Penn State president stresses student career preparation during Abington visit

President visits Abington

The Penn State Abington cheerleaders welcomed University President Neeli Bendapudi during her first official visit to campus.    

Credit: Penn State

ABINGTON, Pa. — New University President Neeli Bendapudi met with Penn State Abington students, faculty, staff and stakeholders this week, and during their conversations, she emphasized the University’s mission of readying students for employment and its ripple effects. 

“We are preparing students for meaningful jobs and careers. Education can transform your life. I grew up with no running water, so for me and my family, every person who got a college degree helped the family and the community. Education provides social mobility,” Bendapudi said. 

Bendapudi, who took office five months ago, highlighted her priorities throughout the day in the form of ABCs: 

  • Academic and career preparedness: “If a student can see that what they are doing at Abington leads to a job, they will persist to graduation,” she said. 

  • Belonging and inclusivity: “College should be a place where you are comfortable 100% of the time. When I say, ‘We Are,’ I want students to see themselves here,” she said. 

  • Costs: “Student scholarships are a priority,” she said, also explaining that the Board of Trustees recently asked the state Legislature to increase its general support funding next year to put Penn State’s per-student funding on par with its peer institutions. 

Bendapudi met with Abington Chancellor Margo DelliCarpini, hosted an open forum with faculty and staff, and toured campus with a student Lion Ambassador. DelliCarpini introduced the president as a “values-driven leader” to Abington faculty and staff in the campus Lares Student Union Building. 

Meeting Bendapudi was emotional for some faculty and staff at Abington, Penn State's most diverse campus, since the new president is the first woman and first person of color to lead the University. 

Aneesah Smith, director of diversity, equity and inclusion on campus, called Bendapudi an inspiration but cautioned the president not to overburden herself. 

“It’s a repetitive cycle for women of color to care for others before themselves. Self-care needs to be first, and our students need you. Your being here is mind-blowing to so many people. I'm more inspired today than I’ve ever been,” Smith said. 

When Bendapudi ate lunch with about a dozen students, she continued her emphasis on career readiness by telling them to visit Career and Professional Development as soon as they finished, while also asking them to be thoughtful of each other. 

“Please take care of your physical, mental and spiritual needs and then take care of others. We are all here for one another. Abington is really invested in our students, and there are so many opportunities here,” she said. 

While sharing her priorities with members of the campus Advisory Board, donors, community leaders and alumni in a separate meeting, Bendapudi highlighted the University’s land-grant mission. 

"We are the only land-grant institution in Pennsylvania, which means even if you didn’t go to Penn State, we probably have a relationship since 96% of our citizens live within 30 miles of a Penn State location. We have remarkable breadth, and the Commonwealth Campuses are a gem in this model,” she said. 

Students who graduate with Penn State degrees should be the most employable in the nation, and internships are critical to achieving that goal, she told the group. 

“We want Abington to be a place where no one graduates without one or two paid internships. We can be the mentors to many first-generation and low-income students. We want everyone feeling like they are part of the American dream,” she said.  

Bendapudi began her tenure as Penn State’s 19th president on May 9. With a nearly 30-year career in academia, Bendapudi previously served as president of the University of Louisville. Among her leadership experiences, she has been the provost and executive vice chancellor at the University of Kansas, dean of the School of Business at the University of Kansas, and founding director of the Initiative for Managing Services at Ohio State University.

In addition to consulting for some of the world’s largest companies and organizations, she was the executive vice president and chief customer officer for Huntington National Bank. With a research background in the study of consumer behavior in service contexts, she has taught marketing at a variety of higher education institutions and has been recognized for her leadership, academic and teaching accomplishments. Bendapudi earned her bachelor’s degree in English and master of business administration degree from Andhra University in India, and her doctorate in marketing from the University of Kansas. 

About Penn State Abington 

Penn State Abington provides an affordable, accessible and high-impact education resulting in the success of a diverse student body. It is committed to student success through innovative approaches to 21st-century public higher education within a world-class research university. With more than 3,000 students, Penn State Abington is a residential campus that offers baccalaureate degrees in 24 majors, undergraduate research, the Schreyer Honors College, NCAA Division III athletics and more.