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Luke Pile

August 2015

It does not get much more chaotic than Luke Pile’s wife going into labor with twins on the same day he earned a promotion at work.

That is until you throw in his studies for a Master of Health Administration (MHA) degree at Penn State.

When Pile, a licensed nursing home administrator, applied to the online MHA program through Penn State’s World Campus and the Department of Health Policy and Administration (HPA), he and Penn State alum Kimberly Pile were still newlyweds. Together they agreed Pile earning a master’s degree would be fruitful and therefore worth the commitment.

Soon after, the couple learned they were expecting twins. When Penn State accepted Pile into the program, the couple agreed to proceed with their plans.

Then, on Jan. 12, 2015, Pile was promoted from regional director of operations to director of market development for HCR ManorCare, a role that covers 60 properties. It also happened to be the first day of Pile’s second semester with Penn State. That evening, Kimberly’s water broke—two months premature.

The newborn twins, Logan and Olivia, spent 43 days in a neonatal intensive care unit before the Pile’s were able to take their babies home.

“My wife has been as supportive as one can be throughout the process,” Pile said. “We came to conclusion that this program was the best for our family and we could manage it and work together. We have been a very good team. She is a great resource for me. She is my friend and rock and provides a lot of help. There is no way we would be able to get through it without working together.”

More than 4,500 Penn State students are enrolled in the College of Health and Human Development (HHD) studying a wide-array of fields, each committed to the concept of improving the quality of life for others. Pile, who found a home in HPA through the online MHA program, is one of those HHD students, and this is his story.

With the support of his wife, Pile is able to work toward his master’s degree and work full-time, all to enhance his skills in the area of short-term, post-hospital services and long-term care.

This career path began when Pile was an undergraduate student at York College of Pennsylvania where he earned a bachelor’s degree in long-term care administration.

His father, Mark Pile, who worked in a community hospital in Somerset, Pennsylvania, was Pile’s first mentor. That relationship led Pile to enroll in a couple of long-term care courses and then everything began to fall into place.

“As a young person, being passionate about what you are doing and being in an industry where you feel you are helping people was important to me,” Pile said. “I also knew the industry was expanding and the degree helped me join a company with growth opportunities. Then it evolved into this next step, which is also opening doors.”

The 13-course, 49-credit, 28-month program includes a weeklong intensive residency on the University Park campus in July that includes working on capstone projects with the faculty and networking with leaders in the health care industry.

Penn State’s unique approach to an online program, which includes time on University Park campus, is ultimately what convinced Pile to apply.

“The hybrid component was important. The networking opportunities and the in-person connection with the cohort were very important. This is about how I can do my job better, evolve in health care industry, and adapt to the Affordable Care Act,” Pile said. “Additionally, Penn State’s health policy administration undergraduate program and the online MHA program are very well respected in my industry.”

Pile is one of 21 adult learners who make up the online MHA cohort.

“We have military and CEO-level individuals, and we all have life events, and I’m sure we will all have more as we go through the program. But I think that is why we are all in the program – because we are all committed to excellence despite challenges,” Pile said.

In addition to HPA, there are a variety of areas for students to study within HHD through the Departments of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Health Policy and Administration, Human Development and Family Studies, Kinesiology, Nutritional Sciences, Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management, and the School of Hospitality Management. Learn more about HHD.