UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Choosing to finish a degree through Penn State World Campus was easy for Tip Stama, but he still faced hurdles during his educational journey. In August, after taking a hiatus from his studies, Stama will graduate with a 4.0 grade-point average and a bachelor of arts in energy and sustainability policy (ESP), an online College of Earth and Mineral Sciences program. He will represent his graduating class as college marshal and is the second ESP graduate selected for this honor. Unlike most students who start working full time after graduating, Stama began his career as an environmental compliance specialist in May.
Online education wasn't Stama's first experience with college. He started, then later stopped, taking classes as a residential student at Penn State in 2004.
“I spent my first few years here trying to figure out what exactly I wanted to do,” he said. “We were heading toward the 2008 recession, so I wanted to be sure I could start some sort of a career after I graduated.”
Stama decided to put his education on hold and instead chase his passion for being a pilot.
“From a young age I was always interested in the military and flight school,” he said.
His quest to fly took him to Orlando, Florida, where he became both a pilot and a flight instructor at Aerosim Flight Academy. From there, Stama worked his way up into Aerosim’s standards department, where he helped to ensure the academy followed Federal Aviation Administration regulations and safety compliance.
In 2015, Stama decided he wanted to return to school to finish a degree.
“I wanted to go back to school, but with my other commitments in life, I knew I would have to do it online instead of in a physical classroom,” he said.
Stama considered numerous programs, but he ultimately returned to where he began his educational studies.
“I knew I needed to study at a university with a reputation for setting its graduates up for stable careers,” Stama said. “So, in the end, it was really an easy choice to study through Penn State’s World Campus.”
He enrolled in an online program in ESP to build on knowledge he had already gained in the workplace.
“The degree seemed like a perfect fit because of its focus on policy and compliance, which were areas that I had already spent several years working in,” said Stama.
An internship at the Office of Physical Plant
As part of the curriculum, students enrolled in the ESP program complete an internship or acquire on-the-job experience in the field.
In March 2016, Stama began an internship with Penn State’s Office of Physical Plant (OPP), where he helped develop a new process to inventory the University’s greenhouse gas emissions.
“I worked on the commuter portion of the emissions inventory,” he said. “I enjoyed being able to assess and interpret the data I collected, which then influenced decision-making by the University.”
Stama credits the networking at Penn State for giving him the opportunity at OPP.
“The people I’ve met through my studies have played a big role in opening doors,” he said. “Brandi Robinson, who is my adviser for the bachelor’s degree in ESP, has been especially helpful during my last couple years at Penn State.”
Working at ClimeCo
In May 2016, Stama started looking for job opportunities as he neared his August graduation. He landed a position as an environmental compliance specialist at ClimeCo, a developer, broker and adviser of environmental commodity market products and air quality technology systems, headquartered in Boyertown, Pennsylvania. Stama is working in their State College office.
Stama’s current role focuses on project management for environmental projects that reduce air emissions of greenhouse gasses and other toxic pollutants. Examples include methane mitigation projects at dairy farms, redirecting organics from landfills to compost operations, capturing and destroying ozone-depleting gases, and reducing nitrous oxide emissions from nitric acid plants.
Stama emphasizes having the flexibility to be engaged in a full-time career while studying through the University.
“World Campus allows you to figure out what you want to do in life both in your academic and professional career,” he said. “I’ve been able to get my degree without drastically changing my lifestyle, and that’s been the best part of it all.”
About the Penn State bachelor of arts in energy and sustainability policy program:
Launched in 2010, the bachelor of arts in energy and sustainability policy is a 120-credit degree program developed by the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences and offered exclusively online through Penn State World Campus. The curriculum is designed to teach students to analyze, synthesize and communicate diverse information about global trends in energy policy, technologies and economics.