UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A Penn State employee who supports Penn State World Campus' adult learners in its human resources and employment relations programs has received an award for her work, the University has announced.

Trisha Everhart, assistant director of online programs in the School of Labor and Employment Relations in College of the Liberal Arts, has been honored with the 2021 Shirley Hendrick Award, presented by the Penn State Commission for Adult Learners for service to adult learners.

In her role, she works with students in the graduate and undergraduate labor and human resources degree programs, which consist of a Master of Professional Studies in Human Resources and Employment Relations and a two bachelor's degrees in labor and human resources at the undergraduate level.

The Shirley Hendrick Award recognizes an administrator University-wide who has contributed to the success of Penn State’s efforts to serve adult learners. The award is named in memory of Shirley Hendrick (1936–2000), the first recipient, dean for continuing education in the Smeal College of Business and inaugural chair of the Commission for Adult Learners, who advocated for continuing education.

Throughout her career working with adult learners, which began at Penn State in 2008, Everhart has been an advocate for adults by creating educational opportunities and peer-mentorship programs for students, nominators said. She also serves as the academic adviser for students enrolled in the online Masters in Professional Studies program. 

Considered one of her most notable innovations, nominators said Everhart created online peer mentoring groups for new online students. 

“Trisha understands that helping students feel connected to the program can improve their retention and eventual graduation,” a nominator said. “Consequently, she organized small groups of incoming students who shared common interests and classes. These types of study groups in residence would ordinarily emerge organically; however, Trisha became the catalyst to allow our adult students to create comparable links.”

Everhart works with students who are an average age of 35. Most are fully employed and have families. She relies on her experiences as an adult learner — she earned her Master of Education in Higher Education through Penn State World Campus while working full time and raising a family — to guide her throughout her career.

Her life experiences, nominators said, allow her to be a fierce advocate for her students.

“Our strong retention rate and eventual high graduation rate is a testament to her daily efforts with students,” a nominator said. “At the same time, she is clearly the voice of the student during our program management meetings. Dealing with students one-on-one, she understands their needs and desires. As a result of her efforts, we have added a number of program initiatives to increase student engagement. With Everhart’s help, we have also worked with our faculty, a mix of academics and practitioners, to mold our practices to be more student friendly.”

Find out more about the labor and human resources programs offered online through Penn State World Campus.