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College of Education > Continuity planning information for the College of Education community > Messages for staff members from Dean Lawless and Human Resources

Messages for staff members from Dean Lawless and Human Resources

June 29, 2020

Members of the College of Education community,

I wanted to give you a quick email update as we start our week:

  • I want to thank the faculty who attended the department-based town halls on Friday for the thoughtful conversations. We are working on aggregating the questions and answers and will post the FAQ as soon as it's ready.
  • The link for the video in the email I forwarded from Vice Provost Kathy Beischke's office was changed. In the video, Provost Jones and Vice Provost Beischke share preparations for on-campus instruction in the fall. You can watch the video here.
  • There is a story in Penn State News this morning about a new forum in the Provost's Office for accepting questions from faculty related to Penn State’s plans for a return to classrooms. As stated in the story, faculty with questions can log on at https://tinyurl.com/On-Campus-Questions and submit their inquiries, which will be answered on a regular basis with available information and published as part of a regular email update for all faculty. Questions may be submitted anonymously, or submitters may wish to include their name and department or college.
  • There will be another Learning Design session at 2 p.m. Thursday, July 2, led by Chris Millet and focusing on mixed-modes of instruction. The session will explore a variety of design considerations for your courses and will address affordances for flexibility and potential solutions to scheduling complexities, while maintaining social distancing requirements. This session will also provide the opportunity for open discussion and sharing of ideas regarding challenges for Fall. The meeting will be held via Zoom.
  • As a reminder, we have a Teams group set up for faculty collaboration. This space is moderated by Joon Yoon and is populated with numerous resources. (Look in the Files tab.) This group was set up as a space where faculty can collaborate and share teaching ideas. All faculty members already are added to that group. To access it, log into Teams and look for the ED Faculty Collaborative Community in the Teams tab. Also, if you have graduate students who will be teaching, please let Julian Morales know so he can add them to the group.

I will continue to share additional information about safety protocols being implanted as part of the Back to State initiative as I receive it. I appreciate the work you are doing to make sure our students have the residential experience they are expecting this fall.

Best,
Kim

June 26, 2020

Members of the College of Education faculty and staff community,

Before I get into the meat of this email, I want to alert you to a virtual town hall being held by President Eric Barron at 3 p.m. Monday, June 29, to highlight the elements outlined in his June 10 message and the University’s planned efforts to fight ignorance and intolerance, model inclusivity and embrace diversity. My sources tell me there will be some exciting initiatives announced, so I encourage you to tune in at https://liveevents.psu.edu/ to learn what the University has planned.

In addition, I want to thank those of you who have endorsed our college's resolution. If you haven't had a chance to read it, please click here to read our commitment to equity, and then click the links to the Leadership Resolution and the Action Plan. If you agree with what we are resolving, I encourage you to click on the button at the bottom of that resolution page to endorse the resolution.

I want to remind staff that the Staff Advisory Council will be holding a staff town hall on Wednesday, July 1, led by our Return to Campus task force to answer questions more specifically related to staff topics. Check your email for connection information from the SAC.

On Monday, June 22, World Campus Learning Design shared information with the College of Education on the Fall 2020 instructional modalities. The link to the session can be found here. They will hold another session at 2 p.m. July 2, focusing on mixed modes of instruction. The session will explore a variety of design considerations for your courses and will address affordances for flexibility and potential solutions to scheduling complexities, while maintaining social distancing requirements. This session also will provide the opportunity for open discussion and sharing of ideas regarding challenges for fall. Please hold the time; we will post information about connecting to the session soon.

Much of my day today was spent meeting virtually with faculty in each of our four departments to answer questions about expectations for our classes and programs in the fall. While we will be updating our FAQ website with more detailed questions and answers as soon as we can aggregate the notes taken during those meetings, I want to share a brief summary of those conversations here, for the benefit of those who may not have been present.

Probably the most important piece of information I have to share is that right now, we don't have all of the answers about how things are going to work this fall. But, that doesn't mean the University doesn't have intelligent, well-informed people working on developing those plans, based on science, data and input from a variety of sources. And as plans are formulated, the University is sharing them in the form of living documents to get feedback and refine the plans. Plans also are updated and are changing as we learn more about how this virus spreads. Please continue to work through your department chairs to provide suggestions, comments and feedback and will get that information back to them to help with continuing to iterate plans.

With that in mind, we are being asked to develop a healthy footprint of courses being offered in person in each of our programs. What that looks like may be different in each program, but there is extra attention being paid to first-year and entrance-to-major courses with respect to some in-person component, whether they are fully in-person or offered in a hybrid manner. There is a lot of flexibility in this, to meet not only pedagogical best practices but also the expectations of our students, who are coming back to campus expecting to have that in-person experience, albeit modified given the current health restrictions.

I understand there are things we can do with technology that are pedagogically sound. But what you can't do remotely is meet students' expectation and desire for some interaction in residential spaces on campus. That ancillary experience makes in-person classes preferred by our students for their learning needs. So, I'm asking us to try. Let your department leaders know what adjustments are necessary to make you feel safe in an in-person teaching environment (including hybrid), and we will work to make that adjustment for you. That being said, we are not trying to have our full portfolio of classes in residence – even if we wanted to space is a limitation. So, many of our classes will need to be remote and you within the programs are best to decide on the overall portfolio of offerings.

With that being said, there also were questions about being on campus to work or do research in your office spaces. Part of the University's plan for keeping us safe is de-densifying our spaces. Even if you are alone in your one-person office, you still are also moving through shared space, touching doorknobs, using bathrooms, copy machines and other shared resources, and that increases the risk not only to you, but also to those who need to be in that space to perform essential functions that cannot be done remotely – whether that is faculty members teaching, staff members providing support for students in our programs, or OPP workers who are trying to keep our buildings clean and safe. Also, in order for the contact tracing program being developed to work, we need to be able to know who is in our spaces and when they are there. If you are coming in when you don't need to be here, you complicate that process so I ask you to err on the side of caution and stay remote – it keeps us all safer.

