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Messages for staff members from Dean Lawless and Human Resources

Sept. 18, 2020

College of Education Weekly Update, Fall – Week 4

Fall Meeting of the College

Our Fall meeting of the college is set for Friday, Sept. 25 from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. In addition to a review of our accomplishments from the past year, and planning around our future excellence, Kelly Wolgast, director of the Penn State COVID Operations Control Center, will join us for a portion of the meeting to update us and answer questions about the Penn State COVID response. Look for an email in the next few days with Zoom connection information.

University Town hall

Penn State leaders will host a virtual Town Hall event at 3 p.m. on Sept. 23 to answer University faculty and staff questions about the return to campus and Penn State’s ongoing response to the coronavirus.

The hourlong event will be streamed live at, and will be archived online for later viewing.

Joining Penn State President Eric Barron for the Town Hall will be:

  • Nick Jones, executive vice president and provost;
  • Dr. Kevin Black, interim dean of the College of Medicine;
  • Lorraine Goffe, vice president for Human Resources; and
  • Kelly Wolgast, director of the Penn State COVID-19 Operations Control Center.

Questions can be submitted in advance anonymously via Google Forms at:

For more information, check Penn State News.

CoE presence at Board of Trustees

The University Board of Trustees is meeting this week, and this afternoon, our own Peggy Van Meter will join via Zoom during President Barron's remarks to the board. Peggy is scheduled to talk about what it's been like to teach a class in the Bryce Jordan Center sometime between 1 and 2 p.m. although the timing could vary. Tune in here.

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 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.

Promotion and Tenure

Several new FAQs pertaining to promotion and tenure were added to the University's 2020-2021 Promotion and Tenure FAQ document to provide guidance about processes in the midst of the pandemic. Please see FAQs #68, 70, and 71 for updated information about peer teaching reviews, an updated charge to the committee, and virtual meetings.

Activity Insights

Department heads were informed last year prior to the career conference that the 19-20 year was the last year that paper-based records of activities would be accepted. Starting this year, all information for the career conferences must be submitted in Activity Insights.

While I agree with you that the system is cumbersome, the lack of a persistent digital archive prevents us from being able to publicize the aggregate work of the college; uncover, track and reward "hidden work"; and identify themes across faculty, programs and departments. It also limits our ability to make sure resources are targeted in places to support the work of the college or have data to support our progress as a unit. In addition, without a process for updating the database annually, the burden on faculty going through P&T to do it all in a single year is oppressive. Thank you for helping us with this important task.

Spring course modes

I understand that folks are going through difficult decision-making right now about spring course modes. While I have stated that that I hope the college can marshal forward a substantive in-person footprint, I realize the best decision- making on this is at the individual and program level. Faculty within programs have the most nuanced understanding of the best mode of delivery for courses balancing both student's needs and the potential spring health climate. Thank you for all you are considering as you weigh the options.

Contact tracing update

Many of you have experienced lags in notification of from Student Affairs regarding your student's test results. This is very frustrating! The process was impacted by the decision to have contact tracers reach the student prior to sending faculty an email – which in some cases took several days. The process has now been revised to notify faculty before the contact tracers have made contact with the student. So, notifications should be timelier moving forward. Please continue to let me know when the process is not working so I can have evidence to bring forward to support my continued arguments to refine the process.

Also, as the University continues to address these 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.

Form , Forms, Forms…

I know there seems to be a proliferation of forms that must be filled out for various reasons related to COVID-19 policies, procedures and protocols. We have collected them all in one place on our website, and have linked to that page from the Faculty and Staff Resources page under College Policies and Guidelines in the right-hand column, and also from the College of Education Back To State website, to make it easier for you to find them. The forms are:

Flu shots

The University has announced a three-pronged approach for the 2020 flu vaccine clinics for faculty and staff this fall, with information available on Penn State News. Additional information, including clinic schedules, registration information and how to obtain a voucher, will be provided via an email to your Penn State email address by early next week.

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.

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!



Sept. 11, 2020

College of Education Fall Update – Week 3

Remember and reflect

Today is a day to pause and to reflect...

I think we all likely remember exactly where we were and what we were doing when we heard the news of the terrorist strike on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. We remember 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. 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.

