World Campus student receives two degrees, graduates with highest distinction

Penn State World Campus student Michael Robinson receives his College of Nursing pin from Wendy Edgar, 1992 graduate and president of the College of Nursing Alumni Society, at the college's commencement exercises May 7. Credit: Steve Tressler / Penn StateCreative Commons

For Michael Robinson, the journey to receive a Penn State degree was a long one -- in terms of more than just miles.

A resident of Great Falls, Montana, Robinson traveled to University Park this past weekend to participate in undergraduate commencement activities. Robinson, who pursued bachelor’s degrees in nursing and psychology through Penn State World Campus, graduated with highest distinction (in the top 2 percent of his graduating class).

Robinson, who works full-time as a registered nurse for Benefis Health System, a large medical center in north-central Montana, received an associate degree in nursing from Darton State College in Albany, Georgia (his hometown). He knew there would be “numerous” advantages to continuing on for his bachelor’s degree.

“From increased marketability, to opportunities to move into management, to the ability to pursue graduate study leading to advanced practice roles, the decision to finish my bachelor’s degree was a no-brainer,” he said. “More fundamentally, it provided me with a sense of pride and accomplishment, something you can’t put a price tag on. No one can ever take that away from you.”

Previously employed in the chemical industry, Robinson found himself at a crossroads when his position was eliminated during the economic downturn in 2008. With a strong scientific bent and interest in the medical field, he used the opportunity to “take the plunge” and apply to nursing school.

“I had already been studying the sciences and had most of the prerequisites, so I figured it was as good a time as any to shift gears,” he said.

After completing his associate degree and receiving his RN license, Robinson worked for several years before researching online programs to complete his bachelor’s degree. He found a wide array from which to choose.

“I decided on Penn State because of its dedication to being a leader in distance education and its reputation for academic excellence,” he said. “Everything about the World Campus gave me the impression that Penn State cares about its adult learners. And I can say with full confidence that the academic standards to which I was held were the same as those for students on campus.”

It was also important to Robinson to have a degree from a university with a national reputation.

“I’m from Georgia and I’ve lived in Montana for a few years,” he said. “I have a propensity to uproot from time to time and explore different places. Given that, I wanted a degree that would be well received anywhere. As a member of the Big Ten and Association of American Universities, Penn State has a reputation as an academic and research powerhouse that extends far beyond its geographic footprint.”

Robinson chose psychology as a second major because he felt it was a good fit with nursing. "As a general medical–surgical nurse, I see a lot of psychiatric patients and those with mental health care needs," he said. "These include psychiatric patients with significant medical comorbidities as well as those who have to be medically cleared before they can receive inpatient mental health treatment. I felt that further study of psychology would enhance my understanding of these patients."

Earning a 4.0 average while pursuing two majors was no easy feat, Robinson admitted, “I’m not going to sugarcoat things. Even with the flexibility offered by distance education, there were many weeks where every hour that I was not at work or asleep, I was doing schoolwork. Being an adult student with a job and life responsibilities gives you a perspective that you don’t have when you are younger.” He credits his instructors with having the flexibility needed to understand the realities of working in a health care profession. “I needed that more than once when I was called in unexpectedly because we were short staffed, or had to work longer than I was scheduled for because someone called in sick,” he said.

Of course, another reality for working professionals is having the means to travel -- something the free-spirited Robinson enjoys and takes advantage of. His visit to Happy Valley included a campus trolley tour and reception for World Campus students before taking part in commencement exercises the next day.

Both Robinson’s approach to academics and his philosophy of life are perhaps best reflected in his advice to current students: “Give it everything you’ve got, but don’t feel as though you have to do everything at once. Enjoy the journey.”

Learn more about Penn State’s online RN to B.S. degree program.

Last Updated May 10, 2016