I know this is a lot of information, and lots of emails in addition to mine are pouring into your inboxes. I am trying to highlight that main points of this information in my weekly emails. To help, my emails are also being posted to our website for your easy reference. We are also constantly working to update our College FAQ page, and the University also is adding new information to their Back to State website as they have it. Please bookmark these resources and check them often. 

Stay safe, and I apologize for the length of this week’s email,

Kim

June 19, 2020

Members of the College of Education community,

There is a lot of information for me to share with you in this weekly update. I will try to be brief on each topic. Much of this note has to do with our return to campus in the fall, so I strongly encourage you to read through to the end.

Before I delve into back-to-work topics, 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, I want to emphasize that we need to trust that the University is basing its decisions on safety – the safety of our faculty, our staff, our students, and of the communities in which our campuses are situated. Along with the plans to open in person, there are plans to monitor the trajectory of the pandemic, and close down again if necessary to preserve our health and safety.

With that foundational understanding, there will be a flood of information coming out over the next few weeks regarding implementation of the University's Back to Campus framework. Much of this is based on a combination of data from medical experts, recommendations and guidance from the state Health Department and the governor's office, and also input you have given through surveys and town hall meetings at both the College and University level.

I will communicate with you what I know when I have information to share, and I also strongly encourage you to bookmark the University's Back to State information website and our College FAQ because both will be updated with important information as it's released.

Here in the College, we created task forces to address the various aspects of our return to campus. Click here to see these groups' leadership, membership and charges. In response to the need for greater governance among our compliment, please also know that the chairs for the Faculty Advisory Council and the Staff Advisory Council are also being added to our leadership contingency planning team. The chairs are in the process of working with members of these committees to engage in work over the summer related to how we address the fall. More to come on this…

Earlier this week I shared documents about return to workplace and return to resident instruction from Vice Provost Kathy Bieschke's office. These should be seen as “living documents” that cover a number of the topics brought up in Tuesday's College town hall discussion, so I strongly encourage you to read them. Both of the current documents are posted on our website and will be updated as alterations are made. View the current  return to workplace document here, and the return to resident instruction document here. Please know that the central administration is interested in hearing your concerns and questions about the content of these documents so they can make appropriate changes. As previously mentioned, if you have concerns/questions/suggestions, please email your department head, who will aggregate the content from your area daily and share with me. In turn, I will share the aggregated feedback with the creators of the various documents. Following this process is the best way to make sure that we can share your concerns upward without your information getting lost.

With the University announcement that we're bringing students back to residential life and residential instruction in the fall, there is an expectation that students will be engaging in our classrooms in some form of physical distance presence. At the same time, the University has announced that students who remain home in fall will have opportunities to keep learning. Regardless of the format of classes at the start of fall semester, all courses will move to remote status after Thanksgiving through the end of the semester. 

It can be overwhelming to try to imagine how to design the courses you're teaching to meet that level of flexibility, to create an educational experience that is high quality in these unusual circumstances that really changed the way we think about how we go about our pedagogical practices in our classrooms and in our caring for our students in their learning trajectory.

To help you with that heavy lift, Chris Millet and the Learning Design team at World Campus will be providing an informational session for the College of Education at 1 p.m. Monday June 22. Join the Zoom session at https://psu.zoom.us/j/92286555568?pwd=TXJORGU3TG5ZMlpKV3JCWjFGdnovZz09 Password: 103716.

During this session, World Campus Learning Design will present information on the proposed instructional models for the Fall 2020 semester. These models have been developed in conjunction with several Provost-charged teams responsible for preparing the university for the Fall semester, and align with President Barron's announcement on June 14 and the Back to State initiative. The information that will be presented will help as you consider your preferred approach to instruction in light of constraints outlined by the president, including physical distancing requirements for our teaching facilities. Additionally, Learning Design will outline its plan to support you throughout the summer as you make any necessary adaptations to instruction. This event will also be an opportunity for you to provide feedback, which will be shared back to the Provost's committees. 

Again, 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.

Thanks everyone for helping Penn State to get this right.

Best,
Kim

June 15, 2020

Members of the College of Education community,

By now you should have had a chance to read the email sent by President Barron last night, and the follow-up story in this morning's edition of Penn State Today, regarding the University's plans for fall semester.

The University decision to return to campus-based residential instruction, work and other activities this fall, with a changeover to remote delivery of classes on Nov. 20, was guided by faculty scientific and public health experts. 

Delivery of the curriculum will occur through a highly flexible mix of in-person, remote and online instruction throughout the semester, with all classes of more than 250 students delivered online and/or remotely. Most classes will be scheduled through synchronous delivery. This is based on strong evidence of greater academic success by establishing robust learning communities and environments. 

Here in the College of Education, we are working to determine how best to deliver our smaller classes and how to have our workforce return to our buildings, following University guidance and information you are providing to us through the surveys we sent out last week. If you have not yet returned your survey, I strongly encourage you to do so as soon as possible, to enable us to better plan. We need to know your thoughts and concerns to help us make sure we have in place the plans to maintain the safety and health of our college community as our primary concern, as well as how our work portfolios will look like in terms face-to-face or remotes activities.

University leadership and the task groups will work with governance and advisory bodies, including the University Faculty Senate and the University Staff Advisory Council, to work through all the details of course delivery, classroom and workplace safety and other components of the return to campus. As these plans continue to flow forward, we will get the information out so we are all working from the same foundation of knowledge.

Ultimately, whether on-campus activities can continue as planned through the fall semester and beyond will be greatly impacted by the actions of each and every member of the community in adhering to public health guidelines.