As I recall the response on my prior campus, as well as read about the response here at Penn State, I can't help but think of the similarities to what is happening in our nation today with the pandemic and the battle against systemic racism. How are we as a college community responding to these events? What are we doing to connect with our students to see how they are doing and how these events are impacting them? 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 the faculty who participated in the #Scholarstrike. Engaging our students in conversations about race, systemic racism and inequity over the course of those two days is a critical step toward thinking about how our curriculum can be used as a force of change. I would be really interested in learning more from you regarding how students responded and what you feel were powerful activities that really pushed deep reflection, perspective change and the empowerment of our students to be agents of change. Please share your thoughts with me at

Class modes

I hope you have had a chance to read the email I sent yesterday regarding the need to choose course instructional modes by Sept. 25. If you did not, please read it here. In that email, I shared the considerations I am trying to balance as dean in formulating decisions for our college, our students and our community, both for our immediate safety and for the long-term stability of our college.

I ask that you also will weigh these factors as you talk with your PICs and make decisions regarding your mode of delivery for your spring courses.

Please also note, the calendar for the spring has not yet been set. The start and end dates, as well as the inclusion of a Spring Break will be determined closer to the end of the fall semester.

Advising request

Because of a compressed course registration schedule, Greg Mason, director of Advising and Certification, has requested that those of us teaching first-year seminars spread the word to our students that they can make Zoom advising appointments now via Starfish, but that the appointment 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 these 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.

Students will be getting detailed information on this timeline soon, but passing the word along in your respective section(s) of EDUC 100 will help reinforce the message. Thank you.

Zoom changes

On Sept. 27, the Zoom vendor is implementing changes worldwide to enhance meeting security. Zoom meetings will require a passcode (formerly referred to as password), or a waiting room to be enabled for all meetings. Any Zoom meetings that have already been scheduled and do not have a passcode configured will automatically have waiting rooms enabled. Users can customize the waiting room to allow individuals within Penn State’s domain, or on an approved list of domains, to bypass the waiting room, and directly join the meeting.

Full details on meeting waiting rooms and passcode requirements are available on Zoom’s website. The announcement from Penn State can be found here.

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. Our health, that of our family and friends, balance work and personal life, managing the learning of our students and our children, and the list goes on…

The emotional and mental toll this has taken on all of us should not be underestimated. And we all carry this as we continue 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 colleagues in person, or to have the interactions we're used to having with our students.

At the same time, as I looked back at the emails I've sent to staff, faculty and students 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. Contact the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) if you need counseling. Email your PIC, department head, direct supervisor, or me if there is anything you feel we can do to help you.

Thank you so very deeply for everything you do!



Sept. 4, 2020

College of Education Fall Update – Week 2

Happy Friday! Now that we have rounded out the second week of classes, I want to thank all of you for the work you are doing to provide an excellent educational experience for our students – whether in person or remote. As we began to move into the full surveillance plan for testing, we have all noticed numbers ticking up and have had a few of our students test positive. Notification, whether from a student or from student services should be seen as a positive indicator that the system is working – we are removing those who can spread the virus from our shared spaces until they are no longer contagious.

The overall positivity count can be an anxiety inducing metric – I share this concern. Please remember, we have a layered system where behavior is the number one strategy for mitigating the virus – masking, social distancing and hand sanitization. While it is impossible to stop COVID-19 from being present on our campus, these three behaviors mitigate the spread of the virus. Please, whether on campus or off, continue to observe these vigilantly, and encourage others to do so as well.

Labor Day

I know this Labor Day weekend is unusual in that some of you will be working on Monday because classes will be held. Thank you to those of you who are teaching or staffing our spaces on Labor Day. Your continuing flexibility and willingness to do what's needed is admirable, and appreciated.

According to an article on Penn State News, employees who must work on this holiday will be eligible for compensation and compensatory time, as outlined in the “Holidays” section of Policy HR34 or the applicable collective bargaining agreement.

Only those whose presence truly is necessary should work on Monday. Anyone scheduled to work remotely should observe the Labor Day holiday, as usual.

From President Barron

President Barron sent an email to all University Park students this afternoon. In it, he addresses the rising number of COVID-19 cases on campus. I echo his request, to faculty and staff as well as to our student population:

"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. As President Barron stated, "all it takes is everybody."

Contact tracing

There has been concern among faculty about the contact tracing process for those on campus who test positive for COVID-19. For some, the process has been frustrating, and I share your frustration.

