Student Engagement, Athletics, Boost Enrollment at Penn State Shenango

SHARON, Pa. – “There’s a buzz on campus we’re excited to bring into the new year,” Penn State Shenango Campus Director Jo Anne Carrick says.

That buzz is thanks in part to a renewed focus on student engagement and the resurgence of intercollegiate athletics, which has fostered a noticeable demographic swing in recent years and has helped enrollment grow at the campus in downtown Sharon, Pa.

Faced with projected population declines in western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio, leadership at Penn State Shenango recognized the need to expand to attract new students.

Before 2018, the year that athletics offerings were introduced, approximately 60% of students were adult learners. Today, the campus population has flipped, now with approximately 75% of students representing traditional college-aged individuals.

“It was difficult to build a sense of community when the majority of our students were taking classes between full-time jobs and family obligations,” says Andy Puleo, director of student affairs. “Now, our student activities are filling up. New clubs and organizations are being created every semester. Student-athletes are competing in full gymnasiums and campus engagement is at an all-time high.”

The reintroduction of athletics at the Shenango campus began with men’s basketball and women’s volleyball in 2018, followed by women’s basketball in 2021 and co-ed golf in 2022. The inaugural Shenango baseball season begins in this spring.  The new baseball recruits arrived in the fall 2023 semester, which helped contribute to an 18% increase in enrollment.

Student-led clubs have teamed with organizations for philanthropic efforts. Among these activities are collecting books for the Little Free Libraries, conducting equipment maintenance with UPMC Horizon Community Health Foundation’s Medical Equipment Recycling Program, and volunteering at the Community Food Warehouse.

Partnerships with local business and community groups continued in 2023, most notably with the Shenango LaunchBox powered by the Greater Sharon Community, which helps early stage business ventures. 

“Through efforts like the LaunchBox, along with a growing campus population of engaged students, we hope to inspire innovation and sustained growth in the community,” Carrick says.

Pictured at top: Penn State Shenango baseball player Michael Guarnieri celebrates a home run during the inaugural Fall Ball Classic on Sept. 23, 2023.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.