Looking to serve the area's untraditional student, Penn State Williamsport Center specializes in adult learners who hold jobs and have families.
The center, 1020 Commerce Park Drive Suite 2B, offers degrees and certificates. Radecka Appiah-Padi, director of the center, said many of the center's students are finishing up programs that they started years ago.
"If you look at where we're located, there are a lot of people that would love to go back to school," she said.
The Penn State Williamsport Learning Center, 1020 Commerce Park Drive, Suite 2B, Water Tower Square, recently held an open house for the public. The open house gave visitors an opportunity to speak with the campus’ staff, as well as view the facilities. Pictured above, Nick Dikas, study aide coordinator for Penn State World Campus for Continuing Education, answers questions Margaret Davis of Lewisburg has about applying for financial aid.
One of two Penn State Williamsport Learning Center VNR classrooms is shown above. This room features two microphones in the ceiling and a video camera for virtual classes and additional electrical outlets for computers.
A recent open house event allowed the public to explore and ask questions to staff and current students. Although the space is small, Appiah-Padi said they make the most of it.
"Even though it's a relatively small space, the way we utilize the space allows us to do quite a bit," she said.
The school has two separate instruction areas, which both are equipped with technology - such as web cameras and microphones - that allows students to take classes from any of Penn State's campuses and professors. Appiah-Padi said this helpful for adults who have jobs and families as they don't have to travel away from the area in order to get a Penn State degree.
"The way this place is set up, we really focus on the adult learner," she said. "They can stay in Williamsport. They can stay with their family."
Mike Vines, a current student, said the lure of getting a Penn State degree is what brings students to the center.
"You can get a Penn State degree right here in Williamsport," he said.
The school opened in February 2010 and Appiah-Padi said it's grown ever since. The fact that the center can "fill a niche" makes it a good fit for adult learners.
"People are settled. They are working. They cannot drive long distances (to go to school)," Appiah-Padi said.
Students are given most experiences a traditional college student would. Advisers come to the campus every two weeks to answer any questions and to give guidance. Students can borrow laptop computers to do assignments and they can meet with professors - through technology - to discuss class material.
"From the time a student expresses interest and comes here, we really walk side-by-side," Appiah-Padi said.
But like everything, Appiah-Padi said there are difficult times.
"Initially, I didn't like it," Vines said, "Because we're older; we're not 18 or 19 (years old). However, after a couple of days, we got used to it."
Vines went on to say that after not being in a school setting for so many years, he needed some time to transition back into it. But since the center is used to working with adults, it made it easier.
"It's a very good thing for adults because for some of us we've been out of school for 20-plus years," Vines said.
He spoke about how a professor allowed him to leave a class when his daughter was locked out of his house. Vines said this compassion shown at the school makes it a family-like setting.
Appiah-Padi said students are excited that the center is giving them an opportunity to further their education.
"For a lot of (students) they are saying, 'Finally, we can do this,' " she said.