Prior Learning Assessment recasts story for Penn State alumna

Alison Kuznitz
October 30, 2017

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — An investigator recently constructed a timeline of Mari Moxley’s entire life, tracking her widespread educational and employment accolades across the country. It’s all part of standard procedure for the Air Force reservist and Penn State alumna aiming to gain clearance for classified video projects.

But, it’s not the first time this roadmap has been developed. Through Penn State’s Prior Learning Assessment (PLA), the Memphis native joined the disparate pieces of herself together, resulting in a portfolio to capture her life’s trajectory — and meaning.

“I was drawn to the Letters, Arts and Sciences program because I didn’t neatly fit into any one major,” said Moxley, who earned her degree in 2014. “I had to thoughtfully design my program and write a proposal for what it should look like. Going through courses in this program was great, but what was truly the icing on the cake for me was the Prior Learning Assessment.”

Penn State students at any campus can enhance their success and academic experience through the prior learning process. Faculty determine whether knowledge gained at another college or university, as well in military, workplace, high school, or self-study settings, is worthy of college credit.

Moxley enrolled in Penn State World Campus while she was still on active duty, and midway through her studies, she launched her own film business, Moxie N Motion.

“The portfolio provided me the opportunity to reflect on the meta-implications of my life story.” 

— Penn State alumna Mari Moxley

With academic credit from other institutions already under her belt, Moxley said the Prior Leaning Assessment and LA201W — Experiential Learning Portfolio — offered much-needed flexibility for meeting graduation requirements. The course’s signature project is submitted for credit assessment, but it can also be contextualized for students’ future endeavors — fostering vital critical-thinking skills.

“The portfolio provided me the opportunity to reflect on the meta-implications of my life story,” Moxley said. “I had been so drawn to understanding other people’s stories, yet up until this point, I had never really tried to understand my own and the things I had learned along the way.”

A visual storyteller and broadcaster, Moxley said the portfolio and accompanying narrative shed light on her true passion: “creating an intimate space to really know people.” It also reoriented her career aspirations.

Currently, Moxley is also an addictions counselor pursuing a master’s degree in clinical social work.

“What I really learned upon doing this portfolio is that we as humans all deeply desire to be known, to be valued, and to understand the narrative of our life stories,” Moxley said. “PLA is something that every student should have an opportunity to do, because it’s this self-reflective exercise that has such great benefit.”

For more information about Prior Learning Assessment, contact Michele Rice, director of Prior Learning Assessment, at or 814-867-6097.

Current students are encouraged to learn more about prior learning opportunities by visiting and working with their adviser.

Prior Learning Assessment is part of Penn State Undergraduate Education, the academic administrative unit that provides leadership and coordination for University-wide programs and initiatives in support of undergraduate teaching and learning at Penn State. Learn more about Undergraduate Education at

  • Mari Moxley embraces new career
    IMAGE: Penn State
  • Mari Moxley embraces new career
    IMAGE: Penn State
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Last Updated October 30, 2017