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Student Engagement
Student Development

Penn State University: Enriching the Student Experience through Better Engagement

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Solutions Used

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Through intentional and strategic co-curricular learning opportunities, Penn State University’s Sapphire program has served thousands of Nittany Lions over the years.

But it hasn’t always been a walk in the park. The initiative struggled to reach its full potential due to inefficient technology and a lack of data. 

By partnering with Suitable, Penn State administrators delivered a brand new Sapphire program--a mobile-first solution that supports their student engagement initiatives and provides a more seamless experience for their students.

Now, students have a co-curricular transcript that tracks their involvement throughout their journey in Smeal College of Business and can be shared beyond graduation.

About the School

The Smeal College of Business at Penn State University offers undergraduate, graduate, and executive education programs to more than 7,000 students.

Smeal, which is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), is home to more than 150 faculty members who teach and conduct academic research on a wide range of business topics. The college also features a network of industry-supported research centers. 


Challenges before Suitable

The Sapphire Leadership Academic Program was designed for high-achieving students who have been accepted to the Smeal College of Business and would like to enhance their business school experience. 

But when it came to tracking student data and providing a long-term record, the previous process was messy, tedious and incomplete. The Sapphire Team was unable to access the data they needed easily, relying on spreadsheets and manual rosters, while students couldn’t track their progress in real-time.

Students could see their progress monthly but not over the course of their four-year college career as a whole. At the end of their time at PSU, they had nothing to bring with them into the professional world that showed their involvement with the Sapphire Leadership Academic Program or Smeal College of Business.

In addition to unmet expectations for reporting and tracking, engagement was low and the PSU team wanted to equip students with a co-curricular transcript that highlighted their accomplishments during their time at PSU.

With little engagement and limited tracking capabilities, students weren’t able to use the previous technology the way the Sapphire Leadership Academic team intended.

Relying on Excel spreadsheets and unable to provide students with updates in real-time, the Sapphire team needed a better solution.

PSU Excel to Suitable


Life with Suitable

PSU Sapphire Suitable Uses

The Sapphire Leadership Academic Program team chose Suitable for its mobile-first, user-friendly platform and advanced data tracking. 

Student data was able to be easily migrated from various places into the Suitable platform and the visibility took a weight off admins shoulders. Plus, the ease of QR codes was a game-changer for tracking attendance and engagement. This partnership also gave the Sapphire Leadership Academic Program team the visibility they were looking for and allowed students to track their progress over their 4-year career at Smeal College of Business.

Thanks to the data-tracking capabilities and gamification features of Suitable, PSU’s administrative team refocused the Sapphire Leadership Academic Program to align what students are doing within Smeal College of Business with career readiness and engagement.

On Suitable, the Sapphire Leadership Academic Program not only tracks the data and experiences of students while they’re in college but gives them a co-curricular record of experiences and programs to take with them after graduation.


By providing real-time data tracking, tailored student development, and engagement incentives, the Sapphire Program uses Suitable to empower the business leaders of tomorrow.

Dr. Robert Novac, Sapphire Faculty Director & Professor
Smeal College of Business

Take a look at the accomplishments of the Sapphire Leadership Academic Program

  • Shareable, transferable experiential learning records for students.
  • Dashboards that help students track their progress and see what’s left to do in real-time.
  • Streamlined workflows that keep students and administrators on the same page.
  • Targeted mobile nudges that get students attention, remind them of their progress and communicate what’s left to accomplish.
Sapphire Activity Phonse Screenshot

Additional Outcomes Achieved

Not only are students benefiting from the updated Sapphire Leadership Academic Program, but administrators are finding they have more time and data as they advocate for student development as well.

Suitable’s user-friendly platform allows the Sapphire Leadership Academic Program team to track and analyze student engagement data in real-time. 

Not only have engagement and retention greatly improved, but the Sapphire Leadership Academic Program is well on its way to becoming a model for career readiness and changing the narrative on how college is setting students up for success in the professional world.

Plans for the Future

The Sapphire Leadership Academic Program has big goals for the future.

The team wants to start using mobile nudges for events and to fully migrate coursework progress onto the Suitable platform. They’re also hoping to leverage the Suitable Qualtrics integration for more surveying - such as a Senior survey and Cohort-specific surveys.

Long term, the Sapphire Leadership Academic Program team wants to crack down on the data, see where students are getting their points, see which events are pulling the most attendees and engagement and offer incentives for high achievers in the Smeal College of Business.