilbert Bandarra when he was growing up in Marshfield, south of Boston. But Aberle also wanted "a school that would fit my needs and help me to stand out in the crowd in the competitive field of business. Penn State provides a network of graduates and a support system that is helping me do that," he said.

"I was so excited to get into Penn State," Aberle added. Even his twins are Penn State fans. When the fight song comes on during football games, Samuel and Carson sing along and play their drums.

For information about Penn State's online education programs, visit http://www.worldcampus.psu.edu online.

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Last Updated March 21, 2011