Senior, ready to graduate, credits Penn State with opening doors to the world

May 04, 2016

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Jordan Chapman has uncovered plant fossils while digging for dinosaurs in Denver and caught glimpses of the Milky Way in the sky on a flight to Israel.

Now, the Penn State senior is getting ready to take that curiosity and drive to explore with him after he graduates from Penn State with a bachelor’s in anthropology and geosciences and a minor in geography.

“It’s one thing to read a book about these places, but to know you can go there is amazing,” Chapman, 24, said.

Chapman will be the first in his family to graduate from college, walking in the spring commencement this weekend before capping his undergraduate experience with a summer geosciences field camp in the western United States.

He plans to earn a master’s in geosciences and eventually a doctorate in anthropology. While he isn’t sure what else he’ll do, he would like to continue with research, teaching and opening the doors to college for young people who come from urban areas or might not be aware of the opportunities they could pursue.

“I would like to make more science programs available in urban areas. I think a lot of kids don’t get that opportunity. I don’t think they fully understand what types of science they can do,” he said.

Chapman didn’t always know he wanted to study anthropology or geosciences. Before coming to Penn State, he studied first at a small college and then at a community college in Philadelphia, focusing on music.

It was after he talked with a guidance counselor about his interests — including making a positive impact on the world and traveling — that he took a class and then another in anthropology. What caught his interest was the combination of science, politics and human rights. Later, when he came to Penn State, he added geosciences to the mix.

“If you want to solve problems, you have to have a good understanding of how humans work and what some of the biggest issues are,” Chapman said.

His school didn’t offer a major in anthropology, so he applied to Penn State. While he was accepted to start in fall 2012, he deferred for a semester so he could work while living at home in Philadelphia to save money to pay tuition for the first semester.

After he came to Penn State, he took a class in geosciences — another field that deals with subjects that impact people. He added the subject, creating a double major that crosses the College of the Liberal Arts and the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences.

“Penn State was a great place for me,” said Chapman, a McNair Scholar and president of the Anthropology Club. This year, he won a Resilient Student Award from the Multicultural Center.

“When you tell them what you do, you see their eyes light up.

-- Jordan Chapman, senior in anthropology and geosciences

There wasn’t one secret to his academic success — although quiet buildings at night offer good study spots. He credited the Student Support Services program with providing support. He also received support from the College of the Liberal Arts to help him pursue his degree and out-of-classroom projects.

“A few years ago if you would have told me I would have done half this stuff, I would have said, ‘No, it’s not going to happen,’” he said.

That includes participating in a field expedition in Israel, another program in Denver and presenting at the Penn State Summer Research Symposium.

Chapman wants to share with young people not just what he learned, but the opportunities that are out there.

“When you tell them what you do, you see their eyes light up,” Chapman said of talking to people about his major and classes. “Just because it seems hard doesn’t mean you can’t do it.”

Chapman was accepted to graduate school at the University of Arkansas. He plans to take a little bit of time off after the summer program. But first, he will walk at commencement where his mother, Ayanna, and younger sister, Jalani, will watch him graduate.

Last Updated May 04, 2016