The social distancing and mask-wearing expectations previously announced will continue to be in place throughout the fall, and the Office of Student Conduct and Human Resources are developing strategies to both encourage and enforce these measures. 

The University will continue to communicate the importance of personal responsibility in mitigating the spread of the virus in order to keep the local communities surrounding our campuses healthy as well as our own campus communities.

The University is hosting two virtual town hall meetings to answer questions from the community about the fall semester with as much information as is currently available. A town hall for faculty and staff is scheduled for 2 to 3 p.m. on Monday, June 22.  A town hall for students and families will be held from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. on Monday, June 22. Both events can be viewed at https://liveevents.psu.edu/ online. Questions can be submitted anonymously via separate online Google forms for faculty and staff and students and families

The College of Education leadership team also is holding a forum for faculty and staff, at 4 p.m. Tuesday. Connect via Zoom at https://psu.zoom.us/j/99218647559 online.

For more information about the University's announcement, please check Penn State Newsor the University's Back to State website. We also will update our College FAQ once we have new information to share. In the meantime, please send any questions you may have to edrelations@psu.edu and I look forward to having you join us at our Zoom forum on Tuesday.

Best,
Kim

May 28, 2020

Members of the College of Education community,

Because those living and working in this region have adhered to health and safety measures during the statewide shut-down, Centre County is able to move to the "green" stage of reopening tomorrow. While "green" may be synonymous with "go," it does not mean "business as usual." I want to emphasize that in our community in general, and at Penn State more specifically, we still must practice the safety measures that have enabled us to keep levels of COVID-19 infections low in our area, including social distancing, wearing masks, and being aware of symptoms that may indicate illness.

To that end, the University is remaining in remote operations through at least June 15. Those who are able to work from home – which includes almost everyone in the College of Education – must continue to do so for now. As has been the case since March, if you need to drop into your office to retrieve personal belongings or items needed to facilitate remote work, you can do that as long as you email Julian Morales in advance to let him know.

If you believe there is a critical need for you to no longer work remotely, please talk with your supervisor. If your supervisor, Human Resources, Operations and I all agree with you, we will fill out the University's work authorization request form to start the approval process, which ultimately requires the assent of the Provost's Office.

Effective immediately and out of an abundance of caution, Penn State is requiring masks to be worn by those on campus at all times, unless you are isolated in a private office or vehicle. Per University policy, universal masking is not optional.

Penn State is preparing for a coordinated, phased return to on-campus working, learning and living for students and employees across each of the University’s campuses this fall semester. Information and updates on the planning process will continue to be made available at https://virusinfo.psu.edu/back-to-state/.

We currently are working on a plan for how to have faculty and staff in our College return to work on campus when we are given permission, in a way that keeps us all safe and takes into account individual life situations. Most likely, in an effort to comply with social distancing recommendations, we will start off with some sort of rotating schedule for people to come into the office, with remote work still taking place most of the time for most people. 

We will be sending out surveys in the next week to assess concerns and identify considerations that we will need to take into account in a phased re-opening in the future. I welcome your thoughts and ideas of what return to work in our buildings might look like in your area, or for you specifically. You can also send suggestions to edrelations@psu.edu. If you have any concerns that you prefer to discuss privately, please contact Jerry Henry or me directly.

When we know more from the University regarding the fall, we will have a better idea if a return to in-person instruction will occur and what it will look like for faculty.

We continue to keep our College FAQ updated, and the University also is releasing information regularly on Penn State News and on its information website. Please check these sources for the most accurate, updated information.

As our remote work environment continues, I want to remind you again that your safety and well-being are a top priority. Please continue to check on each other, and if you need help, I urge you to reach out. There is information on our FAQ about financial and counseling resources for those who may need them.

Be well,
Kim

May 24, 2020

Members of the College of Education community,

I'm hoping things have slowed down, at least a little bit, and that each of us is able to find a bit of time away from the constant barrage of the spring semester to relax and reflect on just how much we have accomplished together. I know it hasn't been easy for anyone, but we as a College achieved so much this spring, and I hope you all are as proud as I am.

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. Meeting our students where they are, and keeping a positive trajectory on the learning and instructional needs of our future education workforce is now even more important than ever, and I'm proud to see how hard you all are working to make this happen.

Overall, our summer session numbers look healthy, although they are a bit down from last year at this point. Early numbers from new students joining us in the fall look promising, but we will need to see what the impact of COVID-19 is on the melt between intent to enroll and actual enrollment in our courses.

I would like to remind you that each and every one of you is an ambassador for our College. It's up to all of us to demonstrate with our words and our actions that we as a College are here for our students; we will meet them where they are; and we will make sure that whether online, in the classroom or through a hybrid learning environment, we will work to set up our students for success. Staff are working to support the learning needs of our students, wherever they are. Advisers are holding one-on-one remote counseling sessions to make sure students are taking the right courses to further their educational goals. And whenever we return to campus, we will be ready to welcome everyone back to our buildings, safely.

In that vein, I hope you all had a chance to fill out the survey sent out by Lorraine Goffe, vice president for Human Resources, earlier this week. Your candid responses to this survey are important to help the University make strategic decisions about how and when Penn State employees should return to their workplaces when current restrictions related to COVID-19 are lifted. Read more about the survey on Penn State News.

Yesterday, the University released information about key materials created to control phased return of mission-critical functions. Among these materials is an authorization form for unit leads to fill out and request to have employees on site. The authorization form, which is intended only for unit supervisors – not individual employees – to request permission to return to a work site, is the first step in a process intended to help supervisors determine if the functions performed by their unit qualify for immediate on-site work. Any return-to-campus request from a supervisor in the College of Education also must have my endorsement.

I understand that there are some of you who are chomping at the bit to return to campus, and others who are concerned that a return to campus could jeopardize their health or the health of someone in their household. I want to assure you all that as we begin preparing for a return to work, we are keeping the health, safety and well-being of everyone at the forefront, and will endeavor to make adjustments to people’s work patterns as needed.