The University has clarified the process, which they are enhancing, in an article on Penn State News and in the University FAQ. In short, Penn State’s contact tracing process prioritizes getting the COVID-positive individual into isolation. After reaching out to the individual who has tested positive for COVID, contact tracers contact those who have been identified by the COVID-positive individual as close contacts. Finally, contact tracers will notify others who might need to know, such as faculty members and instructors via an email from a “Student Support Services” address.

The University also will be rolling out electronic processes that enable someone to self-identify that they have tested positive for COVID or that they may be a close contact of a COVID-positive individual. This may shorten the amount of time that passes before a faculty member is notified of a positive case in their class.


As incidents of racial injustice continue to occur to plague 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 hope that you demonstrate your solidarity with this movement by choosing to use this time as a means to engage your students in learning and discussion of systemic racism and violence against Black members and all members of color in our local and national community. If you are struggling to identify how you might approach this task, I urge you to contact Maria Schmidt, Assistant Dean of Education and Social Equity, who will put you in contact with a member of our College’s Equity Team for guidance.

The University's Office of Educational Equity has developed a robust set of resources that are available to you as you consider how to engage with this topic or that may be of interest to your students.

The College's office of Education and Social Equity 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 details to share with your students.

Another way to engage your students on this important topic is to encourage them to attend the Toward Racial Equity at Penn State roundtable at 6 p.m. Sept. 8. If you’re interested in providing extra credit for students who attend the roundtable, tell your students to login at Using that URL, the team at WPSU will be able to disaggregate students' participation by name, PSUID, student status (undergraduate or graduate), and major. They will then send you a spreadsheet with this information so you can credit those who attend.

I also understand there are members of our college staff who will be participating in some hours of professional development on the 8th/9th. To end the scourge of racism and police brutality on members on Black and all communities of color, it will take all of us – thank you for showing your solidarity.

For additional events, visit the University-wide diversity and inclusion calendar at

Save the date – Fall meeting

In case you missed the email that went out on our faculty and staff listserv earlier this week, I wanted to remind you that our fall meeting of the college will be held via Zoom from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 25.

I haven’t figured out how to have a Creamery ice cream station for a Zoom gathering, but you can feel free to bring your own ice cream when we gather virtually!

In addition to my update on various areas of the college, I am hoping to have a robust conversation that depends on your participation, so please do plan to join us.

Stay safe

Whether you have a two-day weekend or an extended three-day holiday, please be sure to enjoy some down time where you can relax and rejuvenate safely.

Be well,


Aug. 28, 2020

College of Education Update - Fall Semester, Week 1

Week One is under our belt and we did an outstanding job for our students and our community!

Happy to be here

It is great to see our students back on campus, even in this throttled, masked, socially distanced way. They bring life and energy to our buildings, and I didn't realize just how much I missed them until they returned on Monday.

This semester, I am co-teaching an in-person, First-Year Seminar course with Annemarie Mountz. Our class met on Wednesday, and we both were very comfortable with the safety measures put into place. Our students could not have been more respectful and happy to be here. You could see their smiles in their eyes.

All of our students were in full compliance with all of the safety protocols, and fully engaged in the class. They even stood in a socially distanced line to get sanitizing wipes to clean off their chairs before they left at the end of class.

When we asked them about highs and lows for the past week, nearly all of them shared that the most positive thing for them was simply that they were here, in person, interacting with each other and with faculty. They want so much to be here on campus that they are more than willing to comply with the safety protocols that can keep them here.

Several other faculty members reported the same thing to me. I popped into several classes this week to great students and make sure everything was moving forward smoothly and safely. We all felt completely safe in the classroom environment, whether we were teaching 21 students in Health and Human Development Building, or 125 students in the Bryce Jordan Center.

Changes to course delivery mode

There have been some reports of faculty delaying the in-person component of their CM courses, or starting out their CP courses remotely when they should be meeting completely in person.

As Provost Nick Jones stated in an email that went out to all faculty, this is troubling and may not be done without consultation with your unit head. Students enrolled in CP and CM courses and moved to State College with the expectation of a certain type of delivery mode and to change so rapidly appears to be a "bait and switch."

Such a switch from in person to remote, and even delayed starts, may also put first year international students at risk since they need to take at least one in person course to legally remain in the United States.

