Meet Joe Kepler
Joe Kepler, 39, is a Penn State Shenango freshman majoring in Human Development & Family Studies who never thought he’d be in a college classroom after working more than 16 years at a local manufacturer. But Joe is not unlike more than 30 other students at Shenango who have become unemployed because their work has been outsourced to other countries. As a result, Joe and these students qualify for federal “TRA” (Trade Readjustment Act) funds and they have chosen Penn State Shenango to further their education and build new career directions. Shenango has answered their needs by easily facilitating their complicated funding process.
As an adult student, Joe said his age has “never been an issue” at Shenango and that the campus is an inviting environment where both traditional and nontraditional students can thrive as they meet their college goals. Although his new start at Shenango has just begun, Joe said he’s gained his stride and is “adjusting well” to his new school schedule. “Everybody at home is pitching in too. My whole family is involved.” A husband and father of three, Joe said “It was funny to hear my teenage son ask me ‘How was your first day of school, Dad.” The Kepler family has taken advantage of some campus activities together this semester. "It was nice how Shenango students and their families combined so well.
Maintaining a full schedule with his family and his courses, Joe describes time management as "a challenge" and says he looks at it as a full time job. "I've gotten through my meltdown from the first few days. It was a bit overwhelming. But I communicated that and one professor in particular told me to just hang in there and it would be okay. She was right." Joe's utilized the Learning Center and said he has found faculty and staff on campus to be very helpful overall. "I realized quickly that it takes a lot of time to keep up and do well with a full schedule. I'm managing pretty well now." While graduating seems distant to Joe this early on in his college career, he's looking forward to applying his degree to some position that involves children and thinks he would enjoy being a therapeutic assistant.