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Messages for graduate students from Dean Lawless

Oct. 23, 2020

College of Education Weekly Student Update #9

Election reminder

With election day in less than two weeks, many individuals in our community may be feeling anxious and overwhelmed, no matter their political positions.

We recognize the election season may have put you under additional stress. Please know you are not alone. If it is impacting your course work and you find you need flexibility in assignments, please let your faculty members know, so they can work with you and help you to be successful in their classes.

Following are some resources for coping with stress during election season

Transition to remote instruction

The University has shared its fall departure plan for transition to remote instruction on Penn State News. Voluntary on-campus departure testing will be offered from Nov. 12 through Nov. 19 at University Park, and students are urged to take advantage of that testing, to ensure they don't unknowingly bring COVID-19 home to their families. Details can be found in the Penn State News article.

Penn State IT is working to assist students with preparations for the remote instruction period. Information on technology resources and the Technology Loaner Programs is available on Penn State’s Keep Learning website. For students, there is a limited supply of loaner laptops and mobile hotspots. Students can access the Mobile Technology Request Form with their Access ID and password

Cheer safely

As our football team prepares to play its first game of the season, I want to echo the letter President Barron wrote to the University community on Oct. 12.

As much as it's tradition to gather to cheer on the Nittany Lions, please, maintain the safety protocols in place. Keep gatherings small, socially distanced and within state regulations. Don't bring guests to town and limit your own travel.

It is especially important that everyone clearly understands that our efforts to achieve a downward trend in the number of COVID-19 cases in the region could be jeopardized if there is an influx – even a small influx – of visitors to town.

This is a time to show the nation and the world that we value and uphold our responsibility for the health and safety of one another, as we reduce travel and avoid large gatherings as we cheer on the team, for the benefit of all.

Things to Do at Penn State: Oct. 22-29

In addition to the football game, there are a lot of in-person and virtual events taking place this weekend. For a listing of some of the cultural events on tap this weekend and next well, check Penn State News.

How are you?

As we finish the ninth week of the semester, I'm hearing from my students how stressful things are getting, with exams, projects and papers all hitting at once. With the safety protocols in place to protect us from the pandemic, it's harder to find safe ways to decompress, and we are seeing the results of that across campus with increased mental health issues among our students.

Please know that if you need it, help is available. If you are having difficulties, know that you are not alone. Reach out to your faculty members and tell them how you're feeling. Reach out to each other, both to seek help and to offer it.

If you need help, there are mental health resources available:

Enjoy the weekend

The weather in State College has been unseasonably beautiful these past several days, and this weekend should be nice as well. Take some time to enjoy the sunshine and warm temperatures while we can. Have a good weekend.

Be well,

Dean Kimberly Lawless

Oct. 16, 2020

College of Education Weekly Student Update #8

Student programming resources

The University has put together a resource and information website for students and organizations to help navigate gatherings, travel and organizational meetings during the pandemic. Visit the site for more information.


Did you know that college-aged voters account for almost one-third of the eligible voting population? That means that by voting, you have the power to sway an election. If you have not yet registered to vote, you have only until Monday, Oct. 19. For information on where to register, click here.

Comprehensive information on voting is available at and also can be accessed via the Penn State Go App.

Below are additional links and information to assist you in registering to vote, requesting and submitting mail-in ballots, and voting in-person.

  • ·      University-wide Information
    • — Comprehensive information, including faculty resources for courses
    • and — Official elections websites for PA
    • — Comprehensive information provided by the League of Women Voters, including locating polling places, voter guides, and more. This website includes information for those voting outside of PA.
    • ·      University Park information
      • - Official elections website for Centre County.
      • A satellite elections office at the Bryce Jordan Center is available to all voters registered in Centre County through Oct. 21. Appointments are required. Schedule an appointment online at votingcenter
      • An official secure mail-in ballot drop box will be available in front of the HUB-Robeson Center on Pollock Road no later than Oct. 19 through Election Day, Nov. 3. The drop box will be locked and monitored 24/7 by video security surveillance, and ballots will be collected by Centre County Elections employees.
      • Voter registration and mail-in ballot request forms (paper and online) are available at The Center for Character, Conscience, and Public Purpose, 102 HUB-Robeson, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

If you need further assistance, contact The Center for Character, Conscience, and Public Purpose at or

Dean’s Equity Forum

Started last year, the Dean’s Equity Forum is a speaker series that’s mission is focused on the voices of external scholars who are working in critical social issues through education such as activism, equity pedagogy and participatory action as a learning context. Last we focused on bringing in senior scholars, this year, we are focusing on bringing in the powerful new perspectives of junior scholars.

I am excited to announce that this semester we will have two scholars presenting to our college. Mildred Boveda, a special education scholar from Arizona State University, will present her work on the preparation educators for diverse, equitable and inclusive practices on November 12 at 4PM. We are also arranging an hour for Dr. Boveda to have a more intimate conversation with faculty and advanced graduate students interested in her work.

We also have a second speaker Marcus Jenkins, a policy and practice scholar from the University of Arizona. Dr. Jenkins will present on Black Male Leadership, and will be joining us on Zoom on December 8th at 4PM with a faculty/advanced graduate student conversation to follow.

Stay tuned for links to join these presentations!

Cheer safely

When the Nittany Lion visited one of our College of Education classes earlier this week, he was wearing his mask – and he hopes you'll keep your mask on as you prepare to root for the football team when they plan on Oct. 24. President Barron issued a letter to the University community about the importance of protecting our University and the broader communities by maintaining mask-wearing, social distancing and limits on gatherings, even as we cheer on our team. To read his letter, and find out how to get a video of yourself cheering onto the stadium scoreboard through the Raise the Song virtual campaign, check Penn State News.

Dissertation fellowship opportunity

The American Educational Research Association (AERA) is currently accepting applications for the 2021–2022 AERA Minority Dissertation Fellowship in Education Research competition for advanced graduate students. Proposals should be submitted through the online application by Nov. 16.

The Fellowship Program seeks proposals from advanced graduate students who are from racial and ethnic groups that are underrepresented in higher education. This program provides mentoring and funding support to develop research skills and conduct studies in education related fields and topics.

Applicants can come from graduate programs and departments in education research, the humanities, or social or behavioral science disciplinary or interdisciplinary fields, such as cultural studies, economics, history, political science, psychology, public policy or sociology.

Those interested in applying for the Minority Dissertation Fellowship are encouraged to watch the informational webinar, and work closely with their advisers, to prepare their proposals. Further information about the program, frequently asked questions, and application instructions are available in the Call for Proposals.

Stop. Smell. Be well.

With mounting scientific evidence that loss of smell is one of the most specific symptoms of COVID-19 infection, sensory scientists in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences have launched a webpage to encourage people to perform a daily smell test in an effort to help nip disease spread in the bud.

Researchers have found that certain cells at the top of the nasal cavity harbor proteins that the coronavirus targets when invading these cells. The local disruption that occurs is different from the loss of smell that occurs with the common cold, which is due to blockage of the nasal passages. With COVID-19, many patients lose the ability to smell without being stuffy or congested.

The Stop. Smell. Be Well. webpage urges page visitors to make smell checks part of their daily routine. The page suggests that people can use their morning coffee, food, flowers, perfume, shampoo, deodorant or any other familiar aroma to monitor their ability to smell. For more information, check Penn State News.

Have a safe and productive remainder of the semester!

Dean Kim Lawless

Oct. 9, 2020

College of Education Student Update – Week 7

Spring 'wellness' days

By now, we have all become aware of the changes to our spring semester calendar in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We will start a week later, on January 18th. Although the semester begins on the 18th, it is also Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and we will be observing this important day of reflection and service. To accommodate the later start, the University's spring academic calendar also eliminates spring break to reduce the possibility of spreading the coronavirus through travel. However, there will be "wellness" days built into the calendar to support the mental health and well-being of students, faculty and staff.

Wellness days will be non-instructional days for students and instructors and no classes will be held, although University offices will remain open. Special programs will be developed and delivered on wellness days to support and engage students, instructors and staff, and discourage travel outside of campus communities.

The dates and number of wellness days has not yet been determined, but a committee is being formed to identify the approach, including the number of days, the timing, and the types of activities that will support and engage students, faculty and staff. For more information, check Penn State News.

Mask Up-date

As part of an ongoing town-gown partnership with State College Borough during the coronavirus pandemic, Penn State police officers will now enforce the State College Borough COVID-19 safety ordinance on the University Park campus. The municipal ordinance uses fines to enforce mask wearing, social distancing and gathering limits in State College Borough, and will be used specifically to support mask wearing and dispersal of large gatherings on the University Park campus, including for campus visitors.

This measure does not change Penn State's on-campus masking, social distancing and gathering requirements for students, faculty and staff that currently are in place. However, those requirements impose sanctions on academic standing and employment status for noncompliance. Enforcement of the borough ordinance on campus now enables the University to enforce compliance by visitors to campus.

For details, check Penn State News.