As a quick reminder, anyone who needs to make a pCard purchase must work through their unit's super-user, and fill out  a purchase request webform before any purchase is made.

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 staff and participants wearing face masks.

Remember, next week is a short week with no work on Monday for the Memorial Day holiday. I hope you are able to have a relaxing long weekend.

Be safe and well.

Best,
Kim

May 15, 2020

Members of the College of Education faculty and staff community,

As I have mentioned in past emails, the effects on the economy and on our University from the current COVID-19 pandemic have prompted financial process changes at the University level. Please read the information below carefully, as it has a direct impact on everyone in our College who has a pCard, or who makes purchases of any kind for work purposes.

Failure to follow these new procedures could potentially mean money out of your personal pocket, and "I didn't know" will not be accepted as justification. These changes were implemented at the University level and are University-wide. I am including details of how they are being implemented in our College.

Effective immediately and until further notice:

  • Purchases using University-issued pCards will be limited to super-users as identified by our College's Finance Office. All other pCards have been temporarily deactivated by the University.
  • Colleges and departments must establish a pre-approval process for PCard transactions. See below for our process.
  • All requests for an SRFC (special request for check) must comply rigorously with the existing Payment Decision Matrix. SRFCs must not be processed for goods and services where a purchase order or PCard has been identified as the proper way to acquire in accordance with the Payment Decision Matrix and University Purchasing policies.
  • In cases where an employee has purchased a good or service or obligated the University without proper authority in accordance with Policy BS07, requests for an SRFC payment for reimbursement or payment to vendor will be denied, and the employee may be financially responsible for payment.
  • Non-compliance with the above will be reported to the Senior Vice President for Finance and Business and Executive Vice President and Provost.

In simple terms, what all of the above means is that all purchases in our College must have prior approval from Finance Officer Alba Congiu or from me. To facilitate this process, we have created a purchase request webform that must be filled out before any purchase is made. Once the purchase request webform, found at https://bit.ly/COEMCPurchaseRequest online, is filled out, it will be automatically routed through the proper approval channel. If the purchase is approved, then it may move forward through those identified as super-users. The list of super-users can be found on theFinance Office website.

Only those transactions deemed mission critical will be approved. Mission critical purchases should be limited to items required for sponsored programs supporting continued research activities or startup of new research; delivery of health care to staff, faculty and students; delivery of virtual learning for students; and those requirements that directly impact the health and safety of staff, faculty, students and facilities.

I cannot emphasize this enough: any purchases that do not go through this approval process WILL NOT be reimbursed. This is a University policy, and we as a College must follow it.

On a lighter topic, I want to once again thank all of you who participated in some way in the virtual conferral of degrees that took place last weekend. The videos that made up our portion of the event were very well received. From May 9-12, we had 5,975 views, and 836 of those watched the entire video. We had 596 unique viewers, which means viewers watched multiple videos, multiple times. And while our viewers came mostly from the United States, we also had viewers from 16 other countries. If you didn't get a chance to see our videos, which include an Alma Mater tribute in which many of you participated, I encourage you to head over to https://virtualgrad.marchingorder.com/psu/X and watch them.

Finally, I want to remind you that we have been given access to the finest online course instructional designers through the World Campus, and faculty should be taking full advantage of their services, in the event that we need to hold some or all of our classes remotely this fall. Instructional Designer Jana Hitchcock reports that she has not had many requests for her services from our faculty. I strongly encourage you to reach out to her and enlist her help to ensure our students have an excellent educational experience in your classes and want to continue their education, whether they are learning in person, remotely or through some hybrid experience.

This weekend is supposed to be beautiful, weather-wise. I hope you all get a chance to get out and enjoy it. Be safe and well… I miss you all!

Best,
Kim

May 10, 2020

Members of the College of Education faculty and staff community,

Happy Mother’s Day – a time to reflect and be thankful for all of the mothers out there who work hard every day – especially during Covid, to keep our world functioning, our children learning and our families safe and sane!

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.Also, congratulations to all of our graduating students! 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. If you missed the ceremony or want to view it again, you can go to https://spring2020.commencement.psu.edu/ to find a link to the recorded version. You also can go to https://vgradpsu.z20.web.core.windows.net/psu/x/index.html to view sharable digital slides for each graduate, and to view the special videos we produced to honor our students.

I want to thank all of you who participated in our faculty and staff town hall meeting on Friday afternoon, as well. We will be updating our College FAQ with information from that meeting later this coming week.

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.
  • 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.

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

Best,
Kim

May 4, 2020

Members of the College of Education faculty and staff,

I hope you were able to enjoy the beautiful weather we had this weekend. 

This morning, the University published an article in Penn State Today about our remote operations continuing through the end of May. This decision is in line with Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf's phased reopening plan for the state, which calls for telework to continue when feasible even where other activities are set to resume.

Because many of you may have questions related to summer operations and the potential phased-reopening of campus, the College's leadership team will hold a town hall for faculty and staff from 4-5 p.m. this Friday, May 8. Participants can connect at https://psu.zoom.us/j/99589308868 for the Zoom webinar.

Those wishing to submit questions in advance may do so by emailing edrelations@psu.edu

I encourage you to visit the University's information site and read the articles on Penn State News for the latest information on Penn State’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. For information specific to the College of Education, visit our College FAQ.

I look forward to interacting with you all in the town hall on Friday.

Best,
Kim

May 1, 2020

Members of the College of Education faculty and staff 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 teaching and remote working, 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 planningwith 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 – faculty and staff – 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:

  • Beginning May 4, University Police and Public Safety will host four weekly Zoom sessions (registration required) for the Penn State community. Two sessions each week will cover the University’s Active Attacker Response Program; the other two will be open Q&A sessions.  

