Dedicated workforce education program students juggle busy lives with school

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Working toward a college degree is hard on its own, but students in the Workforce Education and Development (WFED) Program juggle college, full-time jobs, family life and many more obligations.

Housed within the Learning and Performance Systems (LPS) department, the WFED program has a large number of "nontraditional" students seeking degrees.

The goal of the Workforce Education and Development Program is to promote excellence, opportunity and leadership among professionals in the field of workforce education. This program specifically aims to help currently employed professionals, particularly those in secondary and postsecondary education institutes, receive a degree that will help further their learning and growth.

"I have no idea what the future will hold for me. For right now, I love my job, I love my coworkers, I love my students and I am very grateful to be able to go to work every day and pass on the knowledge of a profession that means a lot to me."

— Mindi Tobias, workforce education and development student

Benjamin Leskovansky, a returning-adult student with an undergraduate degree from Penn College, is completing an associate of science degree in the Workforce Education and Development (WFED) program. He will graduate this spring, and has been named the student marshal for his program.

"I chose this degree because it can lead to earning your vocational instructional certification for teaching at the secondary level in a vocational setting," Leskovansky said.

Leskovansky, who holds a full-time job, takes night classes. He also coaches football at a local high school in the fall and is able to juggle his busy schedule to do the "fun" things, such as spending time with his wife and pets.

"I find that to balance everything, I have to be very, very organized," Leskovansky said, "I keep a schedule, take notes, create reminders, and use technology to my advantage for keeping track of these things. Having the drive for learning and education, I do not find it burdensome to do all of the things that keep me busy."

Many students in the program have full-time jobs, families or other obligations, which is why time management is a very important skill for them to have.

"It is very hard. I’m not going to sugar-coat it," Said Mindi Tobias, a WFED undergraduate student.

Tobias works as a dental assisting instructor at the Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science and Technology (CPI) and has been taking classes at Penn State over the course of the last 10 years.

After being hired at CPI, Tobias began to talk with fellow instructors who, in her words, "only had wonderful things to say about the Workforce Education Department at Penn State." She chose to enroll in the WFED program in pursuit of a degree.

Her goal after completing her degree is to retain her current position as a dental assisting instructor at CPI.

"I have no idea what the future will hold for me," Tobias said. "For right now, I love my job, I love my coworkers, I love my students and I am very grateful to be able to go to work every day and pass on the knowledge of a profession that means a lot to me."

Timothy Strunk, an adult learner who works full-time at Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology, is enrolled in the WFED program seeking a bachelor’s degree.

"My focus while enrolled here at Penn State is to learn and develop strategies that will help the students in my classroom be successful in transitioning through the education process, developing their skills and talents, and finding permanent placement in today's workforce," Strunk said.

Strunk, who loves spending time with his grandchildren and fixing up old houses with his wife, has found the Workforce Education staff to be very resourceful and supportive through his Penn State experience.

After teaching at a Berks County vocational technical high school for 14 years, Strunk began his job at Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology, and then decided to pursue a degree at Penn State.

"Looking forward, my intent is to continue on faculty at Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology and continue to make an impact on the students enrolled in the HVAC/R program here," Strunk said.

The end goal for many students in the Department of Learning and Performance Systems is to take their degrees to school with them as teachers.

"I would love to teach with my degree," Leskovansky said, "whether it is at the secondary level in a vocational setting teaching computer topics, or at the post-secondary level teaching workforce and continuing education topics."

The balance between being both a student, a parent or grandparent, and having a full-time job takes persistence and strength, but these students demonstrate their dedication to education and learning.

"I will not let anything get in my way," Tobias said.

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Last Updated April 19, 2018