Penn State takes online learners to Scotland for study-abroad opportunity

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A group of online learners from Penn State will travel to Scotland next week to learn about international human resources policies and practices for a course toward their master’s degree.

Sixteen students, who are working professionals in the human resources field, will meet March 18 in Edinburgh and spend the week attending lectures given by faculty at Napier University, meeting with the HR staff at a variety of businesses and organizations and participating in cultural and research activities. The course is being offered in the master of professional studies in human resources and employment relations degree, which is offered exclusively online at the University through Penn State World Campus.

This is the second consecutive year that Penn State’s School of Labor and Employment Relations has offered a weeklong study-abroad opportunity to online learners. Last year, students traveled to Ireland.

“This is the kind of learning experience that we want to provide as much of as possible for our students,” said Trisha Everhart, assistant director of online programs for the School of Labor and Employment Relations. “It helps them become more committed to the profession and the school. We want to give others the same sense of engagement.”

In preparation for the trip, students have learned about Scottish history and culture, the European Union, and Scottish human resources and labor policies and practices. Once in Edinburgh, they will meet with human resources staff from IBM; Skyscanner, an Edinburgh-based online flight-search tool; Royal Bank of Scotland; Edinburgh City Council; and investment company Standard Life Aberdeen.

When they return to the United States, they will write a paper reflecting on their experiences.

Chief Petty Officer Brooks Wakefield, who works as a career counselor in the Navy, said the trip is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. He enrolled in the master’s degree program to strengthen his skills for when he looks for a job after retiring from the military in January 2019.

Wakefield has focused his studies on benefits and compensation, and he said he hopes to learn about the challenges that international companies deal with, such as transferring employees between countries and taxes, and the availability of labor abroad.

He said he met some students who went to Ireland in 2017 when he took an intensive one-week course for his master’s degree at Penn State’s University Park campus last summer. They spoke highly of the experience.

“They said it was awe-inspiring and amazing how Penn State lined things up with such professionalism,” Wakefield said. “They were sitting there in class, talking about how wonderful Ireland was. It was their feedback that’s driven me to want to go to Scotland.”

Rebecca Cibulka, a 2017 graduate, was one of the students who went on the trip to Limerick, Ireland, last year. Students attended courses at a university and visited human resources staff at several businesses. Cibulka said she had a fantastic time.

“The experiences that we had beyond the courses at the University of Limerick had quite the impact on our knowledge of international HR practices in Ireland,” Cibulka said. “I was amazed at how Guinness structures their HR department and holds true to their talent principles, and I was very thankful for the opportunity to ask questions of expatriates at Johnson & Johnson. More than anything, though, I was surprised and pleased by our group's ability to come together, cooperate, and make the experience positive and memorable.”

Visit the Penn State World Campus website for more information about the master’s degree in human resources and employment relations and other programs available online.

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Last Updated March 12, 2018