New fund to support adult learner internships and study abroad

Financial support will help more adult learners participate in out-of-class learning opportunities

University Park, Pa. — Student internships and study abroad opportunities can help students expand their knowledge and understanding of academic subjects and other cultures, but participating in these activities can be a financial challenge because of the additional costs to travel and live in other locations. That's especially true for Penn State's more than 20,000 adult learners — those 24 years old and older who have returned to school after a few years, are active duty and veterans of the military or are managing multiple roles.

"Juggling financial responsibilities, family obligations and studying presents a challenge for many adult learners seeking to complete their degree requirements," said Leslie A. Laing, coordinator for Adult Learner Programs, Division of Student Affairs at Penn State. By establishing the Adult Learner Opportunity Fund, Laing hopes to make striving for the best opportunities within reach of adult learners. "More adult learners would be willing to go on internships and participate in study abroad if they had financial help," Laing said. "This new fund can enhance these kinds of learning activities."

One such learner, Karen Hagemeier, spent last summer studying in Egypt. To make the trip possible, she had to take out an additional student loan, but thanks to the in-state tuition charged for study abroad courses, the educational experience was more affordable for the Wyoming native, who paid out-of-state tuition for her other courses. "I had been studying Arabic and wanted to go to Egypt to practice the language and learn about the culture," said Hagemeier, who graduated in December with a bachelor's degree in international politics and minors in Middle Eastern studies and history.

Jennifer Brant-Gargan, an information sciences and technology major, who is married and the mother of two children, has been luckier. She was paid during internships with Cisco Systems in North Carolina and Nike in Beaverton, Ore. She said it was difficult to be away from her family while in North Carolina, but her summer internship in Oregon was more enjoyable when her family was able to join her. However, her husband, Chad Brant-Gargan, also a student at University Park, who is majoring in secondary education with a social studies option, is not as fortunate. He is not receiving any payment this semester while student teaching in a high school in The Netherlands.

And adult learner Laura Swinyer, who is majoring in advertising and public relations and minoring in security and risk analysis, is interested in finding an internship with an organization implementing a crisis and risk management program. Swinyer explains, "I want to learn from programs that are leading the way, so I can bring these skills to a new job." But to participate in an internship, this single mother of a teenager would need financial help.

The Adult Learner Opportunity Fund is designed to help adult learners like these students. To donate to the fund, go to http://www.givenow.psu.edu online, select "Other" from the drop-down menu and type in "Adult Learner Opportunity Fund," or download the donation form and mail it.

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Last Updated April 19, 2017