Walk-up testing moves to Pegula

With the onset of colder weather, Penn State’s walk-up COVID-19 testing location at University Park has moved from the HUB Parking Deck to the main concourse of Pegula Ice Arena, effective today (Friday, Oct. 9).

Students at University Park who are asymptomatic of COVID-19 but want to be tested because of possible virus exposure or other reasons may access the Pegula walk-up testing site from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week. Registration is not required, but students will need to bring their Penn State ID and smartphone and refrain from eating, drinking, chewing or smoking 30 minutes before arriving for their tests. Testing is free.

Students who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should not visit the walk-up site and instead seek testing at University Health Services by scheduling an appointment online through myUHS or by calling UHS at 814-863-0774. The UHS Advice Nurse also is available 24/7 by calling 814-863-4463. Students can find more information on COVID-19 testing options from Penn State Student Affairs.

For more information, check Penn State News.

Mark your calendar

Francesca Lopez, the Waterbury Chair in Equity Pedagogy in the College of Education's Department of Curriculum and Instruction, is hosting a webinar, “Student Resistance, Care and Belonging" at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 22.

Dr. Lopez will explore the importance of emotional warmth in the classroom, in both K-12 and higher education settings. What does teacher caring look like? How can engaging in caring relationships promote student belonging? What is student resistance?

Registration is required. For more information, visit

Town hall recording available online

The Oct. 4 virtual Town Hall event for students and families is now archived and available for online viewing at Individuals who watched the event are encouraged to fill out this anonymous survey.

The panel addressed an array of questions during the hour-long, livestream event, ranging from coronavirus-specific issues such as testing, isolation and quarantine, and misconceptions around the virus, to aspects of campus life, including the football season, recreational activities and opportunities for students, Election Day voting, fall commencement and spring semester.

Voting information and resources

  • LLAED webinar: Our colleagues in Lifelong Learning and Adult Education are hosting a non-partisan election presentation to empower and educate voters so they feel confident going into this election. The presentation, scheduled for noon Monday, Oct. 12, includes information on how to check your voting status, update your information and confirm your polling place. While the presentation is geared toward students, it also is open to faculty and staff. Use j/96591100355 to connect.
  • On-campus resources: Penn State, in collaboration with The Centre County Board of Elections, has developed a number of resources to make voting easier and more accessible for students and community members alike.
    • Satellite elections office: The Centre County Board of Elections has designated the Bryce Jordan Center Ticket Center on Penn State’s University Park Campus as a satellite elections office for the 2020 general election. All voters registered within Centre County, including students and nonstudent residents, can use the center to process mail-in ballot and absentee ballot requests, complete ballot packets, and submit ballots for secure processing. Voters are required to schedule an appointment in advance at The office will be staffed by local government election employees, and parking at Bryce Jordan Center will remain free to voters during office hours.
    • HUB-Robeson Center: Students at University Park may use voter services at the HUB-Robeson Center and online. Students can pick up and complete a postage-paid voter registration application at the Center for Character, Conscience and Public Purpose, 102 HUB-Robeson Center. In addition, students can obtain a mail-in ballot application at the center, or request one through Completed ballots can be submitted to a secure ballot drop box in front of the HUB on Pollock Road, which will be locked and monitored 24/7 by video security surveillance camera.
  • Key dates and polling information
    • Oct. 19 – Last day to register to vote in Pennsylvania
    • Oct. 27 – Last day to request a mail-in ballot in Pennsylvania
    • Nov. 3 – Election Day

For more information about voter registration and election resources at Penn State, including how to register, where to register, and how to make an informed decision, visit

Your well-being matters

If you have not already done so, I strongly encourage you to get your flu shot. Student flu clinics are by appointment only and can be scheduled through myUHS. The cost of this year’s vaccine is $25, billable to insurance or the student’s Bursar account. For more information, check Penn State News.

As the semester continues, workloads are growing for all of us – and with those growing workloads comes growing stress. Please remember, if you need it, help is available. Reach out to each other, both to seek help and to offer it. If you need counseling, know that Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at University Park is open for services. Students can receive services by calling CAPS at 814-863-0395 to schedule a phone appointment to discuss concerns and review treatment options. In addition, College of Education students can take advantage of free counseling services offered by the Herr Clinic this fall via Zoom. To schedule a screening for services, email the Herr Clinic at

If you have immediate urgent concerns, you can contact CAPS Monday through Friday (8 a.m. to 5 p.m. EDT); the Penn State Crisis Line 24/7 at 877-229-6400; or the 24/7 CrisisTextLine (Text “LIONS” to 741741).


Dean Kim Lawless

Oct. 2, 2020

College of Education Student Update Week 6

COVID-19 alerts – there's an app for that

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine are encouraging Pennsylvanians to download COVID Alert PA, a COVID-19 exposure notification app designed to help fight the spread of the virus. Penn State is asking everyone in the Penn State community – students, faculty and staff – to do the same and utilize the app to help support existing virus monitoring and contact tracing efforts at the University. Read the full story and get the download links on Penn State News.


Please exercise your right to vote in this very important election. As students, you have the option to vote in your hometown or in your university community, where you live for most of the year. Voting on the University Park campus will take place at the Bryce Jordan Center.

Penn State Law has produced a 50-state non-partisan voting resource to help with mail-in, absentee, and in-person voting in all 50 states. Click here to access the site. To go directly to information for Pennsylvania, click here.

Student Affairs also has a voter registration and election information website that includes critical dates for voting in Pennsylvania.

Fall commencement

Penn State will honor the fall 2020 graduates with a virtual ceremony at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 19. Similar to previous commencements during the ongoing pandemic, this virtual ceremony is the first celebration for the fall 2020 graduates, as they and their friends and family will be invited back to campuses at a time when it is safe to host large in-person gatherings. Read details on Penn State News.

Spring semester course registration

The spring class registration period will be condensed. Visit the Student Advising Hub for scheduling help and general College of Education registration information.

Get involved

A question arose in my first-year seminar this past week about student organizations that are specifically tied to the College of Education. We have a number of organizations that may interest you. For a list of student organizations for both undergraduates and graduate students in our college, click here.

S.O.A.R. and Restore

Join the College of Education Student Council's S.O.A.R. (Student Opportunities, Advocacy and Resources) sessions to learn about the Office of Education and Social Equity, the Herr Clinic, the Center for Gender and Sexual Diversity, UPUA, and more. S.O.A.R. sessions are planned for 7 p.m. Oct. 8 and 22; Nov. 5 and 19; and Dec. 3.

From virtual escape rooms to yoga, to College of Education Jeopardy, the Restore sessions are a good way to have fun, relax and meet new friends. Restore sessions are planned for Oct. 15 and 29; Nov. 12 and 26; and Dec. 3.

Join both with Zoom ID: 942 8160 7278. For more information, email

Mark your calendar

  • Penn State leaders will host a virtual Town Hall event at 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 4, during Parents & Families Weekend, to answer questions from students and their families about Penn State’s return to campus and the University’s ongoing response to the coronavirus.
  • Shirley Malcom, director of education and human resources programs for the American Association for the Advancement of Science, will speak on “Reimagining the University as a Place Where Inclusion Is the Norm: What Will It Take?” at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 13, via Zoom. Throughout her career, Dr. Malcom has focused her work on the lack of women, especially women of color, in science. She is a leader in efforts to improve accessibility of education and careers in science and engineering for girls and women. Join the event by clicking here.
  • Penn State News has compiled a list of performances, events, lectures and other activities for those interested in attending in-person and virtual cultural events. For details, check Penn State News.


Dean Kim Lawless

Sept. 26, 2020

College of Educations Weekly Update Week 5 – Students

Checking in

I know from talking with students in my first-year seminar class that the workload is increasing in all of your classes at this point, and many of you have made it through your first exams of the semester. If you find your stress levels rising, take a deep breath, step back, and take some time to plan out your work. Don't forget to take the time to eat and sleep well. As you know, both of these are related to your success as well!

Town Hall

Penn State leaders will host a virtual Town Hall event at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 4, during Parents & Families Weekend, to answer questions from students and their families about Penn State’s return to campus and the University’s ongoing response to the coronavirus.

The hourlong event will be streamed live at, and will be archived online for later viewing. Questions can be submitted in advance anonymously via Google Forms at:

Executive Vice President and Provost Nick Jones and Vice President for Student Affairs Damon Sims will be joined by Dr. Kevin Black, interim dean of the College of Medicine, and Kelly Wolgast, director of the Penn State COVID-19 Operations Control Center. For more information, check the article on Penn State News.

Campus recreation reopening

Penn State Campus Recreation re-opened the IM Building to students yesterday (Sept. 25). All building visitors will be required to wear masks, practice social distancing, and follow enhanced health, safety and scheduling procedures.

