Betsy Esposito and Michelle Wiley: Penn State World Campus Academic Support Specialists

Betsy Esposito and Michelle Wiley are academic support specialists who interact with students on a daily basis to help them understand the tools they need to be successful in an online learning environment. They have helped countless students while building a strong friendship with each other during their time at Penn State.

Tell me about your roles as academic support specialists.

Betsy: I’m happy to be part of a team dedicated to helping Penn State World Campus students be academically successful.

Michelle: Most of the work I do is “behind the scenes” to review data and research best practices for helping students meet their academic goals.

How do your projects support Penn State World Campus academics?

We have many programs that support the academic success of students, including Transitions: College and Career Prep; Tech Camp; Math Essentials; and SmarterMeasure.

Transitions: College and Career Prep is a free, nine-week, noncredit course for students considering Penn State World Campus. The course builds academic skills and helps students develop educational/career plans. In my role, I talk with every student prior to the course in order to make sure the program is a good fit for them.

Tech Camp is another free, noncredit course available to students prior to their first semester. Tech Camp introduces students to the essential technology they’ll use as Penn State students, including Canvas, LionPATH, and the University Libraries. On average, 95 percent of the students completing the Tech Camp assessment indicated that the course helped them feel prepared to navigate the technology!

Math Essentials is the perfect four-week course for students who might be feeling anxious about their upcoming math course because they need to build their math/algebra skills and/or it’s just been a long time since they had a math class — both pretty common issues. Students learn to use the technology, work in ALEKS to build skills, gain confidence in math and problem solving, and be ready to start a credit course needed for their degree.

SmarterMeasure is an online readiness assessment for new Penn State World Campus students. This short assessment identifies areas of strength and opportunities for improvement associated with online, technology-rich courses. The assessment is free and only takes about 30 minutes to complete. An academic support specialist is available, by appointment, to review the results with students and offer suggestions for available support options as needed.

Penn State World Campus offers a variety of options for free online tutoring and support for select courses. Our students have access to several resources to help improve understanding of the course material, or better use technology needed for their courses. We work together to ensure students have the support they need to be successful.

What’s the most challenging part of your positions?

Betsy: I’ve always enjoyed having the student physically in my office (ok, it’s really a cube now) for the conversations; I miss that more personal interaction.

Michelle: The most challenging part of my position is not being able to meet with students face-to-face. My background is in K–12 special education, and at times I truly miss the student interaction.

What’s the most rewarding part of your positions?

Betsy: Simply being able to help a student — particularly an adult student — succeed in reaching their goals and moving forward in life.

Michelle: The most rewarding part of my position is being able to help students and their advisers troubleshoot academic issues. I want to see all students be successful. Finding and sharing resources that help a student progress toward his or her goals is probably the most rewarding part.

What’s your best piece of advice for Penn State World Campus students?

Betsy: Learning is not a passive experience — be intentional and engaged, make the most of this opportunity, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Michelle: Asking for help is not a sign of weakness but a measure of persistence and perseverance. Our advisers and staff are valuable resources who can assist students with just about any academic issue.

Betsy and Michelle enjoy a walk in the park
Betsy and Michelle enjoy a walk in the park

How do you both work together on projects to ensure student success?

Betsy: We both have teaching experience, share similar philosophies about what students need to be successful, combine our talents to develop programs for our students, and enjoy working with the academic advisers to help a student work through an issue. We appreciate each other’s good humor and positive attitude on a daily basis — and we talk a lot about how we can keep improving our services.

Michelle: I could not ask for a better co-worker. We combine our knowledge and expertise to develop and share strategies and programs that can assist students in working through difficult courses.

Tell me something interesting that our students might not necessarily know about you.

Betsy: Michelle is a die-hard fan of The Boss, and has been to plenty of Bruce Springsteen concerts. Her goal is to have Bruce select her out of “the pit” to come on stage.

Michelle: Betsy is a music connoisseur. She loves all genres of music and has an exceptional and eclectic playlist that includes a variety of artists from Blake Shelton to Paul McCartney. Betsy loves the beach and has a goal of making it to Siesta Key sometime in the near future!