Kim Reiker lost her sight in 2007 and has worked in tactile production jobs ever since. She decided she did not want to do that forever and that she'd like to help the blind.
That motivation brought Reiker back to school to finish her degree, a bachelor’s in history, that she hopes will be a springboard to a new career and a new purpose in life.
She graduated in May and will be going to graduate school to get a master’s degree in education and vision studies. She wants to teach history to those who are visually impaired.
“I have a love of history,” she said. “As a teacher, I want to make history more accessible to the blind.”
Reiker is among the thousands of people who went back to school and chose a liberal arts degree online through Penn State World Campus. They say these majors in the humanities and social sciences have helped them achieve their personal and professional goals.
25 years of offering education online
This year marks 25 years since the launch in 1998 of Penn State World Campus, which expanded access to high-quality Penn State degrees to anyone around the globe who had an internet connection.
The degree programs in the liberal arts, offered online by the Penn State College of the Liberal Arts, are an important part of the portfolio of more than 175 degree and certificate programs available through Penn State World Campus.
One of the first degrees was the Bachelor of Arts in Letters, Arts, and Sciences, which was recently renamed the Bachelor of Arts in Multidisciplinary Studies to reflect the nature of curriculum connecting the humanities, arts, and social sciences. It focuses on the academic principles of communication skills, critical analysis, research, and theory and application.
Psychology, the study of human behavior and mental processes, is a popular liberal arts major. At Penn State, students can choose between a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, which offers a curriculum that includes research, or a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, which emphasizes course work in the humanities, arts, and social sciences.
The diverse selection of liberal arts degrees includes three choices in political science. The Penn State World Campus Bachelor of Science in Political Science and Bachelor of Arts in Political Science programs both incorporate substantive knowledge of U.S. politics, international relations, and the politics of other nations. The Bachelor of Science program also provides students with a practical understanding of research design and data analysis. The Bachelor of Arts in Political Science allows students to tailor their studies for specialized or general knowledge of politics and related fields. The Bachelor of Arts in International Politics is aimed at those with an interest in foreign affairs and homeland security, and at those pursuing careers in international business.
The Bachelor of Science in Integrated Social Sciences is an option for those students who wish to leverage their previous education in the social sciences. The Bachelor of Arts in History offers a curriculum with a strong foundation in social sciences, humanities, research, writing, critical thinking, and more.
Liberal arts degrees provide skills to help students reach their goals
Theresa Tama picked a major in the liberal arts when she decided to go back to finish her degree because of something her boss said. He valued employees with well-rounded skills like problem-solving, communication, and team-building.
Tama graduated with a liberal arts degree in Letters, Arts, and Sciences in 2012 and has gone on to have a successful career.
"If I hadn’t finished my degree, I wouldn't have had the opportunities I've had, the jobs I've been offered," said Tama, who works as a business consultant in Georgia.
Thandi Clements also graduated with a bachelor’s in Letters, Arts, and Sciences, in 2014. Clements, who has 20 years of experience in marketing, sales, and client relations, said the course work she explored in the liberal arts gave her "training for the mind," a broad range of skills she has been able to apply in her jobs.
"My liberal arts degree has helped me be successful in my career," said Clements, who is the vice president for marketing and client relations at an investment firm. “You develop the skills to see and imagine the larger picture, but you also learn to research and identify other possibilities and constructs and to collaborate and communicate effectively to bring those ideas into being.
“I have relied on every single one of those tools throughout my career — from project management to problem-solving, to sales and marketing, and most importantly, navigating and adapting within a changing and increasingly complex world.”
When Bryan Parent got out of the Army after serving for six years, he wanted to use his experience in military intelligence in his post-military career. He was drawn to a master’s degree in homeland security but first needed to complete a bachelor’s degree.
Parent decided to enroll in the Bachelor of Science in Political Science to finish his undergraduate degree so he could go on to grad school. He finished his bachelor’s in 2016 and his master’s in 2018, and he works as a senior protective intelligence analyst at LinkedIn.
“Because of Penn State’s first-rate reputation, World Campus was an easy choice for me. The instructors, professors, and teaching assistants are incredibly top-notch,” Parent said. “I can’t thank Penn State enough for putting me in the position to take advantage of the luck that I’ve had.”
Jennifer Zeares graduated in 2022 with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. She said her experience learning online was transformational.
Zeares wanted a renowned institution with a highly rated academic program that provided opportunities to get involved with her peers. She said she got what she wanted through Penn State World Campus, joining a variety of clubs and making lifelong connections with her classmates and mentors.
“I didn’t just get my degree — I changed my life. Everything is different, and the trajectory of my life is so different now. And that’s because I chose Penn State World Campus,” Zeares said.
Learn more about the degrees in the liberal arts that are offered online through Penn State World Campus.