From Partnership to Pipeline: Penn State Abington and Northeast High School An Interview with Dr. Norah Peters Shultz

Posted by on May 5, 2015 K-16 Newsletter

By Dr. Norah P. Shultz and Liz Shriver

Dr. Shultz is the Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor of Sociology Penn State Abington (PSA). She has researched multiculturalism and internationalism in higher education for over 15 years. Prior to her work at Abington, she taught diversity and service-learning programs at Arcadia University. She has also researched and taught courses on multiculturalism and internationalism in higher education. After taking on an administrative role, she became more deeply involved in K-12 partnerships, specifically strengthening Penn State Abington’s relationship with Northeast High School through direct support in the college going process.

Q: What helped spark the partnership between PSA and Northeast High School?

A: There is a natural alliance between Penn State and the greater Philadelphia area. We want students from Philadelphia to attend and thrive at PSA. About 50% of our students come from the city. We work with the Philadelphia Recruitment Center to help connect us to Philadelphia schools and students. This center works with all the Philadelphia high schools and serves as a central recruiting center for all the Penn States. Here at Abington, we wanted to do even more to support Philadelphia students to be prepared and excited for college.

With the support of the Mayor’s Office of Education Higher Education Advisor, Terri White, we decided to start by increasing our involvement at Northeast High School. We began to bring in faculty and staff members from admissions, student support services and other offices to conduct workshops and get to know students. We saw this as a good starting point because there was already a relationship and a strong pipeline between Northeast and PSA.

Q: How has your involvement developed at Northeast?

A: We wanted to develop our program as a model and an initial starting point for future partnerships. To start building our program we focused the research on the non-academic factors that help students stay in college and be successful. Our goal was to help predominantly first generation students to build these skills prior to entering higher education. This led us to implement several workshops and campus visits throughout the year.

Q: What was your process for building these programs?

A: First, we worked with counselors and students to determine what is needed. This helped us to pair additional events and trainings with events that were already happening at the school in order to maximize involvement and minimize extra work for staff.

For example, we hosted a workshop during a parent engagement night so that we can talk to both students and parents. Last year, we ensured that we kept track of the workshops conducted and added topics as needed based on requests from the school. We also encouraged students to lead informational sessions for their peers that we helped them plan. We wanted to make this partnership organic and empowering to students.

The purpose of our college visits were to get students to be very familiar with a college campus and how it works. We want Northeast students to matriculate and be successful in college and being familiar with college life is one important step towards this goal.

Q: What are your goals for next year?

A: We want to continue the visits and the workshops; we also want to raise the amount of scholarship dollars students are awarded. For example, we are working with the counselors to use ( as a mechanism for helping students apply for scholarships and incentivize college going.

Q: Do think using faculty and staff to implement college readiness workshops in high schools could be a model for other college and universities?

A: I can’t speak for other schools but I see us expanding this model and reaching out to other high schools that from which we have high matriculation. It is a win-win for us to be involved in the high schools that see us as a great option for their students. We get to know students who will attend PSA and prepare them to be successful on our campus.

For example, we worked with another school where students really wanted to attend PSA but many weren’t quite prepared academically. Because we already had an established relationship with the school, we were able to address this challenge proactively and provide teachers and students with extra support.

As a higher education institution, we need to reach back in to the high schools to ensure that all students are prepared to thrive on our campus. It has been a great experience to partner with the Mayor’s Office and Northeast High School. It’s the best of all worlds; we just wish we could do more with more high schools.

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