Further, if students have no reason to be on campus for classes, they may not be part of the surveillance testing process, so it will be more difficult for us to identify new cases, quarantine and control the spread of the virus. This increases the risk level for us both campus and community.

We are all trying to thread an impossibly small needle where we balance the health and safety of students and faculty with the economic security of many employees on campus and our community whose livelihood depends on students populating State College. Because they had to go to remote status, UMass has indefinitely furloughed 850 employees, including dining hall workers and residence hall operations staff, with additional permanent layoffs on the horizon. These people lost their jobs because there are no students to house or feed and nobody using the classrooms they maintain. So we have to TRY… the only way to thread that needle is to try.

While of course it is possible for an instructor or faculty member to switch due to changing circumstances, this switch should not be done without due consideration of the impact and consequences to our students and our fellow employees, and must be done in consultation with your department head.

If you have not yet held your class in person, I urge you to do so before you consider a change of mode. If, once you have taught in person, you still have concerns about your health and safety, please raise these concerns with your unit head so they can be addressed.

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 – faculty and staff – 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. Faculty and staff who don't participate will be referred to Human Resources.

Contact tracing

There also is some confusion about the contact-tracing process. If a student does test positive, faculty members will be notified that the student may not be present in class for a specified period of time. However, 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, other individuals in the classroom will likely not 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 participate in a 3-hour COVID-19 Contact Tracing course offered by the College of Nursing through the Penn State Extension website. The course is offered for free to anyone with a PSU email.

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 current strategy for any place, whether a K-12 school, a university, a city or a state, is not targeted at elimination, but rather a focus on managing it.

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

As we progress through this semester, our goal is to identify positive cases and manage the spread by removing them from circulation as quickly as possible. As we move forward and test, the numbers of positive cases 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. In response to social events over the past week at fraternities and East Halls, the university is also using a nimble system of “pop-up” testing centers in these locations. This process will continue if additional events occur moving forward.

Finally, there is increased evidence that the testing of waste water from facilities on campus will also be a significant factor in our layered plan to identify potential clusters.

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

New policy

A new Penn State policy, AD101 (COVID-19), outlines Penn State’s requirements and expectations with respect to masking, social distancing, surveillance testing, contact tracing, gatherings, and other COVID-related health and safety measures. In those few instances when an instructor or faculty member willfully refuses or chooses to not comply with these requirements, such as not wearing a face mask in instructional or research settings, encouraging students not to follow face mask wearing requirements, or refusing to participate in surveillance testing, guidance documents have been developed so that situations involving faculty members and instructors are handled fairly and consistently across all Penn State campuses.

Please see the Guidance on Instructor/Researcher Violation of Face Mask Requirements and Guidance for AD101 Violations for Faculty and Instructors for more details. Graduate students serving as “Instructors-of- Record” or Teaching Assistants (TAs) can find guidance here.


Again, I want to thank all of you who did so much work to make this fall semester happen. So many people did so much, and I want you to know that your hard work is recognized by your fellow faculty and staff members, and also by our students. The reason we are being featured by the University's central communications unit, both on Penn State News and in the video they are making, is that our College is recognized centrally for the work that we did for our students. #COEStrong!

Be well,

Aug. 21, 2020

Immeasurable Gratitude

I want to start off this email by thanking each and every one of you who worked so hard to get us to where we are today, ready to start our fall semester on Monday. While Monday is a big day, I would be remiss if didn’t take time to reflect on the past six months.

In an email to the college right before we when remote in March, I wrote “As we move into the practice of safe social distancing … 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.”

I know circumstances have been very difficult on everyone. I don't think any one of us could ever have imagined the roller coaster ride we have been on together since the pandemic sent Penn State into remote status last March. But through it all, we did stay a community and we strengthened our resolve, our compassion and our responsibility to one another.

In the spring, we flipped to remote teaching/learning at the drop of a dime; adapted to new grading schemes with only a few weeks left in the spring semester; put together virtual commencements for spring and summer; and worked from home while being on lockdown managing our jobs and our families. As we progressed into the summer, we rearranged our portfolios and our classrooms; figured out how to de-densify our spaces; switched to a new budget model and SIMBA; and were able to maintain healthy enrollments for fall because our departments were generous with offerings of in-person classes.

