New grad received unexpected gift along with her studies online: friendships

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Elyce Wolfgang chose to earn her master’s degree through Penn State World Campus because of the flexible schedule and the University's strong reputation, but she found something she didn’t expect from an online program: new friendships.

“The coolest part of the program was being part of the cohort,” said Wolfgang, who will graduate with a master's degree in health administration this coming weekend. “We got to know each other so well, and I wasn’t expecting that.”

Wolfgang was selected to speak about her experiences at the Penn State World Campus Graduation Celebration on Friday, Dec. 15, an event for students and their families held on campus at the Bryce Jordan Center.

“I’ve made close friends from this program. I know that will carry on.”

— Elyce Wolfgang, master's degree student in health administration, Penn State World Campus

Wolfgang, a pediatric radiology manager at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, said her program included students from all over the country and the world, and from a wide range of fields, including nurses, an anesthesiologist, and insurance and biotech professionals. Students were able to help each other out with the subject matter they were most familiar with.

“The support we gave each other was so invaluable,” she said. “I work in radiology, so if there was a case study in radiology, they could call me.”

Wolfgang said the students’ diverse backgrounds and experiences enhanced their group discussions.

Last summer, the group came to State College for a summer intensive program, where they each met for the first time the classmates they had been interacting with online for a year.

“That was so cool to actually put a name with a face and get to know each other on a more personal level,” she said.

Wolfgang is 34 and has a 6-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter. She lives in York and commutes at least an hour each way to her job at Johns Hopkins, where she has worked for almost 13 years. Sometimes she listened to recorded lectures for class in the car, she said, but mostly she used the commute for reflection.

The program, which started in August 2015, has given her new skills that she has already been able to apply in her job, she said.

Wolfgang said she knows her newfound friendships with her classmates will continue. She and a fellow student traveled to Nashville together over spring break this past year.

“I’ve made close friends from this program,” she said. “I know that will carry on.”

Visit the Penn State World Campus website for more information about learning online.

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Last Updated December 15, 2017