Student Voices

Joslyn Banks

Joslyn Banks
Grants manager at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine (retired)
Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences, Individualized Studies, University of Pennsylvania '20

“Everyone has a gift,” explains Joslyn. “Mine is giving.” Throughout her career as a grants manager at Penn, Joslyn dedicated her free time to community outreach, volunteering, and coordinating donations of fresh meals and school supplies to families in need. When she completed a character strengths survey as part of her applied positive psychology courses in the Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences (BAAS) degree, she wasn’t surprised to find that giving and mindfulness were among her chief strengths. “That made me reflect back on times when I used them—well, at the time I didn’t call them character strengths,” she laughs. “Those classes were icing on the cake, because they made everything make sense.”

The cake, in this case, is the combined experience of working full time at Penn, taking classes toward her bachelor’s degree, and donating her time and skills to volunteer enterprises. Now 64, Joslyn retired in 2019 and graduated from the BAAS program in 2020—and while she looks forward to pursuing her passion for community service in her new home outside of Hershey, PA, she also enjoys the leisure to reflect on her career and education.

Prior to transferring into the BAAS program, Joslyn completed an associate’s degree in business administration; then she enrolled in the Penn LPS Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree while working at Penn. While she always knew she would complete her bachelor’s degree eventually, Joslyn’s studies were primarily motivated by her love of learning. "Once I got my associate's degree, I just started taking random classes in anything that sounded interesting," says Joslyn, who enjoyed a wide variety of courses in gender studies, social sciences, and psychology. In addition, she always knew she would want to volunteer full time when she retired, and saw her social science concentration as an investment in that future. "I feel that social science can make you a more well-rounded person, and more able to learn and see how the world works outside of the business world," she says.

When Joslyn retired and moved to the rural county where she'd always dreamed of living, she was concerned that she wouldn't be able to complete the bachelor’s degree requirements—particularly intensive on-campus instruction required to meet the BA foreign language requirement. The online Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences presented the opportunity she needed to complete her degree: by applying her existing college credits toward an Individualized Studies concentration, Joslyn could take a few more classes online, complete the ePortfolio requirement, and then graduate. "I had everything else done,” she says.

Like the applied positive psychology classes, the ePortfolio provided Joslyn with an opportunity to reflect and draw together the various threads of her personal, professional, and academic trajectories. "It's a very personal experience," she says. "Even if you're unfamiliar with doing a portfolio, the program helps you along the way, and it can only help you remember what you've learned and how you've used it." Joslyn also found that the online courses suited her style of learning. “It was fantastic. I felt like I was still in the classroom,” she recalls. “The assignments were clear, the professors were available. I don’t think that being in the classroom is any better.”

As she settles into her new home, Joslyn is already seeking out opportunities to support her community and help families thrive—at a distance, for now, although she looks forward to the days when she can raise donations in person and host luncheons. "I don't need a degree for what I want to do now, but it's good to have one," she reflects. "If I'm involved in some type of community outreach with children, and if I'm trying to encourage them to go to school and get an education, I need to practice what I preach."

“When your heart is in something, it doesn't really seem like a job,” Joslyn adds. “We should all use our gifts to help others.”

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