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What is Health and Human Development?

Diverse fields of study that share one
common goal: enriching the lives of others.

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Robert Sweeney

Earning a degree as a non-traditional student while working in foster care

Robert Sweeney, HDFS Class of 2005, has been helping people for the past 41 years. If you are thinking that the math just doesn’t add up, you are correct. As early as high school, Robert has been engaged in a variety of human development interests. He earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees while working with people.

His first job in high school involved taking foster children to appointments as a caseworker aide. Upon high school graduation and for the next 20 years, he continued in the child and elder foster care system, recruiting and training foster parents. In addition, he pursued an HDFS degree as a part-time student. After earning his degree, he shifted to mental health and drug and alcohol counseling. Several years later, he began work in the crisis intervention field. After completing a graduate degree, Robert began work as a therapist at an inpatient psychiatric hospital. In 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Robert was in the midst of developing a halfway house for men in addiction recovery. Unfortunately, the project was shut down and Robert was unemployed. During those six months, he wrote and published a self-help book, “You are NOT Just a Diagnosis: Using Trauma-Informed Techniques to Create Your Best Life.”

Penn State is exceptional in its diversity of opportunities, as well as its population.  Being open to those experiences can only enrich our future. What makes all of those unusual experiences worthwhile is the connections made with other people you care about and who will care about you.

Robert Sweeney '05

Currently, Robert is a member of a therapeutic team providing mental health rehabilitation for juvenile justice youth in a forestry camp setting.  As a psychological services specialist with the Pennsylvania Bureau of Juvenile Justice Youth Development Camp, he performs assessments and develops treatment plans. The team’s emphasis is focused on forming creative collaborations between the juvenile’s teachers, therapist, probation officer, the community, and their family.   

When he is not working, Robert enjoys traveling, anything history, and movies.  

Robert’s advice for current Penn Staters:  Try everything Penn State has to offer.  Although it is easier to simply focus on your studies and graduate as quickly as possible with little distractions, you will miss all that the University has to offer.  Learn how to fly a plane, play rugby, learn another language, volunteer to be part of an academic field study, take an acting class. “Penn State is exceptional in its diversity of opportunities, as well as its population.  Being open to those experiences can only enrich our future. What makes all of those unusual experiences worthwhile is the connections made with other people you care about and who will care about you.”

This profile was published August 2021.