Because the need to maintain physical distance has created dramatically reduced building capacities, the IM Building will be open only to students at this time with weekday hours of 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. The IM Building also will operate from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturdays and 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sundays. Masks will be mandated at all times while inside the IM Building and social distancing of six feet in common areas is required. In addition, all students will be required to reserve their workout times before visiting the IM Building. For more information, check the article on Penn State News.

More things to do

If you're looking for safe activities to do, know that Penn State News publishes an article every week with information about what's going on. This week's article can be found here, and includes performances, events, lectures, exhibits and virtual tours. Wherever you go and whatever you do, please remember to follow safety protocols – wear your mask, social distance and wash your hands often.

COVID-19 reporting

The University has been continually refining its COVID-19 processes, in an effort to better inform and protect our University community. Just like following the safety protocols, however, it's up to all of us to help.

In addition to the formal contact tracing plan, the University has developed new COVID-19 reporting forms to enable students, staff and faculty to easily submit information about students who have tested positive for COVID-19 or who identify themselves as close contacts of students who have tested positive.

Get your flu shot

Due to the pandemic, getting your flu vaccine is more important than ever to not only reduce your risk from flu, but to help conserve potentially scarce health care resources. Many people at higher risk from flu also seem to be at higher risk from COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If you are at higher risk, it is especially important to get a flu vaccine this year.

Penn State University Health Services (UHS) will offer student flu vaccine clinics at University Park. The clinics, to be held in Alumni Hall in the HUB-Robeson Center, are open to all students by appointment only and can be scheduled through myUHS. The cost of this year’s vaccine is $25, billable to insurance or the student’s Bursar account.

Although most insurances cover the cost, to make sure students have access to the vaccine, the Student Fee Board has allocated funds to cover the cost of the flu vaccine for the first 4,536 students. For more information, visit

For more information

The University is maintaining several sources of updated information related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including

Be well,

Dean Kim Lawless

Sept. 18, 2020

College of Education Weekly Student Update, Fall – Week 4

Community Survey results

The University recently released its Community Survey results in a story on Penn State News. This is the survey they launched in February to gauge faculty, staff and student experiences related to diversity, equity and inclusion.

My take-aways are that we as a University and a college have A LOT of work to do, and the data from our college is more representative of what the actual climate is because we are much more racially aware and actually "in the fight" to end systemic racism. These data should serve to feed our collective mission to shift our culture to one that is entirely inclusive and where every member of our community – faculty, staff, and students – feels a strong sense of belonging, personal safety and is respected for the assets they bring to Penn State.

To view the survey dashboards and report, click here. Please take the time to look through the results, think critically about what they mean, and how we can move forward together. I look forward to conversations and joining you all in this work.

HHD's Lecture Series

I'm excited to share with you that the College of Health and Human Development's Dean's Lecture Series this fall will focus on "The Impact of Structural Racism and Racial Discrimination on Health, Wellness, and Well- Being." They are holding two events on the topic:

  • Sept. 24, 4 p.m.: Screening of "The Skin You're In" and Q&A with the film's producer, Thomas LaVeist. Details and the link to the Zoom webinar can be found here.
  • Nov. 12, 4 p.m.: Racism and Anti-Racism in Youth: A Developmental Perspective, with Deborah Rivas-Drake, professor of education and psychology at the University of Michigan. Details and information will be available here closer to the event.

We have our own lecture series, the Dean’s Equity Forum. This series will be run by the new advisory council established in this summer’s action plan in consultation with Office of Education and Social Equity. More to come as this committee gets formalized.

Free counseling

We know that the pandemic is still a reality and affecting all of us, on top of the regular stressors of the semester. We all have a variety of needs that must be met to manage our well-being. Whether you're feeling homesick, lonely or anxious, stressing about school, or just need someone to talk to, the Herr Clinic, part of the College of Education at Penn State, is here for you.

College of Education students can take advantage of free counseling services offered by the Herr Clinic this fall via Zoom. To schedule a screening for services, email the Herr Clinic at

Contact tracing, quarantine, and mitigation

A quick reminder to stay vigilant for calls/text/emails from contract tracing. Our ability to mitigate spread and prevent clusters hinges on quick and thorough contract tracing processes. These processes have been slowed down in some cases because people are not responding (quickly) to this outreach. Please respond quickly and with patience to contact tracers when they reach out to you.

As the University continues to address complications in its contact tracing plan, Two contact tracing student referral forms are now available; one allows students to self- report concerns and the other allows individuals to refer students who have tested positive for COVID-19 or who may have been exposed. Details of the updated procedures can be found on Penn State News.

Also, a reminder that if you do test positive or if you are listed as a close contact of someone who tested positive, you must quarantine for the full 14 days, even with a negative test.

Flu shots

While it’s not possible to say with certainty what will happen in the fall and winter, experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believe it’s likely that flu viruses and the virus that causes COVID-19 will both be spreading. In this context, getting a flu vaccine will be more important than ever. CDC recommends that all people 6 months and older get a yearly flu vaccine, because it is possible have flu, as well as other respiratory illnesses, and COVID-19 at the same time. Health experts are still studying how common this can be.

Getting a flu vaccine will not protect against COVID-19, however flu vaccination has many other important benefits. Flu vaccines have been shown to reduce the risk of flu illness, hospitalization and death. Getting a flu vaccine this fall will be more important than ever, not only to reduce your risk from flu but also to help conserve potentially scarce health care resources.

Flu vaccine clinics for students begin on Sept. 21 by appointment only, with information available on Penn State News. For more information, visit

For information about the similarities and differences between influenza and COVID-19, check the CDC website here.

Be well and remember to take care of yourself vigilantly!


Dean Kim Lawless

Sept. 11, 2020

College of Education Student Update - Week 3

Time to reflect

Today is a day to pause and to reflect …

While I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I heard the news of the terrorist strike on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, I recognize that the vast majority of you were either very young or not yet born when the attacks took place, and you learned about Sept. 11 in history class.

The emotions we felt at that moment, and in the days, weeks and months that followed – the fear, the confusion, the uncertainty that gripped us, along with the mourning over the incredible loss of life – were and remain very powerful. Penn State has an archive of its coverage of the events from the University perspective, including a story about how classes were held, and how they focused on the events and the impact they had on students instead of the subject matter of the courses.

Thinking about that time in history, I can't help but think of the similarities to what is happening in our nation today with the pandemic and also with the battle against systemic racism. How are we as a college community responding to these events? What are we doing as individuals to help find solutions? When we look back on this moment in time 19 years from now, how will we feel about our role, our words and our actions? Whether we are talking about the pandemic or systemic racism, will we be able to say we were part of the solution, or part of the problem?

Equity updates

In that vein, I want to thank all of you who participated in the #ScholarStrike, whether you engaged in discussion in your classes or were involved in activities, discussions or events outside of class. Engaging in conversations about race, systemic racism and inequity is a critical step toward thinking about how we can effect change in our society. I would be really interested in learning more from you regarding what you feel were powerful activities that really pushed deep reflection, perspective change and empowerment for you to be an agent of change. Please share your thoughts with me at

COVID-19 safety reminders

Also related to my comments above, it's important for our success in controlling the spread of COVID-19 in our community for everyone to be part of the solution. Cooperation with surveillance testing and strict adherence to quarantine and isolation protocols is critical for our ability to mitigate the spread of the virus.

If you are contacted for random surveillance testing, remember that it is mandatory for you to comply and get tested within 48-72 hours after being contacted.

The number of positive cases is continuing to grow on campus, and that is very troubling. So far, the transmission has remained student-to-student, with no cases yet of transmission between a student and faculty member. This is evidence that our masking, social distancing and sanitizing protocols on campus and in classrooms is working. I urge you to please follow those protocols all the time – both on and off campus. It is only with everyone's cooperation that we will drive down the number of positive cases.

If you have symptoms of COVID-19 or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive or is suspicious of COVID-19, contact University Health Services.

Spring course modes

In case you missed the article on Penn State News, the University announced on Sept. 8 that the flexible instructional modes developed for the fall 2020 semester, along with limited classroom capacities, will remain in place at all Penn State campuses in spring 2021, provided that the public health landscape allows for some in-person instruction. The University is taking these measures to maintain social distancing protocols and to meet or exceed state and national health and safety guidelines during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The University went with these codes because they allowed us to be the most nimble in changing direction back to a more standard in-person semester if the circumstances warrant it prior to the start of spring semester.

Students will be able to access the spring 2021 schedule of classes with information about the instructional mode for each course on LionPATH beginning Monday, Sept. 28. Once the schedule of courses is published, students should meet with their advisers to plan their courses and make sure that they are on track for important milestones such as entry to major and graduation. Priority course registration for students will begin on Monday, Oct. 19, and regular registration will begin on Tuesday, Oct. 27. Students are encouraged to consult the "Registration Timetable" on the Office of the University Registrar website to determine when they are eligible to register, based on the number of credits they have earned.

Advising request

Because of a compressed course registration schedule, Greg Mason, director of Advising and Certification, has requested that undergraduate students make Zoom advising appointments now via Starfish, but that for freshmen, the appointments should NOT be until the first two weeks of November.