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. Take care of yourselves and your loved ones…

Best,
Kim

April 26, 2020

Members of the College of Education faculty and staff 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 PIC, department chair or your direct supervisor. You also can contact the Employee Assistance Program, which is a free and voluntary resource for benefits-eligible employees and their families who may need counseling to help them in this stressful time.

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. 
  • In preparation for virtual summer courses, Teaching and Learning with Technology (TLT) is hosting a series of Zoom sessions for faculty on engaging students in synchronous and asynchronous online environments through course revisions.

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, with your efforts and support, 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.

Best,
Kim

April 23, 2020

Members of the College of Education community,

By now you should have received an email from President Barron with some serious news. The email indicates that Penn State employees who are not able to conduct work remotely will have a 50% reduction in salary from May 4 through June 30. To be clear, every member of our faculty and staff has been able to continue to work remotely, as such, this salary decision does not impact any full time employee in our College.

The University already had made us aware of the 3% budget recision for the next fiscal year, and department chairs, unit heads and I have been working over the past several weeks to make sure those reductions can take place in areas other than salaries.To make this happen, we are holding off on things like routine technology upgrades. Unless computers are failing, for the time being, they will not be replaced simply due to age. We are reducing, but not eliminating, money allocated for travel, events and other expenses. We are consolidating course sections and in some cases raising caps a bit. Quite simply, we are looking at ways to do the work of our College more efficiently.

Realistically, as President Barron said, we cannot fully predict what will happen with the pandemic, and how it will further impact our University. While our college overall is currently in a good financial state, we need to prepare for the possibility of further budget cuts caused by impacts of this global disruption that are yet unforeseen. Your department chairs and unit heads likely will be coming to you in the days and weeks ahead to discuss various planning scenarios so that we can be ready if the time comes. I ask you to please work with them, think creatively and be flexible and open to changes that ultimately will make us stronger. 

While this crisis has created numerous challenges for us to address, it is also giving our College the opportunity to think about how we move forward strategically and be responsive to the shifting landscape in education. We have a motivational force pushing us to look at everything we do, every class we teach, every question we pursue. This internal reflection will enable us to re-envision what education is and how we will marshal our resources towards making that vision a reality. 

I echo President Barron's sentiment that we will emerge from this crisis more creative and agile than before, and that, with your efforts and support, Penn State will continue to evolve as one of the world's great institutions of higher education.

This is our biggest #WeAre moment yet, and I have full confidence that we will rise to the occasion. 

My best to you all and with deep gratitude,
Kim

April 15, 2020

Members of the College of Education faculty and staff community,

The University leadership has been working diligently to help us maintain quality learning and working environments, and to plan for the future, during this time of great uncertainty. Based on information shared by President Barron and Provost Jones in previous University town hall meetings, it is possible that decisions may be forthcoming regarding summer sessions and guidance on payroll post 4/30 for some groups of Penn States' workforce as early as this week.

In anticipation of possible announcements, we have set up College town hall forums to have conversations, generate understanding and as always to hear what additional questions you may have.

The town hall specifically for faculty and staff will be held via Zoom from 5 to 6 p.m. Friday, April 17.

Just a heads up that we are also running two town halls on Friday afternoon for our students, one for undergraduate and one for graduate students. Please encourage them to participate, and to refer to emails they received from me for their Zoom connection information.

In the meantime, I want to remind you again to take care of yourselves both physically and mentally. Take care of your family – both your home family and your Penn State family. Please continue to reach out to check on each other, and if you need help, I urge you to reach out for help. There is information on our FAQabout financial and counseling resources for those who may need them.

Thank you for continuing to do the amazing work that you all are doing. You have really stepped up and your efforts definitely have been noticed and are greatly appreciated.

I look forward to connecting with you in our town hall on Friday.

Best,
Kim

April 3, 2020

Members of the College of Education staff community,

Things continue to change quickly, so I wanted to call your attention to some new information released by the University in recent days. We are having a staff town hall at 4 p.m. today (April 3). I encourage you to attend, and ask any questions on your mind about the information below or any other topic on your mind. Connect to the Zoom town hall at https://psu.zoom.us/s/827280598.

Changes in recording time

The University has made changes to the way time is recorded in Workday for the period starting March 15 and running through April 30:

Full-time employees taking vacation or sick time between the above dates should not enter sick-leave or vacation time. Instead, if you are not working for any reason, please submit a Time Off Request using the new time off types listed below:

  • COVID19 Paid: Self. This is to be use if you are taking paid time off because you are unable to work because you are subject to a federal, state or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19; have been advised by a health-care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19; or are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and are seeking medical diagnosis.
  • COVID19 Paid: Family. This is to be used if you are taking paid family time off because you are: caring for an individual who is subject to a federal, state or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19 or an individual who has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19; caring for your child whose school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 related reasons; or experiencing any other substantially similar condition that may arise, as specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
  • COVID19 Paid: Not Working (including vacation or sick). This is to be used if you are not working because there is no work available; you are unable to work remotely or you are a non-essential employee; or you are not reporting to work due to other reasons including vacation or sick other than as described above.

Part-time employees are being paid through April 30, as promised by President Barron. However, the way time is reported and recorded in Workday for part-time employees is changing significantly during this time, as follows:

  • The WorkLion Management Office (WMO) has taken a snapshot of each part-time employee's hours worked between Feb. 16-29, and is extrapolating that figure over the time period between March 15 and April 30. The resulting number of hours are being uploaded into the employee's Workday as available "time off."
  • For the pay period just concluded (B20, March 15-28), WMO has automatically entered the snapshot number of hours in each part-time employee's record as paid time off, and the employee will be paid based on that figure.
  • Moving forward through April 30, instead of recording time worked, part-time employees are to record "time off requests" for the amount of time they normally would have worked.

Please direct questions about these changes to Megan Houser at mnb146@psu.edu or Jerry Henry at gkh2@psu.edu.

