Daren Kullman is a Penn State World Campus student who recently shared his story of why he chose to pursue his degree at Penn State.
Courses taken per term: Two courses per semester
Hours spent on program per week: 8 to 12 hours per course, per week
Current hometown: Boyertown, Pennsylvania, but when I started the program we lived in Cicero, New York
Distance from University Park: 170 miles
As a Penn State World Campus student, what does a typical school day look like for you?
My day is very different from when I started the program. Originally, I was a police sergeant getting ready to plan my retirement on a four- to five-year timeline. I started simply doing the school work after my shift each evening. I have three children and a wonderful wife who were supportive of my decision to go for my master’s degree. At the time I had one daughter at Penn State University Park pursuing two degrees, and my second daughter was in her senior year of high school.
All that changed and our timeline was catapulted forward when my wife decided to take a position in Pennsylvania, resulting in my retirement from law enforcement earlier than expected. Both of my daughters are now at Penn State main campus, and I live on a hobby farm with my wife and son. I’m up between 5:00 and 6:00 a.m. to feed the animals, get my son on the bus, and have my first cup of coffee. Whether tending to equipment, crops, or schoolwork, I have the luxury of adjusting my schedule to accommodate the day. One might think that, because of my retirement from the force, I would have lots of time, but upon arrival in Pennsylvania, I took a position on the board of directors of a therapeutic equestrian nonprofit, began consulting for several other organizations, and hope to eventually teach at the college level.
Much like others with busy lives, children, and careers, there really is no typical day. Appointments and projects seem to always pop up, creating the never-ending balance of work, study, and play.
Where do you complete your course work?
This to me is the amazing beauty of Penn State World Campus. I have a home office where I do as much as possible; however, I have done work in many unusual places. From our fifth-wheel camper while at a Penn State tailgate, a hotel room while on a family trip, a hospital room so that I could be near my son who was diagnosed with diabetes, sitting by a campfire in the Adirondacks, and even at Pattee Library at University Park.
What do you like most about Penn State World Campus?
World Campus is more than signing in to a computer and doing a lesson. It’s about community. World Campus is flexible, to allow me to balance life while obtaining an education. At Penn State, the departments decide which programs are online. They design and implement the courses, so the quality and demands are high, but so are the rewards. I have made good friends and had amazing experiences. Penn State World Campus has allowed me to explore technology, through use of a robot that I drove, and speaking to others while at a remote location. I am on the Penn State World Campus Student Advisory Board, allowing me to provide a voice for others in the shape of the learning environment. I have worked on projects and research that have been implemented in organizations, all while maintaining a quality life with my family. Being able to get such an advanced education without compromising my family time is what I like most.
Why did you choose Penn State World Campus?
Penn State was an easy choice for me. Penn State World Campus isn’t just an institution providing a piece of paper. It’s a community of like-minded individuals who desire to learn, interact, and develop together. It is an accredited institution that doesn’t compromise quality, research, and learning when transforming to the online format. I started the degree simply because a friend explained that I wouldn’t be marketable in civilian life without a master’s degree. I wouldn’t hold the same level of positions I was accustomed to without that piece of paper. What I found was so much more. The meaningful learning that I encountered, coupled with my life experiences, was what the lessons were based on. Rather than preaching to me a new way, they showed me how the cognitive value would benefit my current work. In addition, they provided me the community atmosphere, despite being a remote student. Opportunities for interaction, advancement, and professional growth abound at Penn State.
What would you tell someone thinking about enrolling in a Penn State World Campus program?
I had so many reasons why I feared going back to school at my age. (I will have turned 50 when I graduate.) I worried that technology had passed me by, writing skills wouldn’t be adequate, time would be a factor, and so many more unsubstantiated reasons. What I found was a program that was accommodating, fun, and applicable to my work. Penn State offers so much to help you succeed, from professors to the administrative offices; I have never once encountered anything but a friendly, warm group inviting me in to the academic world. No matter where you are in the world, where you do your work, or at what point you are in life, Penn State World Campus welcomes you in to the community. When I hear the time-honored call “WE ARE,” I can honestly say that my heartfelt response is to shout “PENN STATE!”