Having freshmen schedule an appointment for November is important this fall, for two main reasons:

  1. Course availability can change very quickly. Since first-year students will not be able to schedule classes until mid-November anyway, it would be best to see them shortly before their registration date.
  2. Given the compressed timeline this semester, it will be critical that our advising appointment time slots in late September and October be reserved for seniors, juniors and sophomores.

We have 1,500 undergraduates in the college at University Park, and five full-time advisers. Seeing students at the appropriate time of the semester allows us to ensure that there is equity of availability in our advising operations.

Thank you for your cooperation with this schedule, which will benefit all of our students.

Thank you

Next Wednesday, Sept. 16, marks six months to the day since we moved classes online due to COVID-19. Back then, I don't think any of us imagined that we would still be dealing with the pandemic at this point, with no immediate end in sight.

The emotional toll this has taken on all of us should not be underestimated. We all are continuing to deal with a lot that remains outside of our control. There is a sense of loss, I think, over our inability to interact with our faculty and fellow students in the same way we did before the pandemic hit.

At the same time, as I looked back at the emails I've sent to you since Feb. 28, I see just how much we have been able to accomplish, and I am so thankful to all of you for all you have done to adjust, adapt and keep on doing what you do best.

Please, remember that if you need it, help is available. Reach out to each other, both to seek help and to offer it. If you need counseling, know that Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at University Park is open for services. Students can receive services by calling CAPS at 814-863-0395 to schedule a phone appointment to discuss concerns and review treatment options.

If you have immediate urgent concerns, you can contact CAPS Monday through Friday (8 a.m. to 5 p.m. EDT); the Penn State Crisis Line 24/7 at 877-229-6400; or the 24/7 CrisisTextLine (Text “LIONS” to 741741).

Thank you so very deeply for everything you do!


Dean Kim Lawless

Sept. 4, 2020

College of Education Student Update – Week 2

Happy Friday! Whether you are here with us in person or learning remotely this fall, I hope your semester is off to a good, productive start.

I know this Labor Day weekend is unusual in that classes will be held on Monday. This is being done to minimize travel and lower the risk of possibly spreading coronavirus on campus, so I echo President Barron's request in the email he sent out this afternoon:

"I ask that you not travel over this holiday weekend, have visitors from out of town or attend parties or barbecues. We must make every effort to mitigate the virus' spread, including continued masking and social distancing."

This weekend could make or break our efforts to have a sustained in-person component to the fall semester. In the Penn State News story President Barron referenced in his email, he further stated:

"Our ability to manage transmission and rate of growth of positive cases is critically important. Next week, we will assess data following the holiday weekend, and determine whether we need to take mitigation steps at University Park including temporary or sustained remote learning."

It is only through our collective efforts that we have a chance to control the spread of COVID-19 and keep levels of the disease low enough to be able to remain safely on campus this fall. That's where your actions count.

I thank you for following the safety protocols of masking, social distancing and frequent hand-washing, and ask you to redouble your efforts in those areas, to help us preserve the important in-person experience for you and your fellow classmates. As President Barron stated, "all it takes is everybody."


As incidents of racial injustice continue to make headlines in our nation, a growing movement nationally, the #ScholarStrike has evolved. This movement has created a space for academics to stand up against racism on Sept. 8 and 9.

I have asked College of Education faculty to stand in solidarity with this movement by choosing to use this time as a means to engage you in learning and discussion of systemic racism and violence against Black members and all members of color in our local and national community.

One way you can engage on this important topic is to attend the Toward Racial Equity at Penn State roundtable at 6 p.m. Sept. 8. Students should login at

The College's Office of Education and Social Equity (OESE) is also hosting a virtual screening of 13th a documentary by Ave Duvernay on 9/8 at 4:30. The film explores the history of racial inequality in the United States, focusing on the fact that the nation's prisons are disproportionately filled with African- Americans. Please see the flyer sent to you by Maria Schmidt for registration.

Take care of you

As you adjust to your course workload this fall, please also be sure to enjoy some down time where you can relax and rejuvenate safely.

In this fall like no other, stress levels already are increased. Please, make sure you are caring for yourself. If you are struggling, please talk to your faculty members or your adviser and let them know now, so we can do our best to help you succeed.

If you need counseling, know that Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at University Park is open for services. Students can receive services by calling CAPS at 814-863-0395 to schedule a phone appointment to discuss their concerns and review treatment options.

If you have immediate urgent concerns, you can contact CAPS Monday through Friday (8 a.m. to 5 p.m. EDT); the Penn State Crisis Line 24/7 at 877-229-6400; or the 24/7 CrisisTextLine (Text “LIONS” to 741741). Stay safe, but also stay a community.

Be well and see you next week,

Dean Kim Lawless

Aug. 28, 2020

Welcome back

I want to welcome all of you back for fall semester. For those who are attending classes remotely, we're glad you're with us virtually. For those who are here in person, it's great seeing you in our buildings and classrooms. You bring a life and energy to our spaces that we really missed. Even though you are masked, we can see your smiles in your eyes, and that makes us smile as well.

Thank you for doing everything you can to keep us safe. Our classes had perfect compliance with the safety protocols, which does not surprise me, but does make me extremely happy and proud.

Shout out

The College of Education has been recognized on Penn State News and will be included in a video being put together by the central communications unit to illustrate the positive start to our semester. A special shout-out goes to senior Jordan Gardner, who was quoted in the article, and also to students who are in Dr. Van Meter's class in the Bryce Jordan Center, and those in the First-Year Seminar I'm co-teaching with Annemarie Mountz, for your willingness to be included in the video.

Mandatory surveillance testing

There has been some confusion about the need to participate in the University's surveillance testing program. The University's FAQ and a story on Penn State News state clearly that if you are contacted about being tested, you are required to complete the testing. This is part of the layered approach the University is using to control the spread of COVID-19.

Students and employees who are learning, working or living on campus will be selected randomly and contacted by email and text message to answer a few screening questions and to schedule an appointment.

If selected, you are required to complete the free testing and should plan to do so within 48-72 hours after being contacted. Students who don’t participate will be referred to the Office of Student Conduct.

Contact tracing

If you get a call from an unknown number in the 814 area code, please answer it. It may be a contact tracer calling to inform you of possible exposure to COVID-19. If someone in one of your classes tests positive, you may not be part of the contact tracing for that person. Only those individuals who are determined to have been in close contact with that individual – defined as being closer than 6 feet for more than 10 minutes – will be included in the contact tracing and testing plan. Because masking and social distancing protocols are in place in classrooms, it is unlikely that faculty members or classmates will need to be tested in these circumstances.

For more information about the plan, check the University FAQ and the story on Penn State News.

Anyone interested in learning about the training our contact tracers have, or the criteria they use for contact tracing, can visit the Penn State Extension website.

Managing the spread

We all need to keep in mind that as of this moment, there is no way for us to stop the spread of COVID-19. There is no treatment, there is no cure, and there is no vaccine to prevent it. We have seen and are going to continue to see cases of COVID-19 on campus and in our community.

The strategy for any place, whether a K-12 school district, a university, city or state, is not targeted at eliminating the virus. It is targeted around managing it.

As we progress through this semester, our goal is to identify positive cases and manage the spread by removing them from circulation. As we move forward and test, the numbers are going to go up. But the surveillance testing, contact tracing and immediate action to quarantine or isolate those who are suspected to have the virus or who have tested positive will help to reduce the spread.

Our success depends on everyone – faculty, staff and students – understanding this and working together to follow the plan.

Quick hits

  • Penn State Learning staff and tutors will provide in-person and remote tutoring as well as Guided Study Groups to support students in the fall 2020 semester.
  • Penn State launched a publicly-accessible COVID-19 dashboard to share data on its COVID-19 surveillance testing program as well as the number of individuals in isolation and quarantine. The dashboard can be accessed here.
  • Penn State students and employees should continue to take precautions against COVID-19, such as wearing face masks, practicing physical distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face, and avoiding contact with those who are sick. This article offers guidance about what to do if you are sick or think you may have been exposed to COVID-19.

Be well,
Dean Kim Lawless

Aug. 21, 2020

A note from all of us in the College of Education as we start the Fall 2020 semester…


As we approach the first day of classes for this most unusual fall semester, I want to welcome you to the College of Education! Whether you are a first year or returning student, and either here with us in person or joining us remotely, we are SO glad to have you here in the College.

While the coming semester will certainly be different than any of us ever imagined, we are dedicated to providing you a rich, albeit modified, Penn State experience!

Over the summer our faculty and staff worked tirelessly to reimagine powerful classroom practices and arrange our spaces to accommodate social distancing. We created new ways of providing educational experiences that allow for flexibility and modifications meeting your educational needs.

We will continue tweaking our plans as we learn from you what is needed and want you to know that you can reach out to us through your advisors or faculty at any time.

We are here for YOU!

We are in this together!