That is not an exhaustive list, but rather some highlights of what we accomplished over the last six months. As each of those things was thrown our way due to circumstances that were beyond our control, we took deep breaths, rolled up our sleeves and made it all happen. We as a College rose to every challenge. While I don't think that any of us envisioned a fall semester like the one that starts on Monday, we are ready for our students to return, both in person and remotely. And we never could have gotten to where we are without all of the hard work, perseverance and teamwork exhibited by our faculty and staff.

We are ready.

We have implemented all precautionary measures as directed by the University, the state and the CDC. Students have enrolled and moved into our community. They are entrusting us to provide to them the best learning experience possible under the circumstances, and we are entrusting them to comply with health guidelines and requirements to keep us all safe. While we don’t know what lies ahead of us, I'm grateful to all of you who have done everything possible to get us to this point, putting forth our best efforts for our students.

I am so proud of my amazing colleagues in our College, and feel truly blessed to be your dean.

Racial Justice

In the midst of the pandemic disruption, the killing by police of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, along with other unspeakable tragedies, ignited a national awakening to the systemic racism that pervades our nation. In response, we in the College of Education issued our written commitment to equity, and drew up our Leadership Resolution and Initial College of Education Action Plan. These documents make transparent our commitment to combat and actively dismantle persistent, systemic racism. Many faculty and staff in the College have endorsed the resolution. I invite you to read it and if you agree, to click on the link to add your name to those already listed.

We already have begun to address the 10 commitments we made in the action plan, and more work will be done this semester and will continue until systemic racism is wiped from world. We are in the process of identifying faculty and others who will lead the efforts on some of these action items. If you are interested in assisting, please email

Mask Up … or Pack Up

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. The intent of these actions is to reinforce the Wolf Administration and University safety guidelines, shift attitudes and behaviors of the hard-to-persuade, and make essential preventative behaviors widely practiced.

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 private office 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.

Sadly, there already have been very public examples of students falling well short of expectations – the now 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.

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.

Faculty and Staff Quarantine

We have heard from some students that their faculty members told them they would be away this week in advance of the start of classes on Monday, and those students are wondering why they must self-quarantine for a week before arriving, but faculty are not being held to that same requirement. Faculty and staff are being held to the same health and safety requirements as students.

If you are away this week, you have a responsibility to self-quarantine for seven days so you do not put your students and co-workers at risk. The University is quite clear on this matter, and there are penalties for faculty, staff and students who do not comply with the health guidance for working, living and being on campus. Read details, including compliance and enforcement measures, on Penn State News.

Quick updates

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 the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) if you need counseling. Email your PIC, department head, direct supervisor, or me if there is anything you feel we can do to help you.

Thank you so very deeply for everything you do!


Aug. 14, 2020

College of Education Update

Apologies in advance for the denseness of the information in this email and the directness of some of the information. There is a lot of confusion around a couple of topics, so I wanted to make sure the information is clear. Please also note that underlined text represents links.

Coming to campus

Any work by faculty and staff that can be done remotely should be done remotely.

There are some people who must be on campus to work. Our students have an expectation of an in-person experience for at least some of their classes, and so we have faculty who have stepped up and agreed to teach in person (thank you). We also have staff who must occupy our spaces on a rotating basis to support that in-person teaching mission. There have also been a few exceptions granted for research that cannot be conducted remotely (e.g., restricted data sets, field-based research).

We made a commitment to these faculty and staff to keep them as safe as possible, using a layered approach. Everyone must wear masks. Everyone must remain socially distanced. And we must collectively reduce the density of our spaces, which also helps reduce the number of people touching doorknobs and using restrooms, copy machines and other office equipment.

De-densifying our spaces means that nobody should be in our spaces unless they have an approved business need to be there to do something that they cannot do remotely. For faculty who do not have reliable internet connections we have set up Zoom rooms for that purpose. Contact Julian Morales to reserve Zoom room space if needed.

I am asking everyone to move forward exercising ethical responsibility for yourselves and for others in our spaces.

Forms, forms, forms

There has also been some confusion over which forms must be filled out by whom and for which purpose. There are several forms, so I will try to clear up that confusion here.

