Over the years, Penn State Altoona has seen many of its graduates return to campus in a professional capacity as staff or faculty. We caught Rachel Fowkes, ’17, to find out more about her Penn State Altoona experiences and what brought her back to the college.
What made you choose Penn State Altoona?
Coming from a family with five alums, I have been a lifelong Penn State fan. All five of those family members attended Altoona for their first two years. Once I visited the Altoona campus during my junior year of high school, I knew Penn State was where I was meant to be. It was the only school I applied to, and Altoona was my top campus choice.
What did you like best about earning your degree here?
I loved having a big school feel in a smaller campus environment. I was able to receive a world-class Penn State education and experience, but still have a one-on-one relationship with my professors. It was so cool to come back to campus three years after I graduated and have faculty and staff still remember me.
Do you have a favorite memory from your college years?
I have so many amazing memories! I was very involved on campus, and that led to a lot of fun! Being a resident assistant gave me so much confidence as I moved forward in my career; being in a leadership position in my sorority gave me experience working with others in a professional manner and taught me the true value of service; and being a Lion Ambassador allowed me to share my Penn State Altoona pride with prospective students and parents. I truly cannot pick one memory as being the best.
What do you do here at Penn State Altoona?
I am the assistant director of Development and Alumni Relations. This means I have the honor of engaging alumni and friends of the college who are looking to make an impact on our current and future students.
Had you always harbored thoughts or aspirations of returning to Penn State Altoona to work?
During my senior year as I began to look for jobs after graduation, I realized how much Penn State Altoona truly meant to me. I knew I wanted to go out into the world and explore a little as I had grown up traveling with my family since my father was an officer in the United States Air Force. However, I always told my parents that working at Penn State Altoona was my dream job. I am lucky enough to have found my way back here.
What is your favorite part of your job?
My favorite part of the job is connecting with alumni and friends of the college who have the same passion for the campus as me. When an alum shares stories of living on campus, going to athletic events, walking across the pond in the winter, etc., we can laugh and relive those moments together. It is so fun to know exactly what they mean based on my own first-hand experiences.
What is the best part of working for Penn State Altoona?
I love working at Penn State Altoona for the same reasons I loved being a student. I have the backing of a large university with a small feel, and everyone here is so kind and helpful.
Do you have a favorite memory so far as an employee at Penn State Altoona?
My experience as a Penn State Altoona employee has certainly been interesting. I joined the college as an employee in January 2020, and as a result of the pandemic, began working from home within the first few months. But even working remotely, I was able to experience the family feel that comes from the college and my amazing team. There has been a lot of adapting and adjusting, but with everyone working for the same goal, there has been plenty of fun along the way, and I can feel the impact we make in our students’ experience at Penn State.
Can you describe any sense of pride at having graduated from and now working for Penn State Altoona and Penn State?
The amount of pride I have working for Penn State is life changing. Working with alumni on a day-to-day basis allows me to express excitement for the University I hold so dear and to gain even more appreciation for Penn State. Between the amazing things our current students are doing and the impact our alumni have on the world, my pride never stops growing!
Do you consider Penn State Altoona “home?”
From the moment I stepped on campus my first year, Penn State Altoona has been home. Working for the college has felt like I returned home after going out into the world and learning and growing. I feel like I’m right where I need to be!
Penn State ranked 38th among all large U.S. employers — public, private, and non-profit — for new college graduates entering the workforce, according to a Forbes survey. Rachel Fowkes was featured in an article highlighting the University's ranking. Read the article on Penn State News.