Military veteran finds success through Adult Learner Programs and Services

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — After serving four years active duty and two tours in Iraq as a combat engineer with the U.S. Army, Andrew Artz found himself at a crossroads.

He could continue on with a professional career in the military, where he had invested time and energy to establish himself and build relationships. Or, he could leave the military and make use of his GI Bill benefits by pursuing higher education.

In August 2012, at 24 years old, Artz made his decision. He found himself far from his former base of Fort Campbell, Kentucky, sitting in his first classes as one of 2,200 adult and veteran learners who enroll at Penn State's University Park campus each year.

“I left a career job that I was enjoying every day to take a leap into the unknown,” Artz said of his decision to enroll at Penn State. “Of course, there were times I wondered if it was the right thing to do. Looking back, I would still make the same decision.”

In addition to his academic responsibilities, Artz worked part time, procured internships, and became involved both on campus and in the State College community — all while maintaining his commitment to the Pennsylvania National Guard, which involved being removed from classes for entire semesters over the course of his undergraduate career for trainings and deployments.

“Veterans, like all adult learners, are challenged because we’re under a unique time crunch. We have unique responsibilities and backgrounds from traditional undergrads,” Artz said. “When I came to Penn State, the culture and attitude of the students around me was different than I anticipated. It was an adjustment for sure, but getting involved and finding my community made a huge difference.”

Among the groups and experiences that shaped his undergraduate experience was Adult Learner Programs and Services, a unit of Student Affairs commonly known as ALPS.

Artz credits some of his success in adjusting to university life to the programs organized by Leslie Laing, director of Adult Learner Programs and Services at Penn State.

“I owe the current path I’m on to individuals like Leslie, who organized awards, programs and activities that helped me engage in the community,” Artz said. “It’s been a nontraditional, exciting ride, and I couldn’t have had this kind of experience anywhere but at Penn State.”

“Building a community for nontraditional students is paramount to helping students achieve success,” Laing said. “Providing advocacy, mentorship and programs that allow adult and veteran students to find one another on a campus of over 46,000 undergraduates is essential to their survival. “

According to Artz, these programs help nontraditional learners find their place in the Penn State community, allowing them to be fully immersed and involved in their undergraduate experience.

“Maybe you have kids, maybe you’re in your thirties, maybe you started a family and are now coming back to finish your degree — no matter what your circumstances are, there are people here who understand where you are coming from and what you are experiencing,” Artz said. “That’s one of the best lessons ALPS taught me.”

In addition to serving in several leadership roles with Centre Bike, Artz also became involved in the State College Cycling Club, Penn State Veterans Organization, and Omega Delta Sigma, a national fraternity for veterans and those currently serving in the military.

His community involvement and connections to fellow veterans and adult learners aided him in securing an undergraduate capstone internship with the Centre Regional Planning Agency, as well as an additional internship with Penn State World Campus in the B2B Marketing Department. He served as a student representative in Project LionPath, remained active with Penn State Ability Athletics, and planned multiple community and campus events as a member of the Penn State Cycling Club over the course of his undergraduate career.

“Meeting with Andrew throughout the years was always a pleasure,” Laing said. “We would talk about connecting his leadership skills, his passion for riding and creating change by networking with others. Adult Learner Programs and Services helps students connect the dots and live their curriculum in order to prepare for their future career.”

Since graduating in May 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in recreation, park, and tourism management, Artz remains active in the Pennsylvania National Guard and works full time in the Career and Corporate Connections Office in the Smeal College of Business. He's also enrolled in the geodesign graduate certificate program through Penn State World Campus and is on track to complete a master’s degree.

“Penn State has given me so much. I’m happy now to be working at Penn State, helping students get the most of their years here and find the best careers,” Artz said. “So many people have gone out of their way to help me find opportunities; it feels right to be here doing the same for other students.”

Last Updated November 03, 2017