Penn Stater overcomes eating disorder, wins adult student award

March 27, 2012

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Alison Franklin was third in her Weatherly, Pa., high school class in 1998 and headed to a promising Penn State career. But dealing with anorexia and bulimia forced her to withdraw from Penn State in 2003. Meeting her future husband, marrying and becoming pregnant were a wake-up call. Franklin worked diligently on her recovery and re-enrolled at Penn State in 2009. For her tenacity in overcoming her health challenge and her academic success, Franklin has been honored with the 2012 Penn State Outstanding Adult Student Award.

“I always wanted to be perfect,” said Franklin, 32, who lives in Centre Hall with husband Don and Grace, 5, and Evelyn, 3. “I was restricting what I ate, then it changed to bulimia, and my life spiraled out of control. It makes me sad that I wasted so much time, but those 11 years also made me who I am today: a strong, confident, capable woman.”

The award recognizes an exceptional adult learner at University Park campus who has begun or resumed their education after the age of 24, after being out of high school for four or more years, and who demonstrates initiative in overcoming obstacles to furthering their education, while serving as a role model for other adult learners, achieving academic excellence and contributing to their community.

“As an adult student, Alison Franklin has successfully juggled family, part-time work and volunteer activities with being a full-time student,” said Leslie A. Laing, coordinator of Adult Learner Programs, Division of Student Affairs, and organizer of the annual adult learner recognition program. “Alison is truly an asset to our community.”

Franklin’s academic adviser James Howell, toxicology program coordinator in the College of Agricultural Sciences, nominated her for the award. He said, “Alison’s academic performance has been all but perfect (GPA 3.97) in some of the most specialized and challenging courses at the University.”

When Franklin re-enrolled at Penn State, she designed a hybrid ecotoxicology curriculum for her degree that has become a template for other students to use. She will graduate with a bachelor of science degree in toxicology in May and will start graduate school in the fall in the College of Agricultural Sciences’ soil sciences program. Franklin said, “My ultimate goal is to determine how chemicals and drugs move in soil systems in order to determine the risk they pose to humans and wildlife."

As part of the Outstanding Adult Student Award program, Franklin received a Penn State diploma case and a $500 grant from the Penn State Adult Learner Opportunity Fund. To contribute to this fund, visit and in the drop down box enter “XXTOF Adult Learner Opportunity Fund.”

The Division of Student Affairs Adult Learner Programs provides comprehensive services for nontraditional undergraduate students that complement learners’ academic, personal and career goals.

Admission Services and Adult Learner Advocacy is dedicated to extending and enhancing services to Penn State adult students. This unit is part of Penn State Outreach, the largest unified outreach organization in American higher education, which serves more than 5 million people each year, delivering more than 2,000 programs to people in all 67 Pennsylvania counties, all 50 states and 115 countries worldwide.

  • Alison Franklin, 2012 Penn State Outstanding Adult Student Award winner

    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated April 02, 2012