Seth Stewart performing as a patient in need during a Physical Therapist Assistant simulated care assignment.

Physical Therapist Assistant student thrives at Penn State Fayette

By: Joshua Simon
Seth Stewart leverages prior education to excel in collegiate environment

LEMONT FURNACE, Pa. — Seth Stewart, a first-year Physical Therapist Assistant student at Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus, has leveraged his prior education and experiences to excel in the collegiate environment.

Stewart spent three years studying sports medicine at the Central Westmoreland Career and Technology Center (CWCTC), learning goniometry and other practical skills which prepared him for more rigorous coursework delivered at Penn State Fayette. He soon developed a passion for physical therapy and decided to enroll at the Fayette campus after touring its biomedical facilities. 

Excited to represent their renowned campus, faculty and staff matched Stewart’s enthusiasm with their own as they showcased simulated human cadavers, staged hospital settings, and other science related environments.

“I thought to myself, enrolling at Penn State Fayette is a great idea because I want to be a physical therapist,” Stewart said. “I’ll finish two years at this campus and transfer to University Park to further my education. If I had gone straight to State College, I might have struggled. I’m not used to being around all those people and experiences yet. This was a chance to start at a smaller location.”

Coursework in the Physical Therapist Assistant program aims to produce competent health care providers who, under the supervision of physical therapists, deliver safe and effective physical therapy services. Recent student outcomes include a 100% ultimate pass rate on the National Physical Therapy Exam for the 2022 and 2023 graduating classes. Additionally, these classes achieved a 100% employment rate post-graduation.

Seth Stewart performing as a patient in need in a simulated care program.

Seth Stewart performing as a patient in need during a Physical Therapist Assistant simulated care assignment.

Credit: Joshua Simon

That said, the program itself is quite challenging; higher education poses a myriad of obstacles for students to overcome, and Stewart found himself struggling in the beginning. 

“I’ll say this, it’s going to be hard adapting to college life; you need to really strive to learn. When I got a bad score on a quiz it didn’t bring me down, it was a sign that I needed to work harder than before,” Stewart said, comparing curriculum between high school and college. “You can’t just look over your notes thirty minutes before a quiz and expect to pass anymore.”

From then on, he resolved himself to studying harder and took advantage of resources offered by the Student Success Center on campus. He walked inside to find Administrative Support Assistant, Brandy Burke, who welcomed him with open arms. 

“I used to sit in my car or listen to music with my friends whenever I didn’t have class, but now I go to the Student Success Center and look over material. There were six or seven of us students that started studying together, sometimes until nine o’clock at night. If one of us understood a topic more than another we would use each other as sources. Over time, more people saw us doing this and asked to come study too, and of course we said yeah!” Stewart said.

“Seth is always inside the Student Success Center studying and helping other students. He always comes in and gives me a hug, and his happy demeaner is contagious!” said Burke. “He’s always coming up with nicknames and jokes around but takes his studies seriously and wants his peers to succeed as well. I’m so proud of how much he’s grown since starting at the Fayette campus. Seth is going to be amazing and puts his heart and soul into all he does.”

He currently resides in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, where he’s a team leader at Chick-fil-A in addition to being a full-time student. He also gave commendations to Pamela Pologruto and Stacy Sekely, who serve as Teaching Professors of Physical Therapy Assistant and other roles at Penn State Fayette. 

“It’s a bit of a drive but I commute to campus because of how good the Physical Therapist Assistant program is. If you struggle with coursework, Pam and Stacy will always help you. They make sure you understand the concepts and want you to succeed in every way possible.”