Alumni Perspective: Cathy Stout

We recently spoke with Cathy Stout, a graduate of Penn State World Campus, about how earning her degree helped her advance in her career. Keep reading to learn more about her position at University Health Services (UHS):

Degree and Graduation Year:  Master of Professional Studies in Homeland Security – Public Health Preparedness Option, 2015

Current hometown: Reedsville, Pennsylvania

Current career and workplace: Quality Improvement/Compliance Coordinator, University Health Services (UHS), Penn State University

What does a typical workday look like for you? There are no two days alike in the world of college health! I begin each morning with a large cup of coffee and settle into checking emails and voice mails. From that point forward, I work to ensure that UHS is complying with all regulatory standards put forth by the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care, which is the organization from which UHS receives accreditation. I head the Quality Improvement (QI) initiatives at UHS and am always striving to ensure that UHS, as a whole, is on the cutting edge of quality. QI is a critical component in health care. I also attend executive committee meetings, supervise front office staff, field phone calls from parents and students to other health care providers, conduct new employee orientation sessions/mandatory training, and guest lecture at first-year seminar classes. A portion of my current job that’s directly related to my major has been developing an emergency response plan for UHS. Of course, there are always “other duties as assigned!”

How did you get into this field? I hold a B.S. in Health Policy and Administration (HPA) from Penn State. I began at UHS 19 years ago as a staff assistant and have worked my way up. In 2013, I realized that without a master’s degree I would not be able to fulfill my goals of working in management. Since health care has been an important part of my life, I decided that I wanted to take it a step further. In addition to my B.S. in HPA, I have also been an emergency medical technician for 23 years. The Public Health Preparedness option in the Homeland Security program online gave me that ability to branch out while utilizing my expertise in both emergency medical services and health administration.

How has Penn State World Campus impacted your career? Without my degree from Penn State World Campus, I would not have been able to expand my career at UHS. It has also given me opportunities outside of UHS to serve on various boards in my community related to emergency management and emergency preparedness. The degree opened many doors for me to be able to pursue career advancement.

What were some of the challenges you faced when you were a Penn State World Campus student? The biggest challenge I faced was juggling work full-time, commuting one hour to work and back, being a wife, having a child in grade school, and continuing with activities I enjoyed. This was not an easy challenge, and I did have to give up a few of my activities to be successful academically. I took two classes a semester during fall and spring, and one class in the summer. I completed my degree in two and a half years. My family was my rock. I had a very understanding husband who encouraged me from start to finish. The one thing that helped me was, from 5:00 p.m. on Friday until 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, I didn’t do any course work. This was my family time! I front-ended my class load for early in the week to make sure that my assignments were completed and ready to be submitted by Friday, even though they were not due until 11:59 p.m. on Sunday. Any time I was involved in a team activity, I made sure my teammates understood my plan. I never had any issue with other classmates, and many thanked me, as it kept them from procrastinating when they had to get their work done.

How do you stay connected with Penn State? As an alumna and employee, I stay very connected to what is going on around campus. I bleed blue and white!

What is some advice that you would give to current Penn State World Campus students? “It is better to try and fail than to quit and never know.” I came up with this quote after taking nine Boy Scouts to summer camp, and I think it applies to just about anything in life. No matter how difficult a class may be, continue to try. Lean on fellow classmates and instructors to help you. One thing I learned was that the instructors were not out to fail anyone. In fact, they want you to succeed and to do well. If you are struggling, reach out and ask for help. Finally, have fun! The time goes by faster than you know.