UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Penn State World Campus Student Government Association (WCSGA) was formed earlier this year to unite and advocate for the University’s online learners around the globe. Its executive board is composed of 10 World Campus students who hail from five U.S. states and are pursuing eight different degree programs, and it's being led by two students pursuing bachelor’s degrees online through the College of Information Sciences and Technology.

President Sean Walsh, majoring in information sciences and technology, and vice president Tanya Near, majoring in security and risk analysis, were elected through online voting in April and assumed their roles in May. The rest of the committee members will be assembled for the fall 2019 semester.

“I have worked closely with a few IST professors in the past to know that they instill a strong foundation of leadership in their students,” said Walsh. “I hope us being IST-related majors encourages others to get involved and participate within their own unique Penn State experience.”

Near added, “While it is just coincidence that we are both in IST-related majors, I think that it is great that the College of IST is well-represented. It is equally great that we have so much representation from the other colleges and graduate students to help round out the board. I hope to see that diversity of representation continue to grow with the World Campus Student Government.”

Walsh, a State College resident, began taking courses online through Penn State World Campus after realizing the flexibility that online learning offers. He had been balancing being an adult learner at University Park and working full-time in information technology for the borough of State College.

Once he enrolled as an online learner, he was surprised to find that World Campus didn’t have a student government. He decided to run for a position on the executive board with the goal of changing that.

Near, who lives in Arlington, Virginia, chose to pursue her degree through World Campus because of the flexibility it offered her with her full-time position in the U.S. Navy. She said she wanted to attend a university that offered reputable degrees in nontraditional ways.

“It was important that my degree come from an institution I could be proud of [that] had value and name recognition,” she said. “Penn State offers one of the best online programs in the nation.”

As the WCSGA was being formed, Near decided to run for a position because she wants others to feel the same affinity for the University that she does, and because she desires to give back to Penn State.

“I think that the World Campus government will attract future students because it shows that the University respects their online learners and values their voice,” Near said. “The student government also provides online learners with an opportunity to exercise the leadership skills they are being taught.”

Pursuing Passions

Walsh said his career choice was an obvious decision.

“I chose IST as my major because technology has always been an interest of mine,” he said. “I find it fascinating how we develop methods and processes to enrich the society in which we all live. I spent a significant portion of my childhood learning everything I could, from word processing to software development.”

Near, on the other hand, discovered her passion for technology later in life.

“I became interested in tech while in the Navy. I started with the basics, and over my career, I was exposed to all levels of the IT field, from building computers to managing networks to ensuring compliance with industry standards," she said. “I chose SRA because I am interested in how individuals can protect their digital footprint and how to help companies that handle our privileged information do a better job of preventing data loss."

As an aspiring cybersecurity manager, Near explained the significance of the College of IST’s commitment to being a leader in preparing graduates for the industry.

“The University has been designated as a national Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance and Cyber-Defense Education by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security,” she said. “This is another benchmark representing the quality of the education IST students receive.”

As Near and Wash unite to lead the WCSGA, they said they are excited to implement new ideas while representing Penn State World Campus.

“I believe that World Campus students deserve a voice that represents them and their unique challenges as online students,” Near said. “I am excited to be a part of the inaugural World Campus [student] government that will build the framework that will provide that voice to University faculty and student leaders.”