World Campus names online student affairs director in response to rapid growth

April 07, 2016

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Most colleges and universities have a student affairs office that handles anything from student activities to housing and mental health services. But what happens when the students are online?

With more than 12,000 online students and growing, Penn State has responded to the challenge by creating a new position: director of student affairs for Penn State World Campus, the University’s online campus.

Ashley Adams, newly appointed to fill that role, sees her job as strengthening the connections between Penn State’s online students and making sure they have access to the same level of resources as their on-campus counterparts.

"We want to serve the whole of the student, regardless of delivery," she said.

Adams, who has a doctorate in higher education administration from St. Louis University, previously worked in student services at Ball State University. In her new position, Adams oversees career services, student activities and engagement, student conduct, leadership development and mental health services for Penn State World Campus.

Adams said her top priority is building community among online learners. On campus, students connect with each other in residence halls, sports stadiums and student centers. Online, Adams wants to help students connect in a virtual student union — an “e-Hub” — where they can interact with each other on discussion boards and in online activities, as well as access University resources and information.

"We want to serve the whole of the student, regardless of delivery."

-- Ashley Adams, director of student affairs for
Penn State World Campus

Also high on her list is increasing opportunities for online students to get involved in student activities, including student government and other leadership opportunities. Adams wants to increase support for World Campus student groups that already exist and expand other opportunities for student engagement. She also plans to increase ways for online students to participate in on-campus events through live streaming of speakers and other activities.

Creating a World Campus student government is critical, not just as an engagement opportunity for students, but also to ensure student input and influence in World Campus administrative decisions — for example on hiring committees, Adams said. The student perspective is invaluable, said Adams. “We’re here in service to them.”

Adams also wants to expand student services, including mental health support services for online students. She plans to hire a mental health advocate and case manager for World Campus to help connect students with resources in their own communities. “It's critically important that we be holistic,” she said.

Adams also wants to expand opportunities for World Campus students to have out-of-class engaged scholarship opportunities through study abroad experiences, alternative spring break programs, volunteerism and virtual internships.

Learn more about Penn State World Campus at

  • head shot of Ashley Adams

    New World Campus Student Affairs Director Ashley Adams

    IMAGE: Mike Dawson
Last Updated April 11, 2016