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Better Know a Branch Campus: Penn State Erie, The Behrend College

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 Erie, The Behrend College.

Name: Penn State Erie, The Behrend College. I won’t make a joke about the name, because there is no joking when it comes to Erie. It’s a sad, dark place with bad weather.

Chancellor: Dr. Donald L. Birx

Enrollment: Behrend is the largest branch campus with 4,767 students. For context, go to a men’s basketball game, cut the crowd in half, and you’ll have around 4,767 people.

Location: Erie, Pennsylvania. The school is 131 miles from Pittsburgh, 213 from State College, and 425 from Philadelphia. Erie’s actually closer to Cleveland (105 miles) and Toronto (190 miles) than it is State College.

Sports: Like Altoona, Behrend competes in the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference. The school has 20 teams: baseball, softball, and men’s and women’s basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, swimming and diving, tennis, track and field, volleyball, and water polo.

Fun Fact: Penn State Erie is the only campus in the entire Penn State system in a city of more than 100,000 people. Included in those 100,000 people are the lead singer of Train, the guy that made Tae Bo, and the creator of the cartoon ArthurMost importantly, Behrend is the campus that gave us Penn State basketball legend Nick Colella.

History: Behrend has been a branch campus since 1948, when the widow of the co-founder of Hammermill Paper donated the land that the school sits on. That’s basically it for the campus itself, but Behrend was the first branch campus two-year associate programs in engineering in 1953 and the first to offer four-year degrees in 1971.

Right Now: Behrend is huge. Only 20 percent of every class actually does the 2 + 2 program with University Park, partly because Behrend offers 33 bachelor’s degrees, six associate’s degrees, 22 minors, three pre-professional programs, and two master’s degrees.

The school offers on and off campus housing, on campus dining, and generally awesome student life. There’s a student newspaper, several fraternities and sororities, concerts, student government…know what? I’d probably have no issue attending Behrend if it wasn’t closer to Canada than University Park.

Story Time: People really loved Behrend.

“I enjoyed my two great years at Behrend, but there is one event that stands out as one of the most pathetic attempts at a fun on-campus activity — last November’s ‘portable ice rink.‘”


I have loved every moment of my time at Behrend and it was the best decision of my life to come here. I am a senior this year and have had the best years of my life at this school. The people I have met here have changed my life in the best of ways. I have gotten involved and have had opportunities that I would not have had at any other school. Behrend is just the right size that really encourages a great community from the students who go here. Not to mention that the faculty and staff actually care about their students and really want you to succeed. I have had opportunities here that I would not have had at University Park and do not regret transferring. No matter what anyone says, this school is fantastic. I encourage everyone to come and visit Behrend. The campus is beautiful and truly one of a kind.


“February 2009 was a particularly chilly one in Erie PA. At one point we had about four feet of snow in areas untouched by snow plows. This wasn’t uncommon due to the lake effect from nearby Lake Erie.

“Due to the excess snow and remote location it wasn’t uncommon for me to use snowballs as my form of communication as we walked by friend’s dorms to go to Dobbins (before that raging fire blazed through) for dinner. One of these times my friend was slow in responding so there were more snowballs thrown than usual. There was a college-aged guy off in the distance who then began to tell me to “Stop throwing snowballs,” to which I didn’t listen and continued to throw snowballs because that’s really all there was to do.

“After three or four more snowballs I had one that I was packing in my hand. The guy then said, in a very Dirty Harry-esque way, “Go ahead, throw one more snowball!” So I threw the snowball. He angrily ripped his hood off, stormed over, and immediately demanded that I show my student ID because he was an RA. He then wrote me up and told me he was going to be reporting me to my Coordinator. I then had to my meeting with my Coordinator and was put under Contract Review for the incident. This was my second write-up. The first stemming from a “threatening” email that I sent to ResCom. Which is a whole different story.

“However, my punishment for this barrage of snowballs I unleashed on Beaver Cleaverville (THERE WAS A FIREFIGHT!) was to put together a PowerPoint presentation on the dangers of snowballs. I can still tell you that snowballs were the most common method of injury in a study done regarding eye injuries in children at a Helsinki University Eye Hospital study done in 1977.”

Next Time: Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus! I’ve never been there, so tell me about it.

Previous Better Know a Branch Campus features: AbingtonAltoonaBeaverBerksBrandywine, DuBois.

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