Thriving Partnerships Engage Alumni, Community, and Students

Emma Irving '18
Staff members at MVP Recovery post outside in front of the business' sign
Brian Corson '12 '15, Lauren Marino '15, Samantha Miller '25, Jamie Batista '14, and Brianna Jewett '20

Widener’s extensive partnerships connect many of the university’s values: service to others, a legacy of giving back, commitment to innovation and leading the way for the next generation.

Since Jane Oeffner, director of strategic clinical partnerships, came to Widener in 2022, there’s been much buzz about expanded opportunities for students across the university – especially in the School of Nursing and College of Health and Human Services. Collaborating with clinical education directors across departments, Oeffner has solidified 15 partnership agreements with behavioral health services, community care providers, and health systems and centers in the past year and a half.

“Widener is a health sciences powerhouse, and it’s my job to spread that message,” Oeffner said. “Many long-term and new relationships with clinical partnerships have really come to fruition lately which gives students a huge variety of real-world experiences with reputable institutions while those organizations receive a variety of benefits for their employees.”

In this way, Widener’s educational partnerships are a win-win for all involved. Employer partners can recruit Widener students through clinical opportunities and career fairs, share expertise at professional development workshops, and much more. Employees receive tuition discounts to Widener’s elite programs and other benefits like affiliate clinical faculty titles for those supervising Widener students in their clinical placements. Current students gain a huge leg up with access to the expertise of professionals in their future fields.

Such partnerships range from large corporations like YesCare—where social work and family nurse practitioner students provide health care services for the Philadelphia Department of Prisons—to Keystone Rural Health Center, a multi-site federally qualified health center addressing the needs of under-resourced communities.

Some partners are neighbors like ChesPenn Health, located a half mile from Widener’s Chester campus. The proximity of this partnership means ChesPenn can easily refer patients to the Chester Community Clinic, where uninsured and underinsured community members receive treatment while Widener students gain invaluable clinical experience. Other partners like PAM Health span multiple national locations and can provide students with a Widener-certified clinical experience at a location convenient to them.

Practical Experience of Partnerships

For Sarah Glazewski ’22 ‘24, one of the highlights of her Widener education was the chance to explore multiple facets of the physical therapy field through her clinicals.

“When I first started PT school, my dream was to work with a sports program at the professional or collegiate level,” Glazewski, a Pride soccer alumna said. “Fast forward two years later and that’s still a dream of mine, but I also dream of working with kids in both inpatient and outpatient settings. One of the best things my PT program has taught me is that there are so many different fields and specialties that you can go into.”

This opportunity for career exploration is one of the many benefits increased by Widener’s growing list of partners. Oeffner has worked to bring a range of partner organizations to campus for exclusive recruitment events each semester. Lehigh Valley Health Network and Elwyn came to campus to meet with rehabilitation sciences and education students in April, which provided a great interdisciplinary discussion for over 60 students.

A headshot of Lauren Bishop wearing a tan sweater
Lauren Bishop '16 '18

In fall 2023, Lauren Bishop ’16 ’18 returned to campus to speak about her work in an outpatient-therapy clinic that is part of  Bayhealth, a hospital system in Delaware, and Widener partner. Connecting with Widener students is a full-circle moment for her.

“I loved getting to come back and talk to current students because it wasn’t that long ago that I was right in their same position,” Bishop said.

Bishop came to Widener for the unique 3+3 pre-professional physical therapy pathway that offered her an advantage when transitioning into the university’s competitive doctoral program.  

“Having a pro bono clinic on campus was a huge opportunity to get hands-on practice and that really prepared me for my clinicals,” Bishop reflected. All those learning experiences were compounded and realized when she attended a Widener health sciences career fair and connected with the Bayhealth team. Bishop was offered a job post-graduation which she accepted, and still works there as the primary neurological physical therapist.  

“I enjoy how my work allows me to give each individual patient the time, attention, and high-quality care they deserve,” she said. “At the same time, I get to work very closely with the occupational and speech therapy teams, which I feel very prepared for.”