  • Return to the Workplace
    • To be used for individuals who have a business need to be on campus on a regular basis, such as for teaching an in-person course or providing staff support in departmental spaces.
    • Only supervisors or department heads may fill out this form. Forms filled out by anyone else will be rejected.
    • If you feel you need to be approved for a regular presence on campus, speak to your supervisor or department head.
  • Return to Research
    • To be used for individuals whose research cannot be done remotely (e.g., a restricted data set, or in person data collection).
    • If you feel you your research needs to be conducted on campus or in person elsewhere, contact Greg Kelly and he will facilitate the process with you.
  • Drop in to a College of Education building
    • To be used for individuals who need to retrieve personal belongings or other items needed to facilitate remote work. Drop-in visits should be limited to an hour.
    • Individuals fill out the form, found here, stating the location, date, time and reason for the visit. The form should be filled out at least a day in advance whenever possible. Requests typically are approved within 24 hours.

We need these forms filled out to enable us to confirm we are de-densify our spaces. We also need to know who is occupying our spaces and when they are there for purposes of contact tracing. Departmental lead staff assistants will have access to this information, and will work with our pandemic safety officer, Julian Morales, to help with keeping track of those entering our work spaces.

No guests, please

One additional note on the topic of occupying our spaces: in last week's email, I explained the need for you to complete a College of Education "Drop- In" Visit Request form before coming to campus. What I did not make clear was that those forms are for employees – faculty and staff – only. De-densifying our spaces means that nobody should be in our spaces unless they have a business need to be there. When you find it necessary to come to campus, the expectation is that you will come alone, and not have family members or others with you. Bringing additional people into the workplace increases their risk, as well as the risk for those who must be in those spaces to do their work.

If you have children and are not able to have someone else watch them while you are on campus, let us know in advance and we will be happy to facilitate curbside delivery or make other arrangements to assist you in getting what you need so that you do not bring them into the workplace.

Keep Teaching resources

The Keep Teaching website has been updated and reorganized to better surface information to help faculty gear up for fall semester, which now is just over a week away. The site includes areas that focus on the different instructional modes, technology training, webinars, support and more.

Also included is a document on Instruction, Universal Masking and PPE Recommendations. This comprehensive document covers pedagogical learning environments, universal masking and personal protective equipment (PPE), physical distancing consideration, classroom layout and technology evaluation, acoustic testing, various classroom and lab settings, classroom cleaning and disinfection guidance, disabilities and special considerations, enforcement and other topics. It can be quite daunting to try to read through the entire 34-page document, so my suggestion is that you look at the table of contents and read the areas that most pertain to your situation.

How safe is my building?

Penn State’s Office of Physical Plant (OPP) has been gearing up for months for the return to campus by carefully evaluating all building mechanical and life safety systems to determine that they are 100% functional and ready for occupancy. OPP follows a lengthy checklist, meeting or exceeding all of the building systems requirements of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and undertaking intense corrective/preventive maintenance for every building at every campus.

The CDC and others have indicated that COVID-19 is spread primarily through person-to-person contact and, while possible, it is not probable that it spreads through surfaces. In addition to the critical first-line measures already outlined (masking/social distancing/hand sanitizing) – which help mitigate large droplet and aerosol transmission of the virus – along with intense cleaning and disinfecting of facilities, the University is undertaking more rigorous steps to further mitigate possible risk inside buildings.

Changes to building operations – including heating, ventilating and air- conditioning (HVAC) systems – can reduce airborne exposures, which are only a serious problem when there is a system that re-uses air, according to the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHREA). OPP has modified where appropriate how buildings operate to provide more ventilation, air flow and outdoor air being brought into buildings.

With the exception of individual offices, Penn State is not using spaces that rely wholly on recirculated air.

  • Private offices with individual air conditioning units: It’s recommended people not share offices. If you are alone in your office, the air recirculating is your own. If you can’t avoid sharing an office, make sure you have enough space between individuals and wear a mask. An option would be to alternate days of office use.
  • Residence Halls: There is no exchange of air between rooms. Residence halls operate on a fan coil system, with operable windows for ventilation.
  • Classrooms: Only using spaces where there is air circulation.

COVID-19 research

There has been an avalanche of information about the transmission of COVID-19 available from a number of sources – some reputable and some questionable.

Those interested can follow the developing scientific literature on COVID-19 transmission dynamics through a continually updated index of published papers and pre-published manuscripts maintained by the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine (CEBM) based at the University of Oxford. Studies included here meet published CEBM open evidence review protocol criteria and may not capture all emerging studies.