By now I'm sure you've heard about the infamous gathering outside of East Halls, the interim suspension of a fraternity for a potential violation of COVID-19 rules regarding socials, unmasked gatherings outside the Creamery, and other reports. I would like to believe that none of our College of Education students been involved in these events.

Every such report makes my heart hurt, because it's putting into jeopardy our ability to enact all of the plans that we all worked so hard to put in place for fall semester classes. We all are in this together, and together is the only way we will make it through this pandemic.

It is my sincere hope that all members of our College community – faculty, staff and students – exercise their best judgement, make good decisions to minimize risk, and help protect one another.

To paraphrase the message from President Barron, I don't want any of you to be the person responsible for sending everyone home.

In advance of the start of fall semester, the University has launched a public health campaign, Mask Up or Pack Up. State College also adopted an ordinance to enforce masking and restrictions on gatherings. There is a direct expectation for everyone to take personal action to help create a safer environment on our campus and in our community. Unless you are inside your residence hall room with the door closed, or in your vehicle, we all are expected to wear our masks and practice social distancing. That means inside buildings, and also outdoors anywhere on campus and in State College.

Quick updates

Below are links to information and resources you should read:

Be well

There is a lot of stress associated with the start of classes on Monday. Please take care of yourselves, both physically and mentally. Reach out to each other, both to seek help and to offer it. Contact your adviser or faculty members if there is anything you feel they can do to help you.

Have a great semester, and remember, #WeAre #PennState!

Dean Kim Lawless

Aug. 11, 2020

College of Education is Gearing up for Back to State!

Members of the College of Education student community, we all are looking forward to seeing you – live and virtually – in the next two weeks, as classes begin on Aug. 24. We have worked very hard over the summer to ensure that our campus environment will be as safe as possible, and also to ensure that you will get the high-quality education you expect from us, whether you are here in person with us, or learning remotely.


As hard as we have worked, much of the success of fall semester depends upon you and your fellow students. If you follow the requirements set in place, we should be able to continue in person classes through Nov. 20 as planned. Failure to comply will endanger you, your fellow students, our faculty and staff, and the larger community, and could cause the University – and the surrounding businesses that rely on your presence – to shut down. The good news is that the requirements, including wearing a mask, maintaining 6-foot social distancing and sanitizing often, are not all that difficult to do. We have re-organized our campus facilities to help you maintain these mitigation strategies.

Student Compact

All students have been given access to carefully read and sign the “Penn State Coronavirus Compact” in LionPATH. The agreement covers a variety of critical topics and health and safety expectations and requirements for the upcoming semester, including agreeing to participate in COVID-19 testing and contact tracing throughout the semester; isolate or quarantine if needed; wear face masks and social distance on campus; adhere to travel policies; and get a flu vaccination when available. The agreement also covers potential consequences for failing to abide by the compact in ways that risk others’ health and safety, such as through the student conduct process.

Student Affairs has set up a website FAQ to address concerns some have raised about the Compact. If you have questions or concerns about the Compact that are not addressed in the FAQ, email Danny Shaha, assistant vice president for Student Affairs, at

Off-Campus mandate

The State College Borough Council passed a temporary ordinance, supported by Penn State, that mandates mask-wearing and social distancing in most instances and limits the size of gatherings in the borough, directly adjacent to the University Park campus.

Largely in line with the directives of the Pennsylvania Department of Education and Gov. Tom Wolf’s guidance, the ordinance requires individuals to wear face masks, with some exceptions, in most public spaces and businesses that serve the public where social distancing of six feet is not possible. It limits gatherings to no more than 10 people in a residence and no more than 25 in State College parks and other borough properties. The new law also mandates social distancing while waiting in lines in the public right-of- way and limits the number of people waiting in lines to enter a business to 10 individuals.

Anyone who violates the ordinance is subject to a citation for a civil infraction and a fine of $300.

Classroom and stairway changes

Our classrooms and hallways are going to look different this fall, as well. We have rearranged the furniture and added signs to facilitate social distancing in the classrooms, and also set up new traffic patterns for stairways. View pictures of some of the changes here.


During the fall 2020 semester, as Penn State takes aggressive measures to help keep the University community safe during the coronavirus pandemic, Penn State undergraduate and graduate students who wish to complete required experiential learning opportunities, such as internships and student teaching practicums, in person, will need to secure prior approval from University leadership. Whenever possible, students will have the option to complete required experiences remotely.

Students can request approval for an in-person internship, practicum or other experiential learning requirement by completing the Fall 2020 Internship Exception Web Form and Acknowledgement Form. Requests are reviewed by the associate dean for your academic program, working with relevant University offices, and approved only if deemed sufficiently safe.

For more information, check Penn State News.

Ask your adviser

There is much that is different this fall because of the pandemic. Whether you are an undergraduate or graduate student, you are bound to have questions about new processes and procedures – as well as your normal questions about your academic progress. Please be sure to reach out to your academic adviser with any questions you have.

Thank you

I want to thank you all for your perseverance, adaptability, flexibility and cooperation as we approach a fall semester like no other. We truly appreciate you and your presence here in the College of Education, and we want to make sure we do everything in our power to partner with you for your academic success.

Be well,

Dean Lawless

Aug. 3, 2020

Members of the undergraduate and graduate student communities, 

We in the College of Education are looking forward to the start of fall semester in just a few short weeks. Our faculty and staff have been working hard all summer to ensure you get the high-quality education you expect from us this fall. Our College is not the same without you, and we cannot wait to welcome you back. 

I wanted to give you a heads-up that the faculty members teaching your courses this fall will be communicating with you in the next few days or so with some general information about what to expect in their classes this fall. 

The emails will contain information about whether your course is going to be delivered in person (CP), mixed modes (CM), remote synchronous (CR) or online asynchronous (CW), and what that means in general terms for each course. More specific details about your courses will follow closer to the start of the semester. 

This semester will look different, even if you are back with us in person. For example, everyone on campus will be wearing masks, classes will have assigned seats to enable social distancing and facilitate contact-tracing, and a robust plan will be enacted for COVID-19 testing. 

So, I strongly encourage you to check your Penn State email daily and your Canvas course sites for important updates from your faculty, from the College of Education and from the University that will help you prepare yourself for success this fall. 

Stay safe and well, 

Dean Lawless

July  6, 2020

Dear College of Education students,

We wanted to reach out to share additional information and updates about your Fall courses. We are dedicated to having the courses you need to make academic progress available to you. We are pursuing numerous options to support your learning. Many of our courses will be offered in formats that will allow you time in person with your instructors and your peers.

Right now, things are in flux and should you log into LionPath the delivery format for your classes for fall may not be clear. When you view the schedule of courses it may say Zoom or web. However, this may not be accurate. It is important that you click into the course to see the current course delivery mode.

Course delivery modes will evolve over the next couple of weeks. This is because some courses will be offered in alternative formats and also because most classes will need to be moved to larger rooms to accommodate social distancing. This is also shared in a recent Penn State news article.

There are four primary modes for how your courses will be offered this fall as shared in the infographic found below.
In LionPath
In-Person instruction =CP
Mixed Mode =CM
Remote Synchonous = CR
Remote Asynchonous =CW

These formats will soon begin to appear in LionPath but may change during the summer as plans are finalized. It will be important for you to keep checking LionPath. Instructors will also be updating information about your classes in your CANVAS course sites.

Please also look in LionPath for a one question survey about your plans for Fall attendance.

Additional updates can be found at Back to State and the Keep Learning websites.

We are looking forward to an engaging Fall Semester in the College of Education. Communication with your advisors and instructors will be critical as course formats are finalized. They can help you to match course offerings to your preferred formats.


Dean Lawless

June 19, 2020

Members of the College of Education student community,

I wanted to reach out to you to let you know that our College is working diligently to develop plans for the fall that are in line with the broad outline provided by President Barron in his announcement of our return to campus this fall. 

But before I delve into that, I want to take a moment to reflect on diversity- and equity-related happenings.

First, today is Juneteenth. Last year, Pennsylvania finally designated today as Juneteenth National Freedom Day. If you aren't sure what this holiday means, I encourage you to read the statement from President Barron, follow the link above to Juneteenth National Freedom Day, and read academic-based articles such as The Hidden History of Juneteenth for historical context. The University's Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity also sent out an email, available online, about the history of Juneteenth and local Juneteenth events that continue through this evening. 

Second, our Supreme Court issued two decisions this week that emphasize human rights for minoritized groups of people. On June 15, the Court declared that civil rights law protects gay and transgender workers from workplace discrimination. Then on Thursday, the Supreme Court rejected the Trump administration's attempt to dismantle the DACA program protecting undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children. The 5 to 4 decision was written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and emphasizes that the administration failed to provide an adequate reason to justify ending the DACA program and lacked a sound legal basis to do so.

I see these and other recent decisions as glimmers of hope, that we finally may be moving in the right direction as a nation toward true equality. It's up to us, as individuals and as a community, to keep the momentum moving in that very positive direction.

