Susan Sanders takes on new role in master of health administration program

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Most people who have attended college can recall one faculty or staff member who sincerely made their college experience better. The one who, when the stress seemed to be too much, was the student’s motivation for getting through it all. While professors often fulfill this role, so do others who offer full-time support to students on the road to graduation: academic advisers.

Former health policy and administration (HPA) undergraduate adviser Susan Sanders, who recently was appointed program coordinator for Penn State’s master of health administration (MHA) program, is an example of how one person can impact so many. During her eight years as HPA’s academic adviser, Sanders tallied between 300 and 400 advising sessions each semester. Among her duties, Sanders helped students plan their academic schedules, develop effective networking strategies and pursue post-graduate opportunities. Just as importantly, Sanders often found herself simply lending a sympathetic ear to those who needed it, offering advice to help students overcome personal dilemmas or cheering on students who worked hard to succeed.

Sanders began helping college students as an admissions representative at South Hills School of Business and Technology in State College. She fulfilled this role for almost 10 years before realizing she was eager “for a new challenge.” Knowing that academic advising suited her well, she applied for and then accepted her position at Penn State.

Sanders follows a philosophy that each student is important and deserves the highest quality of education available. This philosophy has helped her succeed as an academic adviser. She values her student-adviser relationships and enjoys watching students grow academically and professionally. Many students keep her updated on their professional lives well past graduation.

During the past eight years, Sanders has embraced opportunities for growth, which included fulfilling a role as interim director of the Women’s Leadership Initiative with the College of Health and Human Development. This role helped her realize she wanted to pursue new challenges, which landed her in her current position. Sanders says she is grateful for the new opportunity.

“I get to stay in the same great department and to guide, challenge, possibly even inspire students to reach their highest potentials," she said.

As program coordinator, Sanders will work with the MHA program to focus on strategic efforts to expand cohort size, build recruiting efforts and improve overall efficiency.

Sanders especially likes her new position because she can still advise students. She pointed out, however, that although graduate students tend to have a much clearer career path than undergraduates, MHA students still need direction:

“Undergraduate students are just beginning to learn about where they fit in the world. That includes everything from learning how to succeed in college to taking the first steps into life after graduation. MHA students are farther down the road, but they still need to be encouraged and challenged so that they can continue to become the leaders in health care that we expect them to be."

Sanders explains that “people who select health care are generally people who want to help.” Similarly, successful student advising stems from a willingness to help, a strength Sanders applies as she guides health care careerists to reach academic and professional success.

Caroline Condon-Lewis, who holds nearly 20 years of experience as an academic adviser, now holds the HPA undergraduate academic adviser position, having served HPA previously. Prior, she served the Smeal College of Business and the College of Nursing.

About the author: Stephanie Vellucci is a May 2014 graduate of the health policy and administration program at Penn State.

Last Updated July 11, 2014