Navy veteran’s leadership qualities manifest at New Kensington campus

From petty officer in the U.S. Navy to faculty senate representative for the Student Government Association, Ryan Barton’s leadership qualities are at the forefront at Penn State New Kensington.

Barton, a veteran and adult learner, is a sophomore in the information sciences and technology program. He served four years in the Navy where he was a member of the Reactor department, which is responsible for propelling the ship and launching aircraft. Barton's duties included working with the confidential computer network aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, a nuclear aircraft carrier. He was honorably discharged as a petty officer second class, a noncommissioned rank, comparable to a sergeant in the Army.

“My job in the Navy was very technical,” said Barton, who attended Evangel Heights Christian Academy in Sarver. “With the IST program, I hope to learn much about the technical side of everything to make the most of the degree.”

The Cabot, Pa., native was drawn to the campus by the IST program and the teacher-to-student ratio. IST is the bridge between his military service and civilian career. The small classes provide one-on-one opportunities with faculty.

“I have a lot of experience with computers and networks, and I was aware of how respected Penn State degrees were,” Barton said. “IST was one of the best fits for me.”

Barton is funding his new career through the Post-Sept. 11 GI Bill, which provides financial support for education and housing. Under the bill's Yellow Ribbon program, veterans who served on active duty since Sept. 11, 2001, have their tuition costs covered through shared responsibility between Penn State and the Veterans Administration.

The main campus resource is the Veterans Services office. Diana Hill, veteran certifying official at the campus, helps veterans navigate the requirements of benefit programs. In addition to administrative resources, fellow vets and the reconstituted Adult Learner Society, a student club that promotes the interests of adult learners, provide support for the “nontraditional” students.

“Communicating face-to-face with vets is a big help,” said Barton, who expects to graduate in 2016. “The people on campus who work with vets are the most helpful.”

Penn State recently launched a new website geared to veterans and adult learners. Penn State for Adult Learners was created to streamline information gathering for current and prospective adult students. The initiative makes it easier for adults to start their college career or return to school after a break

As a member of the SGA, the 25-year-old Barton brings a wealth of experience to the eight-member board. He also provides a perspective that differs from those of the younger board members who are considered “traditional” students, meaning they range in age from 18 to 24. As faculty senate representative, Barton is the voice of campus students on the faculty senate, the legislative body representing the campus academic unit.

While his on-campus time is spent on his classes and SGA responsibilities, Barton’s off-campus time is spent with his family. He has been married to Cassie Barton for six years, and they have a 2-year-old daughter, Alexis. He relishes his time with his wife and daughter and said that “juggling school and family is quite easy.”

“The secret to that is doing most, if not all, of my schoolwork at school before I go home,” said Barton, who moved to the city of New Kensington when he began classes. “The campus makes learning more personable, and as an adult it makes it easier to work with the faculty if any issues arise at work or home.”

Veterans and Adult Learners Resources
Veterans and adult learners comprise approximately 31 percent of the student population at the campus. The number of vets at the campus is expected to rise in the next few years as the Iraq and Afghanistan wars wind down and more military personnel fulfill their service obligations and return to civilian status. Penn State New Kensington strives to support military veterans in reaching their academic goals while maintaining a healthy life balance. There are numerous academic options available to veterans, including more than 200 noncredit, certificate, associate and baccalaureate degree programs; choosing full- or part-time status; and scheduling day or evening classes. The enrollment management staff at the campus can assist prospective students with learning about options to finance a Penn State education.

For more on Veterans Services, contact Diana Hill at 724-334-6047 or

For more on admissions at New Kensington, visit

For more on the new adult learning website, visit

Media Contacts: 

Bill Woodard

Work Phone: 
Home Phone: 
Cell Phone: 

Alumni and Public Relations Specialist

Last Updated December 11, 2013