Shoutout

Our CETC team has been very proactive in putting together valuable step-by-step instructions on various topics, including how to secure your Zoom meetings,technology setup information and a checklist for remote working capability. Their hard work over the past few weeks has made a significant and positive impact on our ability to work and teach remotely, and is very much appreciated. Even though they also now must work remotely, they continue to be responsive to needs in our College community. If you have any technology-related questions, please fill out a CETC ticket for assistance. 

Beware of scams

One of the unfortunate side effects of the coronavirus pandemic is an increase in activity by cybercriminals, hackers and scammers of all types. Please be extra careful as you go through your email (both Penn State and personal) and do not click on links that look suspicious or come from a source that you don’t recognize. Any suspicious activity should be forwarded to phishing@psu.edu

Self-care reminder

Finally, we understand that you have a lot going on in your lives beyond your work, although we may not be aware of specific circumstances. During this time, we are trying to be respectful of individual issues. Please, while we are physically isolated, do not become socially isolated. Reach out to people, including anyone on the leadership team, for support, co-problem solving or anything else that comes to mind. Email questions or concerns to edrelations@psu.edu. Stay safe, but also stay a community.

Best,
Kim

March 30, 2020

Members of the College of Education staff community,

It's hard to believe we are in our third week of our new “virtual” reality. On behalf of the entire College leadership team, I want to take a moment to let you know how much we appreciate all that you have done to make the major change to remote working.

This massive shift in how we operate has not been easy, but you have made it work. Together we have developed creative solutions to logistical problems. Time and time again, when we have had to request outside-the-box thinking, we've heard, "we'll figure it out" – and you have, and then you've shared your best practices with your colleagues. We could not be more proud to be associated with any organization than we are to be associated with the people who make up the Penn State College of Education.

Many of us have had tendencies in the past to let self-care take a back seat to productivity. Now in this time where work and home life have blended together in the same time and space, we are asking that you make self-care a top priority. Your physical and emotional health and well-being – and that of your entire family – are of the utmost importance, and we support your need to take that into account when making decisions about work conduct.

We understand that these are not normal circumstances, and that our collective productivity may be lower than what we would have expected. This is natural and overall expectations will be adjusted. We also understand that your situation may require flexibility in your work hours. Please, communicate with your supervisor about what you need to help you succeed in keeping a healthy work/life balance.

If you need counseling help, know that it is available through the Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

As we continue to practice physical distancing, please remember that we should not be socially disconnected. Reach out to people, including anyone on the leadership team, for support, co-problem solving or anything else that comes to mind. Email questions or concerns to edrelations@psu.edu. Stay safe, but also stay a community.

To stay up to date with the latest accurate information, please continue to check the Penn State Coronavirus Information website, and the College of Education FAQ.

Thank you so very deeply for being such an amazing community of resilience, promise and practice!

Best,
Kim

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 https://psu.edu/virusinfo/ and for the latest information from the College of Education, visit our information website

Best,
Kim

March 25, 2020

Members of the College of Education faculty and staff community,

The University has delivered an abundance of information over the course of two town hall meetings held on Tuesday (March 24) – one for staff and faculty, and the other for students and parents. I encourage you to visit Penn State's information website for official updates. I also have condensed some of the information covered, and that can be found on our College information website. We also held a town hall last Friday, March 20, to answer your questions.

And yet, many questions remain during this turbulent, fast-changing situation. We want to make sure we are communicating with you, and also that we are hearing your still-unanswered questions. With that in mind, our College leadership team has decided to hold another town hall meeting specifically for our faculty and staff, to continue to listen to your concerns and get as much information to you as we have.

Please tune in to the meeting at 4 p.m. Friday, March 27, via Zoom.

The format will be the same as last Friday's webinar setup, where participants use the Q&A window to ask their questions. We will get to as many questions as time permits, and will work to address topics we don't get a chance to cover during the town hall through other means.

Please feel free to submit your questions in advance to edrelations@psu.edu. When posing questions through the Q&A function during the town hall, please enter one question at a time, as this will help us share those questions with other participants as they're asked.

Again, thank you for all you are doing.

Best,
Kim

March 24, 2020

Members of the College of Education faculty and staff community,

There was a lot of information shared in this morning's town hall, led by President Barron, Provost Jones and other members of the University leadership team. Below are some of the pieces of guidance 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 https://liveevents.psu.edu/ where a recording of this morning's town hall will be made available.

  • Continuation of pay: The University remains committed to paying all employees, whether they are faculty, staff, students, wage payroll or work study, through the end of April. President Barron said in mid-April the University will start to look at what the institution's capabilities are, but he is adamant that he does not want an abrupt financial transition for anyone.
  • Staff performance evaluations and salary increase: Human Resources has decided to move the timeline out a bit, and will communicate updates as a new timeline is developed. Along with that, Provost Jones announced that there will be no General Salary Increase (GSI) this year as we work to assess the financial impact COVID-19 has had on the University.
  • Sick time: Anyone in the College of Education who becomes ill and does not have paid sick time available should contact Jerry Henry or Megan Houser, who will work within Human Resources guidelines to make such time available.
  • Summer session: 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. 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.
  • Pass/fail option for courses: Provost Jones said that the University's Administrative Council on Undergraduate Education (ACUE) is meeting today to consider a draft proposal originating from the Faculty Senate and shaped by insights from ACUE. They hope to have a recommendation and procedure to President Barron and Provost Jones by the end of the day today (March 24). Once it's finalized, the University will share the information.
  • Searches, hiring, and visiting scholars: The University is asking units not to fill new or open positions unless they are mission-critical. While we are not going to rescind any offers already made, we are pausing searches and not extending new offers except under compelling circumstances. Any exceptions for faculty would need the approval of Provost Jones, and any exceptions for staff would need the approval of David Gray, senior vice president for finance and business. This pause also applies to visiting scholars.
  • Strategic plan: While the timeline for the strategic planning process will be flexible, both Provost Jones and President Barron emphasized the need for strategic thinking, especially now. The University does plan to move forward with the strategic planning process, to ensure we emerge from the current situation moving in the right direction.