Turning to the business of returning to campus, the University's "Back to State" plans call for flexibility, and a mix of in-person, remote and hybrid delivery of courses based on class size and the ability to meet safely with social distancing protocols. Each college has been charged with determining what that will look like for them. Once we have a better idea of which courses we are likely to be able to hold in-person and which may be better as hybrid or online, we will hold a town hall to answer your questions, and also to gather your input, which will assist us in refining our plans. In the meantime, I strongly encourage you to attend President Barron's town hall for students and families from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Monday, June 22. Tune in at and submit your questions in advance anonymously via an online Google form for students and families

Please continue to check the Back to State website for the latest information from the University, and check our College FAQ for information specific to our College. As always, if you have any questions, please email

Thanks for your patience as we work to get this right.

Dean Lawless

May 24, 2020

Members of the College of Education student community,

Summer classes are now in full swing, with both Maymester and the first summer session underway. While we are not in physical classrooms, it still is great to see students and faculty meeting, with lots of meaningful educational interactions taking place. We are working to meet you where you are, and keep a positive trajectory on your learning and instructional needs, and I'm proud to see how hard you all are working to make this happen as well.

This summer, faculty are working to make their online courses engaging and rich in both content and experience. Staff are working to support your learning needs, wherever you are. Advisers are holding one-on-one remote counseling sessions to make sure you are taking the right courses to further your educational goals. And whenever we return to campus, we will be ready to welcome everyone back to our buildings, safely.

There are a few additional updates from Vice Provost Kathy Bieschke's office:

  • The recently launched “Back to State” website focuses on the University’s fall 2020 planning efforts and provides an abundance of information and hyperlinked resources for students, faculty, and staff.
  • REMINDER: Penn State is canceling, rescheduling, or moving to virtual delivery all nonessential events and meetings through at least June 30 at all university campuses. Any essential in-person meetings or events must have fewer than 10 attendees and maintain good social distancing practices, with all participants wearing face masks.

Remember, there are no classes this Monday, May 25, for the Memorial Day holiday. I hope you are able to have a relaxing long weekend.

Be safe and well.

Dean Lawless

May 10, 2020

Members of the College of Education student community,

I hope you all got a chance to tune into the University's conferral of degrees livestream on Saturday. From my perspective, it's clear that University leadership worked hard to create a meaningful program to honor our graduating students.

This is a screen capture of members of the Penn State Blue Band performing the Alma Mater - each in his or her own location, brought together via Zoom.You may even have caught a glimpse of one of our College's secondary education graduates, Luke Darrup, playing his saxophone with the Blue Band at the end of the ceremony. He's in the top row, second from the left, in the attached screen capture. If you missed the ceremony or want to view it again, you can go to to find a link to the recorded version, which will be posted once it's processed.

You also can go to to view sharable digital slides for each graduate, and to view the special videos we produced to honor our students.

Other updates from the University include:

  • President Barron will host a virtual Town Hall at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 19, to answer questions about how Penn State continues to manage the pandemic’s impacts, including workforce changes, plans for summer, and the work of three new task groups.
  • On May 6, Penn State Student Affairs began hosting virtual office hours to answer students’ questions and address concerns they may have during the remote-learning period.
  • Penn State officials and student leaders discouraged visits to campus due to COVID-19, with more signs and social-distancing guidance posted near campus landmarks.
  • As the pandemic places many Penn State students and their families under economic pressure, the Complete Penn State program is extending financial lifelines to seniors.

To obtain comprehensive, updated information at any time, visit:

Dean Lawless

May 1, 2020

Members of the College of Education student community,

Today is a day to celebrate, because we made it to the end of the semester. I know it wasn't easy for anyone to transition mid-semester to remote learning, but thanks to all of you, we made it work. As we head into finals week, I want to thank you all for your perseverance, adaptability and flexibility during these past seven weeks. Your resilience, creativity and willingness to do what was needed to succeed has enabled us as a College to overcome what seemed to be insurmountable odds. I am proud to be your dean.

Just a short time ago, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announced the start of the process to reopen the state, and Centre County is among the first 24 counties slated to move from the red phase to the yellow phase, on May 8. The governor's announcement means that "some restrictions on work and social interaction will ease while others, such as closures of schools, gyms, and other indoor recreation centers, hair and nail salons, as well as limitations around large gatherings, remain in place."

Anticipating this very positive development, the University this week announced a transition to future-focused planning with the formation of three task groups focusing on critical areas impacting students, faculty and staff. The groups are working together to establish the necessary infrastructure and processes, consistent with public health and scientific guidelines, to uphold health and inform a plan for students, faculty and staff to return to campus.

In that news story, President Barron said, "At this time, the University remains optimistic for a fall return to on-campus learning in line with the latest directives and guidelines from the governor and other government and public health authorities. We will continue to keep the University and local community informed and plan to provide additional updates and information by June 15, if not earlier."

Our College also has formed working groups to help with the transition and we will keep you informed about our plans through both email and our College's FAQ.

In just 8 days from today, the University will be holding a virtual commencement. While we aren't able to congratulate our graduates in person at this time, the University-wide virtual celebration will be followed by breakout rooms where each college and campus will be honoring its graduating students. I hope all of you – whether you're graduating or not – will take the opportunity to visit our College of Education virtual graduation site to see what we've put together to honor our graduates. Information about how to access the site will be announced on Penn State Live soon.

In other news from the University:

As a reminder, the University's information website and our College's FAQ continue to be updated regularly. Please check both sites for the most accurate information.

The weather this weekend is supposed to be beautiful. I hope you are able to take some time to go outside and enjoy the sunshine.

Dean Kim Lawless

April 26, 2020

Members of the College of Education student community,

As the end of the semester draws near, I know stress levels start to climb under normal circumstances. In these most unusual circumstances, stress levels already are increased. Please, make sure you are caring for yourselves. I know you've heard this from me in previous emails, but I cannot emphasize it enough – you need to care for yourself, first and foremost. If you are struggling, please talk to your faculty members or your adviser and let them know now, so we can do our best to help you succeed.

If you need counseling, know that Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at University Park is open for services. Students can receive services by calling CAPS at 814-863-0395 to schedule a phone appointment to discuss their concerns and review treatment options. If you have immediate urgent concerns, you can contact CAPS Monday through Friday (8 a.m. to 5 p.m. EDT); the Penn State Crisis Line 24/7 at 877-229-6400; or the 24/7 CrisisTextLine (Text “LIONS” to 741741). Stay safe, but also stay a community.

There has been a lot of news recently, so I also want to give you some brief updates:

  • President Barron’s message to the University community on April 23 announced some salary adjustments, a 3% across-the-board cut to budgets in the next fiscal year, and his intention to work with the Board of Trustees to freeze student tuition rates for the 2020-21 academic year. 

To obtain comprehensive, updated information at any time, visit:

I also want to once again reassure you that I firmly believe we as a College will emerge from this crisis more creative and agile than before, and that Penn State will continue to evolve as one of the world's great institutions of higher education. I thank you all again for all you are doing, for each other, for the College, and for Penn State.


Dean Kim Lawless

April 14, 2020

Members of the College of Education graduate student community,

I hope you all got a chance to take some down-time this weekend to recharge and refresh, while maintaining social distancing. This time of year is stressful under normal conditions as we approach the final few weeks of classes before the end of the semester. This year, the current remote learning environment and physical distancing has amplified the typical stress. Know that we are here for you and understand that things are not normal. Please be sure to communicate regularly with your advisors and faculty members to let them know how you are doing. If you are struggling, please don't wait until the end of the semester; say something now, so we can do our best to help you succeed.

The College leadership team is looking forward to hearing from you at our graduate student town hall, scheduled for 3-3:45 p.m. this Friday, April 17. Connect via Zoom. Feel free to email your questions in advance to so we can make sure we have good information to share with you during the town hall.

I have some important updates for you today:

  • In case you missed it in this morning's edition of Penn State Today: Penn State has announced updates to the Penn State Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) regarding testing and treatment amid the coronavirus pandemic. Students and their dependents covered through the SHIP who live within or outside of the United States will have no copays, deductibles, or coinsurance for treatments or testing related to COVID-19. Read the full story on Penn State News.
  • In addition to the virtual commencement ceremony the University is planning for May 9, we also are planning something specific to our College. Your suggestions for how to honor our graduating seniors and graduate students are definitely welcome. Send your ideas to as soon as possible.
  • Many of you are inquiring about summer sessions and camps. Central administration has said that information will be shared with the Penn State community later this week.
  • The University has launched WebLabs, which provides faculty and students with remote access to software and other resources they normally use in campus computer labs. For details, check the College's FAQ under the heading of Information about teaching and learning.

Learning what you need to be successful will help us to better identify solutions and guidance that can help you – and your classmates – so please keep the lines of communication open. I look forward to a packed town hall on Friday.

And as always, take care of yourselves both physically and mentally. Take breaks, realize how amazing you are and how much we miss you!

