World Campus student appreciates personal attention, support on way to degree

Student Marlon Curl (rear center) with his family at graduation. Front row: mother-in-law Gayle Bernstein, mother-in-law Nancy Bernstein, mother Mable Curl, wife Stephanie Curl holding son Noah, and father-in-law Joel Bernstein. Back row: sister-in-law Julia Bernstein, Marlon, and sister Renee Hall. Credit: Trey Miller / Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Taking World Campus classes made life busy and often hectic for Marlon Curl and his young family. Not just a little busy, either. It was change-your-life busy.

“There were days, weeks, heck months, when I didn’t see the weekend. That was tough. Plus my wife and son need my attention, and I have a job,” Curl said.

Still, Curl — the first person to earn a digital journalism and media degree from the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications that was offered online — would not change a thing. He values the degree as a life-changing investment.

“I did all those things to get myself to where I am right now and it was all worth it,” he said.

Curl, based in Los Angeles, has built a successful career in the aerospace industry. He serves as a manager for Thales Group, a French company that designs and builds electrical systems and provides services for clients in fields such as aerospace, defense, security and transportation.

He previously served as a commodity manager Virgin Orbit, where he oversaw procurement activities for the LauncherOne Rocket and worked extensively with the firm’s marketing team in various key initiatives.

Curl was splitting his efforts between an internal communications role and a supply chain position at the time, and he found the hands-on, personal approach of billionaire company owner Richard Branson — as well as the company’s communications efforts overall — impressive and inspirational. Curl’s skills were needed in supply chain, though, so he focused more on that while looking back fondly at communications.

When he discovered Penn State World Campus, with programs that could help him prepare for a career change, he was excited about the opportunity. Curl initially enrolled as a strategic communications major and changed to digital journalism and media to facilitate a bit more of his creativity.

Along with the hard work and time management skills needed to succeed, Curl found supportive faculty who were able to give him important personal attention from a distance.

“The instructors were so attentive and professional. They let us express ourselves. I had one professor, and you could tell I was overwhelmed and kind of phoning it in, and he didn’t allow me to do that,” he said. “That showed that I wasn’t just another number in the classroom — even a virtual classroom.

“To know that from a distance the professor has to care. He recognized I could do better. That’s family.”

Curl brought his family with him from Los Angeles to Penn State's University Park campus for commencement exercises in May. He still has one Spanish class to complete before he officially graduates in August, but he was thrilled to be on campus for the first time as he wore his cap and gown and walked across the stage at the Bryce Jordan Center with other Bellisario College graduates.

He enjoyed everything about the experience.

“It was so green,” he said. “In Los Angeles, it’s pretty much 74 degrees year-round and generally brownish or gold. Plus, that same feeling of care from class was multiplied when we got to Happy Valley. It felt like home. It was like a big hug.”

Curl has his sights set on graduate school next and, with a master’s degree, a career in brand management or corporate communications. As an added benefit of the degree from Penn State, he hopes to tap the Alumni Association for some networking assistance and, ideally, connect his talent with a top-notch opportunity.

Visit the Penn State World Campus website for information about the bachelor’s degree in digital journalism and media.

Last Updated June 02, 2021