Some people look at Penn State and focus on the “state” part.
Craig Weidemann sees the world.
Weidemann has been the leader of Penn State’s World Campus for 13 years. Last week, he announced that he is stepping down as vice president for Outreach and vice provost for Online Education as he retires on Dec. 31.
“It was a big decision,” Weidemann said.
While Penn State has long been proud of a global education presence, with faculty and students coming to the university from all over, the online World Campus, as it grew under Weidemann, made it truly possible for Nittany Lions to attend class from anywhere in the state, the nation or the world.
Today, the World Campus boasts almost 20,000 students, and it grows by about ten percent annually. It is now the second largest of Penn State’s campuses, eclipsed only by the more than 46,000 undergraduates at University Park.
“I think the most exciting thing is the innovation around the teaching and learning process and the engagement of the university,” Weidemann said. “You just see it becoming more embedded in the university.”
Weidemann’s campus has been treated not as an afterthought, but as an addition. He is proud that his students receive the same degree, and the same education, that students at any of the 24 other Penn State campuses receive, and that’s something that has been noted by others.
In 2015, it was named the best online bachelor degree opportunity in the country by U.S. News and World Report. Graduate programs in engineering, education, business and computer information technology have also been lauded.
The breadth of the program, and its flexibility, has appealed to one particular student population that is more than a little far-flung. U.S. News has also singled it out for its work with veterans and active-duty military. Twenty-one percent of the World Campus students fall into that category.
Weidemann calls it the realization of what a land-grant university was meant to be, serving a working-class population.
It’s work that the university administration attributes in large part to the campus’s captain.
“Craig’s leadership over the years has enabled Penn State to make good on the land-grant promise of sharing university knowledge to improve lives throughout Pennsylvania, across the United States and around the world,” said Penn State President Eric Barron. “His advocacy for the online learning environment, adult learners and service to students from all walks of life has left a lasting impact that will serve Penn State for years to come. I wish him the very best as he moves forward in this new chapter of life.”
Weidemann, on the other hand, sees teamwork.
“I’ve been very, very fortunate to work at a university with great people who care deeply about transforming lives. I have had great colleagues who care so much about the quality of education,” he said. “We’ve had an opportunity to innovate inside a large institution. Things that might not be able to try in another institution.”
Weidemann is turning the campus over to a new leader who has yet to be selected. The university will be conducting a nationwide search.
But that doesn’t mean he is walking away from University Park just yet. He will transition into a new role as special assistant for innovation and education technology initiatives to Executive Vice President and Provost Nick Jones.
“I feel very blessed,” Weidemann said. “It’s been a gift to lead this organization.”