Dean Kim Lawless

April 9, 2020

Members of the College of Education graduate student community,

We're nearing the end of our fourth week of remote learning, and I want to know how you are doing, both inside and outside of class. I know many of you have been communicating with your faculty members and advisers, and that's important. Please, keep those lines of communication open.

In addition, our College leadership team wants to hear from you directly, so we're holding a town hall specifically for graduate students via Zoom from 3 to 3:45 p.m. next Friday, April 17. We want to know what's working for you, what we can do to better support and assist you, and what questions you have that we haven't addressed in our FAQ.

Feel free to email your questions in advance to so we can make sure we have good information to share with you during the town hall.

In the meantime, I cannot stress enough the importance of self-care. Please, while we are physically isolated, do not become socially isolated. Reach out to people, including your faculty members and advisers, for support, co-problem solving or anything else that comes to mind.

If you need counseling, know that Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at University Park is open for services. Students can receive services by calling CAPS at 814-863-0395 to schedule a phone appointment to discuss their concerns and review treatment options. If you have immediate urgent concerns, you can contact CAPS Monday through Friday (8 a.m. to 5 p.m. EDT); the Penn State Crisis Line 24/7 at 877-229-6400; or the 24/7 CrisisTextLine (Text “LIONS” to 741741). Stay safe, but also stay a community.

Dean Kim Lawless

March 28, 2020

Members of the College of Education community,

Earlier today, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announced an expansion of his "stay-at-home" order to include Centre County. The order, which is intended to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, takes effect at 8 p.m. today (March 28) and continues until at least April 6.

The order means that all individuals must STAY AT HOME except for certain essential activities and work to provide life-sustaining business and government services.

Individuals may leave their residence ONLY to perform certain individual activities, including:

  • Tasks essential to maintain health and safety, or the health and safety of their family or household members (including, but not limited to, pets), such as obtaining medicine or medical supplies, visiting a health care professional, or obtaining supplies they need to work from home.
  • Getting necessary services or supplies for themselves or their family or household members, or to deliver those services or supplies to others, such as getting food and household consumer products, pet food, and supplies necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences. This includes volunteer efforts to distribute meals and other life-sustaining services to those in need.
  • Engaging in outdoor activity, such as walking, hiking or running if they maintain social distancing.
  • To perform work providing essential products and services at a life-sustaining business (see below for details about life-sustaining business activities).
  • To care for a family member or pet in another household.

Gov. Wolf's order specifies that "international students, foster youth, and any other students who would otherwise experience displacement or homelessness as a result of campus closures are exempt from this order and may remain in campus housing." Other exemptions to the order can be found here.

I want to emphasize that the health and safety of our community is at the forefront of this order, and I urge everyone to comply with both the letter and the spirit of this order from the governor. I also want to take the opportunity once again to express my deep appreciation and admiration for all of you and the work you have been doing to keep our educational mission at the forefront. Thank you all for all you are doing. Please, stay safe and stay well.

For the latest information about Penn State's response to the coronavirus, go to and for the latest information from the College of Education, visit our information website


March 25, 2020

Members of the College of Education student community,

I cannot say it enough, thank you for working so hard to adjust to remote learning mid-semester. To echo President Barron in the town hall, it is challenging to flip the switch and focus on remote education with only a week's notice. We are all hands on deck to make sure we are delivering to you the education you need, and we appreciate your flexibility and resilience in putting forth your best effort as well. In so many ways you are remarkable, as we go through this transition together.

There was a lot of information shared with students and parents in this afternoon's town hall, led by President Barron, Provost Jones and other members of the University leadership team. Below is some of the guidance that was provided. I want to emphasize that the town hall covered much more than these topics, and what I have included here are summaries of what was discussed. I strongly encourage you to visit where recordings of both that town hall, and this morning's town hall for faculty and staff, will be made available by the University.

  • Emotional support for students: CAPS is open remotely at 814-863-0395. In addition, CAPS offers wellness services online, 24/7. 
  • Academic support for students: Student advising is continuing, and many advisers are reaching out to their students. Students also should work to maintain that connection. Anyone in the College of Education with challenges in reaching their adviser should email Online tutoring is available through Penn State Learning and faculty are holding remote office hours.
  • Satisfactory/unsatisfactory grading: Taking many factors into consideration, Provost Jones and Yvonne Gaudelius, senior associate dean for undergraduate education, shared a plan for grading at the undergraduate level that is as fair and accommodating as possible. More information will be forthcoming from the University, but this plan, which was developed just today (March 24), will put control in the students' hands. They said faculty members will post the grades that students earn at the end of the semester. Students then will have about a week to determine whether they want to keep the letter grade, or switch to “Satisfactory” for a grade of C or better, or special grade designations for a D grade (passing) or a failing grade. Those designations will indicate that the grade was impacted by these extraordinary circumstances. Academic programs are working out the details for how this impacts entrance to major and other situations, and details should be forthcoming later this week. The Graduate School is working on guidance on this topic for graduate students and information will be forthcoming.
  • Financial support for students: The University has been fundraising to add money to the Student Care Advocacy Fund, which is set up to assist students with great need. Email for information on how to request aid.
  • Commencement: First and foremost, degrees will be awarded on time as soon as they are earned, particularly because of the implications this has on graduate school and employment for our graduates. The University also understands the importance of celebrating your achievements, and is working on a two-phase plan to do that. Phase one is to deliver a virtual commencement, with all of the typical pageantry of commencement, and with graduates' names displayed on the screen. Phase two is to gather, in person, on our campuses, at such time in the future as we are safely able to do so, to celebrate your achievement. This is yet to be defined because it depends on the evolution of the pandemic, and the University will share more information as it develops.
  • Reimbursement for tuition, fees, room and board: The University will be refunding on a prorated basis money from residence hall contracts and dining hall meal plans. There are no plans to refund tuition, because instruction is continuing and we as a university are committed to helping students with their successful completion of the semester. President Barron and Damon Sims, vice president for Student Affairs, explained that fees fund student support services such as CAPS and Student Legal Services, which are continuing to operate and serve students remotely.
  • Final exams, projects, capstones, thesis deadlines: Final exams will be administered as scheduled to avoid conflicts and follow policies with the weight of exams during the final week of classes. Faculty will be reaching out to students about how their exams may change, and are committed to finding ways to assess remotely the learning that is taking place. The same holds true for projects and capstones – faculty are working on creative and innovative ways to meet the learning objectives, not in the way they thought at the beginning of the semester, but achieving them along paths that may be slightly different from the original path. Again, faculty will be in touch with their students with details. For thesis deadlines, Provost Jones said we need to follow our general principals of rigor, but also afford flexibility where it is needed or required. We need to maintain levels of accomplishment, but we are not engaging with the process in the same way as before spring break, so we need more flexibility and are looking to implement that.
  • Summer session, NSO, LEAP and fall semester: Provost Jones emphasized that we are hoping for the best but preparing for the worst. Right now we have a Plan A to proceed with summer session as normal, understanding that Plan B, which is a continuation of remote experiences is likely to be the reality. We will take what we are learning now, and apply that best thinking to what an alternative summer session might realistically look like. This applies also to New Student Orientation, which already has transitioned to a virtual process, along with LEAP and other summer programs.
  • Book rental return: Barnes and Noble will be emailing all students who have rental textbooks, with a prepaid mailing label attached to the email so students can return rental books at no cost to them. Unfortunately, since bookstores currently are closed statewide, there is no option to sell back purchased books.

For the latest information about Penn State's response to the coronavirus, go to and for the latest information from the College of Education, visit our information website

Again, thank you, and all my best,
Dean Lawless

March 18, 2020

Members of the College of Education community,

President Barron just released an update on the status of our spring semester here at Penn State. Our University is operating out of an abundance of caution and after consultation with the Board of Trustees has decided to continue remote learning and working through the end of the spring semester. In addition, examinations will be administered remotely, and spring commencement ceremonies will be postponed while the University explores options for celebrating the achievements of our students. These decisions align with recommendations from the federal government that call for restricting of all gatherings of more than 10 people.

The full announcement is available on Penn State News.

As we navigate these new and changing waters, our College leadership team is looking for ways to celebrate all that We Are and all that we have done during this unprecedented situation.

While there will be no in-person commencement ceremony, the University is committed to finding the best way possible to recognize the achievements of our graduates. We as a College also are looking at ways to celebrate our graduating seniors virtually. There are no plans in place yet, but we will share more information as plans develop.

We also are looking at ways to celebrate those among our students, faculty and staff who won our College-wide awards. Again, we will share more about this as plans develop.

I also want to take this moment to reiterate my deep appreciation and admiration for all of you and the work you have been doing to keep our educational mission at the forefront. While the situation is far from normal, you all have worked hard to normalize the current operations. Faculty have worked with students to make sure they can succeed in this new learning environment. Staff have set up home offices and have continued to do the work that's so important for the overall success of our College. Students have been flexible and are working hard to adapt their learning to this new environment. You all have made great sacrifices and adjustments, and for that, I truly am grateful. #WeAre!

