"The Moment"

Charting Their Own Course

There are countless routes to and through Penn State Abington. Some students hit the highway at full speed while others navigate winding, scenic roads with side trips tossed in for the adventure.
By: Regina Broscius
Traditional and adult students from different backgrounds mix easily at Penn State Abington, sharing and benefiting from diverse experiences and supporting each other along the way.

Herman Chen started college on a the traditional path but exited well short of his destination. He carved out a successful career over nearly 20 years, knowing a degree would continue his momentum, but still he hesitated. Until one day, inspiration reared its head.

"Dad never went to school, and he’s doing well. Why do I have to go?” his now 11-year-old son, Brandon, said.

It provided the jump start he needed. 


Herman Chen wrestling coach with Princeton University club team.

Credit: Nick Pompei Photography

"I didn't want Brandon to have to work as hard as I did to make it," he said. "It required years and many hours to learn everything I could to move ahead."  

Herman almost immediately enrolled at Abington — full time and year round. He quickly developed into a role model for other students, and his easy manner made him a resource for projects and advice.  

"I spent a lot of time working with other students. It was like my parental instinct to stop everything to help." — Herman Chen, Class of 2015

Abington faculty also noticed and selected him for an elite course: a team-based business competition. Herman's leadership, quick mind, and agile presentation skills impressed the judges, executives from the sponsoring global technology firm. The result? A job offer months before he earned his business degree in two years with with honors. 



Souriya Sphabmixay and Sheena Philip, both tennis players, raced ahead and took home with their degrees a full semester early. The women credit their achievements to the disciplined student athlete lifestyle and the unwavering support of coaches and faculty.

Souriya, a business major, said three-hour practices and the inevitable win-loss cycle built her mental and physical stamina.

"Tennis taught me to overcome my doubts, fears, and tackle obstacles and failure through perseverance. ... And it rolled over into the classroom." — Souriya Sphabmixay, Class of 2015

Off the court, the women kept up their game by gaining professional experience. Sheena's summer co-op building building a website at Abington Hospital continued, and she works as a consultant in health information systems at the hospital. Sheena Philip, an informations sciences and technology major.

She also boosted her research and presentation skills through Abington College Undergraduate Research Activities with other IST students. Honestee interned at a marketing and promotions firm, and she shared her love of tennis with children as an instructor.

tennis students

Sheena Philip and Souriya Honestee Sphabmixay 

Credit: Pam Brobst

Riding through life with Helene Ryan alternated somewhere between third and fifth gears: Social worker by day, singing in a band on weekends, raising a family. Then suddenly, her full-time job disappeared. Riding in neutral wasn't an option so she took a sharp— really sharp — turn, packed up some earlier college credits and enrolled at Abington to earn a four-year degree. 

"Coming back to school was very difficult at first," she said. "But before long, I realized that I felt happy, excited, and loved it. The more I learned the more I wanted to know." 

She could customize the integrative arts degree program and chose the music therapy track. She combined coursework in psychology and an array of music options with her experience in human services. 

"It made sense that I could use my skills to help others while making myself more well-rounded in the music business," she said. 

"How do you know where life is supposed to take you if you never take any chances?" — Helene Ryan

She plans to use her new skills working with senior citizens and those with special needs in a therapeutic setting. And she still hits the road with the band, but she wants to teach and record original music. 

"Sometimes I get very emotional thinking that I would have never had this opportunity if I didn't lose that job," she said. "I feel lucky and blessed. And now I understand the camaraderie that Penn Staters have with one another."

Helene Ryan "Me & Bobby McGEe

Penn State Abington student Helene Ryan performed at the annual spring student concert.