Maggie Kwok is an academic adviser and disability specialist at Penn State World Campus. Here’s our conversation about the important position she holds with Penn State:
Tell me about your position as an academic adviser and disability specialist to our military students at Penn State World Campus.
I work with the Penn State World Campus military and veteran population. As a veteran myself, I can really identify with this particular group of people.
On a typical day in the office, I talk with about 10 students directly over the phone. The bulk of my work with military students is done by email, since those folks are often working full-time, traveling, on active duty, etc. I correspond with them to help them answer questions like — what course should I take next or what can I do with my degree?
What is your education and work experience background?
I joined the military as a Navy corpsman right after completion of my high school degree. I spent 5 years providing medical care to sailors and Marines. I was stationed at Twentynine Palms, California, and completed two deployments to both Cuba and Iraq.
After my time in the military, I decided to complete my bachelor’s degree at Penn State’s University Park campus. When I completed my degree, I decided to stay in State College and work for the University as an academic adviser for Penn State World Campus students. I’m currently pursuing my master’s degree in counselor education, with an emphasis on mental health, with my alma mater.
What unique challenges do our military students face with online learning?
A significant number of the students that I work with are military and veteran students, and some also have disability-related challenges. These students need to know that we have resources available to support them academically. I assist them in learning how to secure disability accommodations and make their courses accessible. I can help them “level the playing field” and offer them a “fair chance” to complete course work the same as a student who doesn’t need accommodations.
What are the benefits to our nonmilitary students by having a military member or veteran as part of their learning environments?
Military students offer unique perspectives in the online learning environment. Their experiences both in life and in the military can offer civilian students a glimpse of the challenges and rewards associated with serving our country. Their experiences often trickle into discussion boards and group assignments for classes — and ultimately enrich the learning environment for all Penn State World Campus students.
What are some questions that you think you could answer for our military population that always seem to pop up when they are taking courses?
I can categorize the types of questions that I receive into two main categories. The first category of questions fall under general academic advising and can include advice on degree audits and scheduling courses. The second set of questions usually fall under the category of military/disability-related queries. There are a lot of students who don’t know how they can seek disability accommodations. I educate students who need accommodations that show them how we can work together in a confidential environment. Oftentimes, if a member of the military is rated by the VA as having a disability, we may be able to provide academic accommodations for their online learning.
At Penn State World Campus we have a military support team—could you tell our readers a bit about the folks that you work with and how your team works together to benefit military students?
Our team works together to help our Penn State World Campus military and veteran students feel at home in our course environments. We strive to establish a level of trust and rapport with students to ensure success.
What’s the best part of your job?
The very best part of my job is seeing students succeed in their individual goals! There’s nothing better than hearing from a student who is simply grateful and appreciative of the support that I was able to lend to them!
Contact Information for Maggie