Penn State York chancellor shares details of transformative education at York

Penn State York Chancellor David Christiansen

Penn State York Chancellor David Christiansen

Credit: Penn State

YORK, Pa. — Penn State York Chancellor David Christiansen shared the words “transformative education,” a two-word phrase lying at the heart of the work of the campus, and outlined examples of its success, during the University’s Board of Trustees meeting today (July 22) at Penn State York. 

“Our faculty and staff members pursue their teaching, learning, research and service activities in accordance with our vision of transforming and improving the lives of those we engage,” Christiansen said.  “Whether it is degree-seeking students in a traditional classroom, or K-12 students participating in our educational outreach, or workers pursuing professional training, or local entrepreneurs seeking guidance from our LaunchBox – all benefit from the transformative education that Penn State York provides.” 

Students at Penn State York 

Christiansen spoke about the students who comprise the Penn State York community. Campus enrollment includes students directly out of high school as well as a large number of adult students. Two-thirds of the student body hails from York County itself, and almost 40% of first-year students at York are the first in their family to attend college. Some of them begin their Penn State journey by attending the Pathways to Success: Summer Start (PASSS) program to get an early start on their college education. 

York campus also is home to international students, as 15 years ago the campus established a partnership with a school of technology in Mumbai, India, and the campus has benefitted greatly from this relationship. 



Undergraduate Research 

Another example of transformative education Christiansen shared is undergraduate research opportunities that Penn State York faculty members offer students. Research projects, which take place inside and outside the classroom, provide students with a way to collaborate with faculty scholars, co-author papers, and present at local, national and international conferences. This high impact education includes internships, community-based learning and interdisciplinary course work that can lead to improved grade-point averages, greater learning and higher graduations rates. 


Graham Fellows Program for Entrepreneurial Leadership 

Christiansen continued to share examples of the transformative education outside the traditional classroom instruction, including the Graham Fellows Program for Entrepreneurial Leadership, which helps prepare students for contributing to the professional workplace.  

“The program trains students in skills valued in all workplaces, including personal accountability, self-motivation, collaboration, innovation, professional presence and more.  Students in the program can put their professional training into practice by engaging with our corporate partners in different settings, including a formal networking event.” 

The program is open to exceptional students in any major but is limited to 10% of the student body.  

Student Clubs and Organizations 

Student clubs and organizations also provide opportunities for a transformative education according to Christiansen.  As one example, the York chancellor shared the success of the York campus’ chapter of Phi Beta Lambda, a national business fraternity, which has earned numerous state and national awards over the past four years. Under the guidance of adviser and faculty member Megan Lorenz, 10 students in June competed at the national Future Business Leaders of America conference in Chicago and brought home 14 national awards. Additionally, for the fourth year in a row, a Penn State York student was crowned a first-place national champion.       

Engaging with other cultures also provides transformative educational experiences when student groups sponsor campus-wide events highlighting cultures, including the celebrations of Chinese New Year, Diwali, Holi, Hispanic Heritage, and more. 


Not only do clubs and organizations play a role in student success, according to Christiansen, but athletics also are an important part of the educational experience at Penn State York. The campus has six sports teams and students that remain at the York campus can compete for all four years. Last year, five of six teams made the Penn State University Athletic Conference (PSUAC) playoffs. 

Programs in the York Community  

The transformative education is not limited to campus and extends to students of all ages throughout the York community. This includes the annual Pathways to Your Future: Exploring STEAM Career event each May, which reaches out to seventh-grade students for a day of on-campus learning about careers in science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics (STEAM). According to Christiansen, the program celebrated 25 years in 2022. 

Christiansen also noted Penn State York fulfills its land-grant mission by partnering with nonprofit and social organizations off-campus too, and includes book drives, collecting food and health care items for the needy, participating in fundraising events and volunteering in the community. 

Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) 

Reaching people of all ages is also part of the campus’ transformative education, according to Christiansen. The campus hosts the only other Penn State OLLI group outside of University Park. OLLI at Penn State York offers classes and lectures to adults 50 years of age or older, and to date has almost 600 dues-paying members who take courses for the love of learning. 

Other Transformative Initiatives 

The Women’s Philanthropic Network (WPN), the only women’s giving circle within the University, brings together women from the York community and beyond to support campus projects with their philanthropy. The WPN has purchased important lab equipment, sent students to the Pennsylvania Women’s Conference and funded professional development programs for campus staff members. 

The transformational power of the arts is made possible by the Pullo Family Performing Arts Center at Penn State York. The Pullo Center provides entertainment for the entire region bringing in Broadway shows, comedians, speakers and a variety of community events. The facility also serves as the venue for the Penn Players, a student theatre group, and for commencement at Penn State York.       

Nathalie Cabrera 

In closing, Christiansen shared how the transformative education of Penn State York benefitted Nathalie Cabrera, who graduated in May 2022.  

Cabrera is a first-generation American whose parents immigrated from the Dominican Republic. Cabrera grew up in Washington Heights in Manhattan, and after graduating high school began college. She put those plans on hold when she moved to Maryland where her husband started a new job. With no family nearby and the expense of child care, Cabrera stayed home to take care of her children. Her husband’s career progressed, and she relocated the family to York, where she looked for an opportunity to continue her education to help her family. 

In 2019, Cabrera enrolled in the human development and family studies (HDFS) degree program at Penn State York and took advantage of the many academic and cultural events on campus, and even participated in the campus’ Alternative Spring Break in Puerto Rico in 2020, where she served as a translator for her fellow students working on community projects. She excelled as a student and was recently inducted into the campus chapter of Alpha Sigma Lambda, a national honor society for adult learners. After the completion of her capstone project in HDFS, she qualified for graduation and crossed the stage, wearing a cap that acknowledged the support of her family at the May 2022 commencement at Penn State York. 

Soon after graduation, Cabrera received a job offer and is now an admissions counselor at Penn State York. Cabrera and her family attended the Board of Trustees meeting and were recognized. 

“Nathalie’s story is similar to that of many individuals across the University, where students count on Penn State’s transformative education to secure a better future for themselves and their families. At the York campus, we are dedicated to this goal and feel honored to be a part of Penn State,” said Christiansen.