Student Perspective: Carolyn Bezak

We recently spoke with Carolyn Bezak about her experience taking Penn State World Campus courses while managing her family time and coping with a disability. Here’s what she had to say:

When will you graduate and with what Penn State degree?

I should be graduating in spring 2020 with a degree in human development and family studies and a minor in rehabilitation human services.

What is your current hometown?

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

What is a typical day like for you?

I am a mother, homemaker, and a student. I get my husband off to work in the middle of the night (2:00 a.m. wake-up), then I get my son off to middle school at 7:30 a.m. Next, I spend time on school work, my responsibilities as president and founder of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) for Penn State World Campus, and my role as a Penn State World Campus Ambassador.

How has Penn State World Campus impacted your life?

I was diagnosed with a chronic illness, and going back to school has helped me concentrate on other things besides my pain. I decided I wanted to help others also going through rough times in their lives.

Penn State World Campus has allowed me to pursue my degree at my own pace (starting with two classes a semester and working my way up to 9 credits per semester). There is no pressure to finish in a hurry. Working from home allows me to learn without leaving my house; some days, it is hard for me to drive or to get around. I could not have done this without being a student online.

What are some of the challenges you have faced as a World Campus student? How have you overcome these challenges?

Some of my challenges were from being out of school for so long. This affected my math grades and statistics course. I overcame this by taking an extra math class before my statistics course to refresh my brain for mathematical thinking. My professors and my disability liaison have helped me work out small details, such as taking tests with a proctor by using an online camera. I also sometimes need an extra day or two to complete my work if I have been unable to get out of bed during the week. I work ahead to help keep this from occurring, and normally, I have most of the work done on time even if I asked for an extension. Penn State has shown how much they care about making things fair for me, with my disability, to compete with other students. I have all A’s in my core classes. I am not sure what my current GPA is, but the last time I checked it (a few semesters ago), it was 3.76.

Do you stay connected with Penn State? How do you stay connected?

I stay connected with Penn State by being involved in the AAUW organization that I mentioned and the Ambassador program. I also have formed good conversational relationships with some of my professors. They help me take the material to the next level or apply it to real-life settings. I use Yammer a lot to communicate. I have made great friends with some of my classmates who have graduated, and we still keep in touch — even though I have never met them in person. They are some of my closest friends now.

What is some advice that you would give to a current Penn State World Campus student?

I would advise someone to put more into the online program than is asked for. You will reap many benefits from the knowledge of professionals who can help you figure out what your next move should be after graduating. Take advantage of the tutoring that is offered, if you need it, and all the other resources offered by Penn State. Try to find a club to participate in where you can find friends who share your interests and views. Open up and let people see who you are, not just what you do in class.