As always, please check the University's information website and our College's information site for updated information. If you have any questions or concerns, please share them at


March 13, 2020

Members of the College of Education graduate student community,

There has been a lot of information to digest this week, so I wanted to take a few minutes to recap important items for you. This message deals more specifically with information for you. I am sending similar messages to undergraduate students, and to faculty and staff, with information that more specifically relates to them

On Monday, we are going live with remote instruction of all of our undergraduate and graduate courses. Our website includes many resources to help. The two main sources from the University are for faculty and graduate students who are new to teaching a remote class, and for undergraduate and graduate students who are new to attending a remote class.

I strongly encourage anyone involved with teaching a course to visit the site, as it contains valuable information that can help even those who are experienced in remote course delivery. Likewise, please visit the resource if you are taking any classes.

For those of you who are teaching, the synchronous nature of the remote instruction needs to be emphasized. Classes need to be run via Zoom during their regularly scheduled times due to issues related to student financial aid and technology bandwidth. Please also record your lectures and post to your Canvas sites so that students who are not able to attend "live" can access the material.

Still, regardless of how prepared we may think we are, there likely will be bumps encountered on Monday. Please, if you are experiencing any difficulties in delivering courses please reach out to your direct supervisor or department head as soon as possible so we can work to assist you. Anyone experiencing difficulty in attending a course remotely should contact their course instructor immediately as well.

Many graduate students have had questions about impacts to research. In response, the Office for Research Protections has set up two comprehensive websites to answer research-related queries. General COVID-19 information for Penn State researchers can be found here; COVID-19 information for research involving human subjects can be found here. The Penn State IRB, IACUC, Biosafety, ESCRO, Drone, Dive Safety, Research Misconduct, and Conflict of Interest programs are fully functional and operating at standard capacity. They expect this to continue even if the University suspends operations for contagion control purposes. Program staff are able to work from home, should it become necessary. Program and staff email addresses continue to be monitored with the same or greater frequency.

Another issue of concern to many is the delivery of program reviews and dissertation defenses. We do not have any definitive word from the Graduate School on this topic, but will share information on the College's information website as soon as we receive it.

As we move forward, I ask everyone to continue to operate with flexibility and understanding. By helping each other, we all will be better-positioned to succeed in carrying out our teaching and work responsibilities, which in the end benefits our students.

As we have discovered, things are changing quickly, both nationwide and here at home. For the most accurate and up-to-date information, please visit the University's coronavirus information page and our College-specific information page often.

If you have any questions or concerns, please email

Kim Lawless

March 11, 2020

Members of the College of Education community,

A short time ago, President Eric Barron announced Penn State's proactive measures in an effort to prevent illness and continue the important work of the University. Penn State has announced that all classes will be held online beginning on March 16 and continuing through Friday, April 3. Visit to read the message from President Barron, and to learn more.

One of the best ways to prevent the spread of viral illness is to minimize the circumstances in which individuals may interact and transmit disease, and that is what these measures are intended to do. We are following University guidance, and while the campus remains open, we echo President Barron's recommendation that supervisors work with their staff to accommodate telecommuting for staff members whose responsibilities can be accomplished outside of a University office and/or traditional work schedule. Employees should talk to their supervisor to discuss their telecommuting options.

We in the College have been working diligently to ensure the least amount of disruption to the learning process and the conducting of the business of the College, including research, during this challenging time. Information about how to ensure your ability to do your work remotely can be found in a checklist for remote working capability linked from our continuity of operations planning website

The University's coronavirus information website FAQs have been updated and are more easily navigable by topic. We are working diligently to do the same for our College-specific information website, and hope to have the updated organization of information posted soon.

This situation is evolving daily, and information may change as emerging events warrant. I strongly encourage you to check the University's coronavirus information website often for University-wide updates, and to check our College information website for logistical information updates specific to our College.

We will continue to monitor regularly and make adjustments as needed with the well-being of our university community top of mind. Questions can be addressed to

Thank you for all of your efforts to promote a safe and healthy campus community.


Kim Lawless
Dean, College of Education
Penn State University

March 9, 2020

Members of the College of Education community,

I wanted to update you on the preparations and contingency planning our College is making related to the coronavirus threat. I plan to communicate with you weekly through our College listservs with updates. However, it's best to check our College website and the University's coronavirus information website daily for more immediate information updates.

We have convened a College task force that is meeting regularly including over spring break. This task force, which includes associate deans, department heads and unit directors, has been working on the following:

  • Information gathering. We are consolidating College-specific operations planning information and sharing it on our website so it comes from one source.
  • Event planning. We are looking at all events scheduled in the College through the summer, to determine whether or not they can proceed as planned, if they can be held virtually, or if they would need to be canceled if the University alters operations.
  • Loaner laptops. The College has a limited number of loaner laptops available for temporary use by GAs or TAs who do not currently have access to a laptop that would enable them to teach or do their research remotely. Contact your department heads for details.
  • External impacts. We are aware that area school districts have imposed a self-quarantine for those traveling to Level 3 countries, meaning K-12 students may be required to stay home for a period of up to two weeks. This may impact some of our staff, faculty and students who have to keep their children home from school. I ask everyone to practice understanding and flexibility in these circumstances, and look for ways to enable people to continue to get their work done remotely.
  • Think virtually. If you teach a course, make sure it is fully operational on Canvas. Syllabi and assignments all should be uploaded, and the Zoom room enabled so that students can attend class even if they are not able to physically be present in a classroom.
  • Certification standards. We are working with the Pennsylvania Department of Education and others to determine contingency planning if Curriculum and Instruction Field Experiences, Professional Development School, Special Education practica, Rehabilitation and Human Services internships and other placements that are mandatory for certification are interrupted. As we get information, we will share it onour website.
  • Conference reimbursements. We know that several major conferences have either been canceled or have switched to virtual attendance. We are awaiting guidance from the University regarding reimbursement for travel expenses incurred for these events, and will share information with you as soon as we receive it.
  • Get help. I want to remind you that the Employee Assistance Program is a free and voluntary resource for benefits-eligible employees and their families who may need counseling to help them in this stressful time.
  • Get the FAQs. The University has a FAQ set up at for information related to coronavirus. In addition, we are working on a College of Education contingency planning FAQ. If you have questions, please send them to edrelations@psu.eduand we will work to find answers. When we have the FAQ assembled, it will be added to our website.

March 4, 2020

Members of the College of Education community,

The best defense against something such as the coronavirus is education – learning the facts about the illness, how it's spread, how best to reduce your risk of contracting it, and what to do if you do exhibit symptoms.

The University is providing up-to-date information about all of those topics through its website at - which is being updated as new information becomes available. I encourage you to bookmark that website and check it often. Please also share that website link with friends and family as a way to keep them updated.

The University's coronavirus information website includes links to messages being delivered through Penn State News, including requirements for returning international travelers; articles from reputable sources in the media; and information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, the U.S. State Department, Pennsylvania Department of Health and other organizations, along with University resources including Global Programs, Student Care and Advocacy, University Health Services, Counseling and Psychological Services and other resources.

The site also includes FAQs, community updates, University measures, health information, resources and traveler information.

I won't reiterate the information from those links here, because the information is changing quickly and so it's best to go directly to for the most up-to-date information. I want to reassure you, however, that we in the College of Education share everyone's concerns about the illness and its potential impact on our community. We are working, both in the College and throughout the University as a whole, to ensure the well-being of our students along with our continuity of operations in the event that the coronavirus does hit Pennsylvania.

We urge you also to take precautions against contracting the illness as you prepare to leave campus for spring break. If you are traveling, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's special spring break travel website for health tips, as well as a website where travelers can enter their destination to identify specific travel health notices.

Additional information on how to stay healthy can be found on Penn State News.

I will continue to keep you updated as information becomes available. If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to .

Feb. 28, 2020

Dear College Members, 

This morning, Provost Nicholas Jones provided detailed information about what the University is doing to monitor the evolving worldwide coronavirus outbreak and prepare for the safety and well-being of our students, faculty, staff and visitors. Penn State also has set up a website for members of the university community who have questions about the outbreak as it relates to Penn State. Bookmark and check the site often, to stay up to date.

At this time, there are no known cases of coronavirus at Penn State and no reports of the virus in Pennsylvania. However, symptoms of coronavirus can be very similar to the flu, which is active across Pennsylvania at this time, so Penn State health officials recommend that anyone with flu-like symptoms contact their health care provider for an evaluation. We echo that recommendation – please make sure you make your health and well-being, and that of others, a priority.

Although the risk to the University community remains low at this point, we recognize that many of our students in the College of Education have friends and family in countries and regions that are being impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. We want you to know that we share your concerns for the well-being of your loved ones, and are here to support and assist you.

Please take the time to read the message Provost Jones sent out this morning via email. His message also can be found on Penn State News.

Stay well,
Kim Lawless
Dean, College of Education