Better Know a Branch Campus: Penn State Altoona

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There are 24 campuses in the Penn State system. The one that gets the most attention is University Park, but what about the other 23? That’s where we come in with our newest 23 part series, Better Know a Branch Campus, inspired by Stephen Colbert’s Better Know a District. Next up: Penn State Altoona.

Before we get started with Altoona, we received one submission for a Penn State Abington story. It was…something:

I went to Abington for one semester in my sophmore year and it was one of the most uneventful experiences i’ve ever had as a student. Nobody speaks to each other, everyone kind of just does their own thing and leaves since its primarily a commuter campus. Very diverse group of people and yeah the classes are easy but commuting to school in a way neglects your ambition to want to stay on this awkward campus to do work or study for an exam. The cafeteria was god awful, your best bet was going to the dive bar on rt 611 near campus to get a quality sandwich. Even in the spring when I was enrolled there, there was no liveliness like there was in state college when the weather warms up. It’s pretty safe for me to say that I keep in contact with zero people that I’ve met at Abington whereas, I keep in touch regularly with my friends from State College. Overall, just a very depressing campus, nobody wants to be there, parking sucks, the food sucks, buildings smell, and the only time you see people smile is when they’re racing down one of the backroads that surround campus to get the hell out.

Ok, now that that’s done, on to Altoona!

Name: Penn State Altoona, or “Toon Town,” if you like nicknames that get played out after hearing them 10,000 times.

Chancellor: Lori Bechtel-Wherry. Students at Altoona hold her in the highest regard, and based on the one time I said five words to her, I completely agree.

Enrollment: 4,182

Location: Altoona, Pennsylvania. Altoona is 44 miles from State College (which makes it the closest branch campus in the Penn State system), 136 from Pittsburgh, and 192 from Philadelphia. The city of Altoona has several famous residents, like Steve Sheetz, Steve Sheetz, and Steve Sheetz. Fun fact: there are eight Sheetz locations in Altoona. Eight. Safe to say they have the “gas/food that gives you diarrhea” market cornered.

Sports: Altoona has 19 Division III teams, all of which compete in either the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference or the Eastern College Athletic Conference. The teams are baseball, men’s and women’s basketball, women’s bowling, men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s soccer, softball, men’s and women’s swimming and diving, men’s and women’s tennis, and men’s and women’s volleyball.

Fun Facts: I went to Altoona for the first two years of my collegiate experience. It was…it was something. Also, at its track/soccer field/IM field called Spring Run Stadium, the track is a blinding shade of blue. It almost makes Boise State’s football field look subtle.

History: Altoona has been affiliated with Penn State since 1939, when a group of Altoids — that’s slang for a citizen of Altoona, which is hated by some but used as a term of endearment by mostly everyone I know that went there — convinced Penn State president Ralph Hetzel to open an undergraduate center in the city. At first, Altoona only had nine professors and 119 freshmen. Now, it’s arguably the most well-known branch campus in the Penn State system due to its proximity to University Park.

Right Now: Altoona is the third largest branch campus in the Penn State system, and has 500 faculty members. Students can graduate from there with one of 20 baccalaureate degrees or one of eight associate degrees. Of course, students can also do the 2 + 2 program if they want.

Altoona has four dorms on campus: Oak and Maple are your standard freshman halls, which are perpetually 142 degrees. You sweat during the winter. It’s weird. Once you move up in the Altoona world, you can live in Spruce and Cedar, which are suites and are AWESOME. From the time you’re a freshman, you can live in one of many off-campus housing apartment complexes, most notably Nittany Pointe and College Park. You can also have a car as a freshman, which is awesome if you’re a loser who doesn’t drink and likes to go home every weekend, or in other words, “me.”

Story Time: We received two reader-submitted stories from Altoona, one is more of a general background, and one is about as weird as the Abington story from earlier —

The campus is easy to get around & learn, but like any, parking was an occasional challenge, and by the way on that note – you never mess with top cop Alice (is she still there?). For those of my fellow “Altoids” in the 2000’s you know who I mean, just pay the parking ticket, & move along. Funny note:  the ducks at the pond acted as if they too were just one of the students, walking around campus (the Duck Dynasty crew and Uncle Si would love that, haha)!
It’s my expert opinion that Altoona is the little brother of University Park – except we partied way harder. I once went to a party where I got so drunk that I chugged the majority of a handle of Vlad and everyone’s face turned purple. Freshman year I met a meth addict/transvestite and my friend and I went to Denny’s with her. Finally, I’ll always remember the time I got so drunk that I went swimming in the volleyball pits and spent all night bitching about having sand in my hair and speaking French and walking into my suitemates room naked. Thank you Vlad, thank you tequila, thank you Altoona.

Next Time: Penn State Beaver. Got a fun story? Email me.

Previous Better Know a Branch Campus features: Abington

Photo By: Matt Westlake
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