Involving Online and Adult Learners in the University Community

Today I received an e-mail asking for feedback on my experience at All University Day, an opportunity that PSU generously provides each year to unite students from all campuses during half-time at a football game in Beaver Stadium. I then revisited an article that I wrote about the experience for our WCPC newsletter that semester. I enjoyed reading it so much (and I usually don’t enjoy reading my own writing), that I thought I would share it here as a wonderful example of involving online and adult learners in the University community. Sadly, I cannot get the pictures to cooperate :-(

All University Day

Every year, the PSU Commonwealth campuses receive tickets for their students to attend the football game at Beaver Stadium designated as All University Day. During a half-time presentation, representatives carry a banner from each campus onto the field to join the entire Penn State community together. It is an opportunity for all of us to show our Penn State pride, regardless of where we attend.

Many of the branch campuses use the event as a fundraiser, selling the tickets to their students on a first-come, first-served basis. Those of us attending World Campus were offered the opportunity to win a pair of tickets. What did we have to do? Students determined to win tickets (like me) did what we do best. We sat in front of our computers and patiently watched for the next contest announcement. (Think of that bathrobe-clad uncle trying to win the radio contest in One Crazy Summer with John Cusack, but before computers ;-) Using all of our social networking connections, World Campus staff gave tickets away to their students in facebook, Twitter and Second Life. Personally, I got lucky at the lion shrine in Second Life.

I am a member of a Penn State family living less than three hours away from University Park and I feel fortunate to have already had several opportunities to visit the main campus and attend a few of the football games there. After giving it some serious thought, I decided to invite my daughter, Amanda, to accompany me for a girls-only weekend. She is a senior in high school and I am all too aware of the fact that she will be embarking on her own college adventure soon. Thelma and Louise, here we come; all the glamour, but much less drama! Susan Sarandon will play me in the movie version!

World Campus staff invited all ticket winners and their guests to attend a tailgate at the Outreach Building the night before the game. What a great idea! I finally got to meet our Social Networks Advisor, Shannon Ritter, in person. Plus, I met my Spanish II instructor, Roxana Gearhart, and many other World Campus staff and faculty members. We feasted on a hearty meal of ribs and chicken with baked beans and all the accoutrements, surrounded by shiny blue and white PSU balloons and other decorations. The piece de resistance, however, were the blue and white paw print cupcakes. Amanda and I later learned that these make a great 3 am snack, too, after we packed our car with balloons and leftover food! In fact, I’m pretty sure that my kid heisted a cowbell from the festivities which may end up somewhere on my final tuition bill!

We left the tailgate, white pompoms in hand, and headed to the Rally in the Valley pep rally. The pep rally is good practice for learning all of the important game day cheers. Well, let me tell you, the pep rally is what I imagine it feels like to sit in the middle of the student section at a home game! It’s E-L-E-C-T-R-I-C! The Blue Band played and the cheerleaders got the party started. Then the football players made their way to the reserved seating, the only empty bleachers in the field house. Enter stage left, the fearless leader of our Penn State football program, Coach Joe Paterno, and the crowd went W-I-L-D! I only heard little bits and pieces of his message between deafening bursts from the crowd, though I imagine whatever he said was sincere and motivating. Exiting the field house to exuberant cheers of WE ARE and PENN STATE, we capped off our day with a trip to College Avenue before heading to The Keller House where we would be staying for the weekend. Though it was already raining lightly, we crossed our fingers for sun on game day.

For the record, that finger crossing thing is pretty unreliable. We woke up to sounds of rain on the windows and breakfast being prepared in the kitchen. At least it wasn’t all bad. Seriously, if you want to make a middle-aged mother happy, just cook her breakfast and clean up the mess. Really, we are that easy to please. So, Amanda and I were the only two bleary-eyed guests at the breakfast table. Everyone else was fresh as a daisy, chatting about his or her events for the day. It turns out that all of the other guests were season ticket holders and headed to the football game later that day. One of the things I love most about Penn Staters is that we are all family and we spent a good portion of the morning sitting around that table getting to know each other. There were a few quizzical looks, however, when Amanda and I enthusiastically headed out the door (after doing homework, of course) and into the pouring rain six hours before kickoff.

So, what is there to do in State College six hours before the game in the pouring down rain?? Hello……SHOPPING! Along the way, we discovered that we were not as prepared for the elements as we originally thought. Three sweatshirts, two pairs of socks, a few PSU temporary tattoos, ten rain ponchos, a tail and some College Avenue pizza later, (yes, I did say tail), and we were ready to make our way to the stadium. Let me tell you, we are the life of the party wherever we go!

The best thing about the game was our seats. They were A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! We were in the first few rows of the end zone opposite the traditional student section. For Nittany Lion fans like us, the experience was just unbelievable. We screamed until we had no voices left. We cheered until the stadium floor was littered with strips of white plastic from our pom poms and the sleeves under our rain ponchos were soaked all the way down our sides. Unfortunately, Penn State did not walk away with a victory that day. Amanda and I watched as the players exited the field and turned around to see that we were among the few remaining Penn State fans left in the stands. I stopped to look around and take it all in. After all, I would probably never see the stadium from that perspective again.  Then I gathered up my muddy tail and we said good night to Beaver Stadium.

We were cold, sad, hungry and extremely wet, but we forged a plan. We made it back to the car, and thankfully, to some dry clothes. Thanks to a hotel restroom that shall remain nameless…*presto*…we were on our way to warm and dry again. We ended up eating at a local restaurant around 1 am and making our way back to our comfy beds. This is when we revisited our friends, the paw print cupcakes J. By the way, for some reason, blue teeth at 3 am are hysterical!

After too brief a period of sleep, it was time for breakfast, where I am certain that our appearance did not impress our fellow guests. Thankfully, they were very understanding. Plus, I am sure that the two of us seemed quite entertaining, like toddlers with a shovel and pail at the beach. With long faces, we packed up the car, but could not bear to go straight home. Instead, we headed back to campus where we spent our few final hours. We finished our trip with a bang-up three course crab lunch from the Allen Street Grille before seeing the stadium for one last time in the rearview mirror.

I would like to finish this article by thanking Penn State University for maintaining the tradition of All University Day. I will never forget that weekend and the University made it possible by recognizing the value of all PSU students and supplying the opportunity for us to come together. In addition, I would like to thank the World Campus staff for their hard work and dedication. Thank you for planning the events that enable us to connect and build relationships with the University. I am grateful for your commitment to us as students of Penn State’s World Campus.

See the full article (complete with pictures) starting on page 5 of the Fall 2009 edition of Mind Over Matters here:

One response to “Involving Online and Adult Learners in the University Community

  1. Such a good trip! <3