For the latest information about Penn State's response to the coronavirus, go to https://psu.edu/virusinfo/ and for the latest information from the College of Education, visit our information website.

Once again, and I can not say it enough, thank you for working so hard to enable our current remote operations and planning for our future operations while we are in such turbulent times. 

All my best,
Kim

March 21, 2020

Members of the College of Education faculty and staff community,

Faculty likely have seen by now the email communication from Provost Nick Jones, along with the research-related information in a special edition of Penn State Today regarding the reduction of research activities in Penn State Labs by March 24.

The information from Provost Jones addresses several questions and concerns he has heard from faculty regarding synchronous remote instruction, course grades, student evaluations (SRTEs), changes in timing of promotion and tenure decisions, annual faculty reviews and resources for faculty. I strongly encourage all faculty to read that email, and direct any questions to our leadership team atedrelations@psu.edu. Many of these items will require additional discussions within the college, particularly around tenure and promotion. While the blanket “stay” is provided, I think we can engage in a vision and set of expectations that addresses issues related to staying on their trajectories prior to this disruption. I look forward to engaging in these discussions with the college an open heart and mind.

Regarding the information in Penn State Today from the Office of the Senior Vice President for Research (OSVPR) and the College of Medicine Vice Dean for Research and Graduate Studies, it is critical that we as a College community work to comply with these new limitations.

As stated in the latest communications from OSVPR, the underlying principle in these restrictions is to help ensure that our healthcare systems do not become overwhelmed. Together, we need to do everything we can to curtail campus activities to the barest minimum levels.

Please read the official communication from OSVPR carefully, especially the "next steps" section, which includes actions that allresearchers must take by March 23. Please reach out to Greg Kelly at gkelly@psu.edu if you are unsure whether aspects of your research constitute essential activities.

We echo the communication from OSVPR in encouraging you to continue the aspects of your research that can be done remotely. Take this time to redirect personnel toward research activities such as analyzing data, writing research papers, developing grant proposals, and training your graduate students and postdocs to do so as well. Research group meetings should continue remotely.

I understand that most of the information flowing right now deals with teaching and research. I want staff to know that their well-being also is of great importance. I received communications from central Human Resources last night that should calm much of the anxiety staff members may be feeling as well. The key message is that Penn State is not closed. However, everyone that can work from home should do so immediately and 100% of the time.

All staff members in the College of Education should be working remotely at this point. Please stay in touch with your direct supervisors regarding your workload, and with any concerns you have. If no work is available, let your supervisor know and then take the opportunity to engage in online professional development through our Learning Resources Network and LinkedIn Learning. Please be sure to report your professional development activities so you can get credit for them. Rest assured, everyone on our staff will remain in pay status.

In addition, Human Resources has launched a remote work website for employees, to make sure you have the necessary tools and resources needed to perform your work remotely. This site will provide employees and managers/supervisors with valuable information to help transition into remote working.

I want to give an additional reminder to you all to please check our College's FAQ, which is being updated constantly as information flows to us. That site and the University's coronavirus information website are two very reliable sources of information for you at this time. If you have questions that aren't answered by either site, please email them to edrelations@psu.edu and we will work to get the information.

Again, I want to thank you all for your resilience, flexibility and assistance during this unprecedented time. #WeAre an extraordinary group of educational professionals.

Best,
Kim

March 20, 2020

Members of the College faculty and staff community,

By now you should have received an email from Provost Nick Jones with important information about changes to the University's operations in response to Gov. Tom Wolf's declaration to end physical operations at many businesses statewide.

The guidance from Provost Jones is that "it’s important that everyone who can work from home do so immediately and completely, until otherwise notified. Not everyone can, and each campus, college and unit differs, of course. It’s critical that you follow the guidance of supervisors and unit leaders."

In the College of Education, we are emphasizing that the determination of whether or not staff can work from home is whether duties as outlined in their JRWs are able to be performed remotely. If they are, then that individual may not work from a campus building. Anyone with hardship surrounding this directive should immediately contact his or her supervisor for direction. Supervisors will consult with College leadership for these cases with extenuating circumstances.

Faculty who have concerns about bandwidth for teaching their courses remotely may come to campus to use general classroom space to conduct their classes. Faculty have been given card-swipe access to all buildings on the University Park campus that have general classroom space, as a way to enable instruction to continue while simultaneously promoting social distancing.

Research and any other activities beyond course instruction should not be conducted on campus at this time. Again, anyone with concerns should contact their department heads.

Please remember, the College is holding a virtual Town Hall conversation for faculty and staff from 3 to 4 p.m. today. While we may not have answers to all of your questions, we want to hear what's on your mind so we can seek out answers from University leadership. Please connect with us via Zoom: https://psu.zoom.us/j/445722933

As Provost Jones emphasized in his message, "this is a rapidly evolving situation, and there may be new directives issued by the governor and/or other governmental and health agencies in the coming hours and days. We appreciate everyone’s understanding and flexibility."

Prior to our conversation, if you have any questions or concerns, please share them with the leadership team by emailing edrelations@psu.edu.

Best,
Kim

March 18, 5:30 p.m.

Members of the College faculty and staff community,

Again, I want to thank you for the flexibility and teamwork you all have shown in the past few weeks as we have transitioned to remote teaching and working. You all are to be commended for the extraordinary work you've done to make this happen.

Today's announcement that Penn State is extending remote course delivery and work through spring semester may raise additional concerns for you. I believe the best way to find out what's on your mind, and provide you with the most up-to-date information we have, is to hold a virtual town hall.