Alumni Partnerships

Empowering students like Glazewski and Bishop with the practical experience to thrive on the job is what motivates Brian Corson ’12 ’15 to partner with Widener.

Corson graduated from Widener with a bachelor’s in psychology and master of social work and founded MVP Recovery in 2014. He’s passionate about providing behavioral health care to clients and their families on the way to long-term substance abuse recovery. That passion began at Widener.

“My time and education at Widener significantly contributed to my success by providing invaluable hands-on experience through practicums and internships,” Corson said. “Now I’m committed to paying it forward by offering the same opportunities to future therapists and clinicians, aiming to empower them to make impactful contributions in their field.”

One of Corson’s clinics is walking distance from campus, providing vital care in Chester, and convenient access for Widener students. For Corson, hosting students for experiential learning opportunities means a lot personally.

“Witnessing individuals flourish in their professional growth by integrating the foundational knowledge gained in the classroom is incredibly fulfilling for me,” he reflected. “It’s especially thrilling to hire new graduates from Widener as we’ve done numerous times at MVP. Providing someone with their first job opportunity post-graduation is always an exciting moment for our team.”

Two people sit at laptops, working together.
Phil Waibel ’24 and Kayla Taylor ‘19 with at MVP Recovery

Corson’s team benefits from more than just the exceptional talent of Widener students in their partnership. MVP Recovery employees and spouses receive a 20% discount tuition for most graduate and continuing studies programs, and dependents accepted to undergraduate day programs automatically qualify for a minimum scholarship of $25,000 per year plus a room and board stipend.

Across the board, Corson says, MVP Recovery has benefitted immensely from its Widener ties.

“Partnering with Widener has been an exceptional collaboration, offering seamless and supportive processes for both MVP and for the students,” Corson concluded. “This opportunity not only allows us to expand our presence in the community but also facilitates networking with organizations across the region in innovative ways.”

Partnerships Build Community

These partner relationships reach much beyond Widener students, alumni, and employers; they ripple out to better local and global communities.

Widener is the only member university of the Coalition of Culturally Competent Providers, a network of Philadelphia-area behavioral health providers and educators committed to prioritizing holistic approaches and diverse cultural knowledge as they provide care and encourage new policies.

People sit at tables and watch a presentation. A man in the front is clapping
CCCP members came to Widener's campus to meet with faculty, staff, and students

Students from clinical psychology, social work, and more now have increased access to internship and networking opportunities through this partnership, while other coalition members benefit from Widener’s expert faculty and resources. All this functions together to directly improve patient outcomes while supporting local businesses and training the next generation of culturally competent providers.

“Widener lives at the cutting edge with innovative programs that speak to both relevant practical training and vital business skills,” Asher Kemp Jr., the coalition’s executive director, said. “As our only higher education partner at the moment, Widener’s connection helps us pass forward valuable professional knowledge.”

That knowledge extends into the community through collaborative events. Last summer, with sponsorship from  the Southeastern Pennsylvania Area Health Education Center, the university offered a health career explorers camp for middle and high school students from underserved communities. For four days in June, students explored health careers including nursing, nutrition, rehabilitation sciences, and clinical psychology. This year, Kensington Health Sciences Academy brought 60 students to campus for a similar experience. The visitors learned from faculty and students in simulation labs, explored Widener’s campus, and heard about college life from Widener students.  

Widener’s partnerships thrive on interdisciplinary collaboration, and that doesn’t stop with health sciences. Organizations across education, government and municipality services, business, law, manufacturing, and retail partner with Widener in mutually beneficial ways. Creating and maintaining strong partnerships begins with genuine connection – and Oeffner is proud to bring that to the table for Widener.

“Widener’s mission to build community and give back is absolutely exemplified in our partnerships,” Oeffner concluded. “As we nurture relationships with people and businesses in our community, everyone involved benefits.” 

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