Editor's note: Throughout the summer, Penn State York is sharing a series of stories highlighting its spring 2023 graduates.
YORK, Pa. — Many students don’t have a clear career path in mind when they begin their college journey. That was not the case for Sweeta Rasiyan. When she was in high school, she volunteered at York Hospital, working hands-on with an occupational therapist in the pediatric outpatient center. Her experience with those children helped her envision a future for herself in the field.
“When researching programs that could help me become an occupational therapist, I came across psychology and saw that I could complete all four years at the Penn State York campus,” said Rasiyan, who was first introduced to the campus when she participated in the Pathways to Your Future program in seventh grade. “I liked the people — how welcoming they were. I got the feeling that everyone knew each other, and they were all friends.”
Her initial seventh grade introduction left a lasting impression that Rasiyan said led her to include the campus on her list of potential colleges.
A small campus with the resources of a large university
As Rasiyan weighed all the factors in her college decision, she determined that a smaller campus environment would be the best fit. She said that earning a Penn State diploma while commuting from home made a lot of sense to her academically, financially and personally.
“When I came for the open house, I felt like it was easy to get around the campus,” Rasiyan said. “All the Lion Ambassadors knew all the faculty and staff, and I could tell there was no awkwardness between them.”
Rasiyan became a Lion Ambassador — campus tour guide and student mentor — herself after being accepted at the Penn State York. She was eventually elected president of the club, along with leadership roles in other student organizations.
“I was part of Lion Ambassadors, Student Government Association, University Programming Board, Multicultural Club and the Graham Fellows Program for Entrepreneurial Leadership during my time at the York campus,” Rasiyan said. “These experiences gave me skills in public speaking, and I became more confident. I also learned to ask for help when I needed it. Being in leadership roles in these clubs helped me see the importance of delegating tasks. I made most of my friends through these clubs. I also had opportunities to go places, meet people and network.”
One such opportunity was to participate in Capital Day, when Penn Staters gather in Harrisburg to advocate for government support for Penn State. She also traveled to Philadelphia to participate in a conference for women.
“There were different stations of women-owned businesses, and we got to talk with someone in our field of interest,” Rasiyan said. “Penn State prepared me professionally and personally. I’m more comfortable in interviews, giving an elevator pitch and networking with people I don’t know.”
College is for making memories
Although Rasiyan’s first two years at Penn State York were marred by the COVID-19 pandemic, she said she was still able to make plenty of fond memories. In addition to participating in club activities, she attended formal dances and traveled to Puerto Rico to volunteer as part of the campus’ alternative spring break program, assisting in disaster relief and community building efforts.
“Staying busy makes the college experience more worthwhile,” Rasiyan said. “People come together at all the events because it’s open to everyone at Penn State York, not just the club running it. Sometimes a person you wouldn’t expect to be interested in an event would join in, and it created a feeling of family.”
With so many events on campus, they sometimes overlapped in amusing ways, according to Rasiyan.
“One of my favorite memories was when Penn State President Neeli Bendapudi visited on the same day as Holi, the festival of colors,” said Rasiyan, referring to the Hindu holiday celebrating spring in which participants toss colored powder at each other. “We were worried we’d get the colors on her! I went straight from giving her a campus tour to throwing these colored powders, and I told everyone, ‘If Dr. Bendapudi comes our way, don’t throw colors at her!’ It was so funny.”
Now and in the future
Rasiyan’s commitment to the community and to her academic performance were recognized with several academic awards during her time at Penn State York, including:
- The 2022 Eric A. Josephine S. Walker Award, given annually to a full-time student who exhibits outstanding qualities of character, scholarships, leadership and citizenship
- The 2023 Rotary Club Award, presented to a student who has completed a minimum of three semesters with a 3.0 grade-point average and has made significant service contributions to the campus and/or community while a student at Penn State York
Now, Rasiyan is pursuing her master’s degree in occupational therapy at Messiah University in Mechanicsburg.
“I’m looking forward to helping kids complete their daily activities independently,” Rasiyan said. “Whether they need to work on getting dressed, tying their shoes or talking with other kids and learning how to be more social, I think this will be a rewarding career for me.”
As for staying in touch with the Penn State York community, Rasiyan said she plans to maintain the connections she established here.
“I still want to come to the sports games, volunteer with events and now I’ll be able to help with alumni Graham Fellows events, too,” Rasiyan said.
With her undergraduate journey completed, Rasiyan reflected on some of the things that surprised her about Penn State York and what she wished she had known.
“I was surprised by how welcoming everyone is,” Rasiyan said. “It’s not just for open house, it’s all the time: everyone is welcoming. You can walk into any faculty or staff office, and they will be open to answering questions, regardless of whether it relates to their job — they’ll help you find the information you’re looking for. So, ask questions! The professors have so much great information and are excited to share it with you. If you don’t have a career path in mind, they can help you figure out your options. Don’t be afraid to ask.”