Please join me and the rest of our College of Education leadership team from 3 to 4 p.m. this Friday, March 20, on Zoom.

I hope to have all of you join us for this virtual meeting. This particular meeting is for faculty and staff only, we have been asked to wait until the University holds their town hall next Tuesday to hold a virtual town hall with students (which we are doing). Prior to our conversation, if you have any questions or concerns, please share them with the leadership team by emailing edrelations@psu.edu.

Thank you again for all you are doing.

Best,
Kim

March 18, 2020; 11:21 a.m.

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 edrelations@psu.edu.

Best,
Kim

March 15, 2020

Dear College of Education,

On the eve of moving to our new “virtual” reality (for at least the next few weeks), I wanted to send out a note of gratitude to you all.  While none of us know what to expect as we march forward, I think it important to take a moment to realize just how much we have accomplished together in the past two weeks. We each put things on hold to ensure the security and health of our community. We have created a massive shift to remote learning, putting our students’ learning and experiences at the forefront of our planning. We have developed creative solutions to business operations at a distance to ensure continuity of services. We have demonstrated that together we are so much more than we are alone, and that there is nothing that cannot be accomplished when working together. I am proud to be a member of this College and University and honored to work and learn with you each and every day.

As we move into the practice of safe social distancing and in some cases “sheltering in place,” please remember that we do not have to be disconnected. Reach out to people, including me, for support, co-problem solving or anything else that comes to mind.  Stay safe, but also stay a community.

Thank you so very deeply for being such an amazing community of resilience, promise and practice!

#WeAre
Kim

March 13, 2020

Members of the College of Education faculty and staff 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 faculty and staff. I am sending similar messages to undergraduate and graduate students, 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 https://remoteteaching.psu.edu for faculty and graduate students who are new to teaching a remote class, and  https://remotelearning.psu.edu for undergraduate and graduate students who are new to attending a remote class.

I strongly encourage all of you to visit the https://remoteteaching.psu.edu site, as it contains valuable information that can help even those who are experienced in remote course delivery. Please share the https://remotelearning.psu.edu resource with your students in your Canvas course spaces to proactively help them adjust to this new way of taking their classes.

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.

Also on Monday, a great number of our staff members will be working remotely. Again, we have many resources, including a readiness checklist and a technology how-to document to assist staff with this transition and enable us to keep our offices open for business.

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 or completing work remotely, reach out to your direct supervisor or department head as soon as possible so we can work to assist you.

Our CETC team has been working diligently to assist faculty and staff with these transitions to remote work and course delivery. They have been given access to Canvas, and are available to assist with basic setup if faculty members have difficulty in reaching the primary Canvas support channels. They will be at the ready on Monday to assist with any difficulties. The best way to contact the CETC is through their well-established ticketing system. To fill out a ticket, click here or go to the College home page and click on the link in the right-hand column of the footer.

Many faculty members 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 foundhere; 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.

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 edrelations@psu.edu.

Best,
Kim Lawless

March 11, 2020

To all College of Education managers/supervisors and staff:

Good afternoon,

Since the University has decided to move to remote learning for all classes beginning Monday, March 16, through Friday, April 3rd, it is important to remember the University is remaining open.

What does this mean for staff?

At this time, staff are expected to work unless they are ill or have approved scheduled time off.  However, we are expecting our managers/supervisors to be working with their staff to accommodate telecommuting for those staff members whose responsibilities can be accomplished outside of a University office and/or traditional work schedule.  We are encouraging all of our employees to consider what it might look like for their office to remain open for business while still being able to work remotely.  For instance, can office phones be transferred to your home phone or cell phone to allow you to conduct business remotely?  Can we post on our office doors contact information so that visitors will have the ability to reach someone to accomplish University business?

The attached documents - Temporary Telework Arrangements During COVID-19 OutbreakEmployee Expectations – Temporary Teleworking Arrangement; and Manager Expectations – Temporary Teleworking Arrangement - will provide guidance to you around temporary telecommuting arrangements and expectations. University HRG02 Alternate Work Arrangements (https://policy.psu.edu/policies/hrg02) and other related University guidelines are currently being adjusted to streamline the telecommuting process during this period. It is important that Megan Houser and I be kept in the loop with any telecommuting arrangement.  This notification is not a change from previous practice.

As Dr. Barron’s earlier correspondence mentioned, we expect our staff to stay home if they are feeling sick. For staff who are at high risk for complications from contracting the coronavirus and/or have specific health concerns, we should strongly be suggesting they not to come into the office.

Our goal will continue to be as flexible as we possibly can in accommodating all of our employees, especially around this temporary telecommuting period.  In return, we are trusting in you to work from home accordingly and to account for your time appropriately.

Again, please reach out to Megan or I with any concerns or questions you may have.

Best,
Jerry

Gerald K. Henry, Jr.
Strategic Business Partner, Human Resources

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 https://news.psu.edu/ 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 edrelations@psu.edu.

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

Best,

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 https://sites.psu.edu/virusinfo/faqs/ 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 6, 2020

Penn State Human Resources (HR) has created a COVID-19 (coronavirus) webpage for our employees. The coronavirus webpage includes specific guidelines and frequently asked questions pertaining to the coronavirus and how it pertains to our faculty and staff. This page will be updated on a regular basis and we encourage you to bookmark the page to stay up to date on the expectations set forth for our employees.

As a reminder, concerning alternate working arrangements and scheduling matters, please direct questions to College HR. Should you have any further questions regarding the guidelines outlined on the HR COVID-19 webpage, please reach out to Absence Management via email to or by phone at 814-865-1782.

Please go to Workday and make sure your contact information is correct. Instructions on how you can view and update your current contact information can be found here.

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 https://sites.psu.edu/virusinfo/ - 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 https://sites.psu.edu/virusinfo/ 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 https://sites.psu.edu/virusinfo 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