As we follow evolving literature (and/or the media coverage of it) we all need to remember what we teach our students – that we need to use our critical literacy skills to consider evidence; that each individual study has its own flaws; that the findings may not apply to different groups or settings; and that no one study typically provides “the answer” to a complex question.

Updates from Penn State News

There was a lot of information released on Penn State News this week. In case you missed it:

Stay informed

As the semester draws near, I want to remind everyone again to please check and read your email regularly for important information updates from me, from department heads and PICs, and from the University. All of the details everyone has been waiting for all summer are now being finalized, so it's important to stay tuned into official University communication channels to get the information you need as we begin the semester.

To obtain comprehensive, updated information at any time, please review:


Whew – that was a long one, thanks for reading to the end. I want to extend my gratitude for everyone’s hard work and patience during this incredibly tenuous time for us all. I know it has not been easy, but I am so proud to be member of this College and blessed to work with each and every one of you every day. Even in a pandemic, there is no better place to be than Penn State – together we can tackle anything. Finally, please use this weekend to enjoy some of the waning days of the “academic summer.”

All my best,


Aug. 7, 2020

Stay informed

As the semester draws near, I want to remind everyone to please check your email regularly for important information updates from me, from department heads and PICs, and from the University. All of the details everyone has been waiting for all summer are now being finalized, so it's important to stay tuned into official University communication channels to get the information you need as we begin the semester.

Coming to campus

A key component to the University's safety plan is contact tracing. If someone tests positive for COVID-19, it's imperative that we know with whom they may have been in contact on campus, so we can alert those who may be at risk. To do this effectively, we need to know who is in our buildings, and when.

Supervisors or department heads should already have filled out the Return to Work authorization forms for those faculty and staff who need to be on campus to teach or to provide staff support for our teaching mission. These forms must be approved by several people, including Provost Jones, before individuals are permitted to return to working on campus.

The University has made it clear that all University employees who are able to continue working remotely should do so. This will help us keep building occupancy down and reduce the risk for those who do have to be on campus.

We understand that those of you who are working remotely may find it necessary to "drop in" on campus occasionally. To facilitate effective contact-tracing, those who need to drop in must complete a College of Education "Drop-In" Visit Request form before coming to campus.

Course delivery modes

There has been a persistent question in the College about whether or not faculty are required to provide their courses in an alternate delivery mode than the delivery mode designated for the course. The email you should have received from Vice Provost Kathy Bieschke on Tuesday, Aug. 4, answers that question quite definitively. It reads:

No, instructors are not required to provide courses in delivery modes other than the delivery mode designated for their course. Instructors should consider how students may make up missed work if students are out for short or lengthy periods of time.

For student expectations for in-person courses, review the in-person details page. Students are expected to attend all classes in-person. Instructors should follow Faculty Senate policy 42-27—Class Attendance, with some flexibility. If a window of absence is lengthy, instructors may need to consider additional flexibility.

Although instructors are not required to provide courses in delivery modes other than the one designated or prepare their courses in multiple delivery modes, they may be asked to consider alternative ways for students to participate, especially if students who have chosen Learn from Home options have no other course sections to choose from. Not all courses can be offered in a different mode than that originally scheduled.

You can read other FAQs related to Fall 2020 instruction on the Keep Teaching website’s FAQ page.

Remote teaching from campus

Another question I've received is whether faculty members who are teaching remotely may use their offices to deliver their courses. If you are teaching remotely and have internet issues that prevent you from teaching effectively from home, we want to be responsive to that need. However, we also wanted to take into consideration your health and safety in traveling through shared student spaces such as lobbies, stairwells, elevators, and restrooms, and the health and safety of your colleagues in these spaces who are required to be on campus.

To that end, we have converted two conference rooms that are not near offices or other classroom spaces into Zoom course delivery rooms for your use. These rooms are located on the first floor of the North side of the chambers building which will not be permitting student traffic (doors locked). In addition, these rooms have solstice monitors in them which will also make it a bit nicer for your course delivery. These rooms must be reserved for your specific class times.

Contact Julian Morales for more information or to schedule a room.

When students are isolated or quarantined

The following information has been shared with Penn State deans and will be included in one of the guides coming out from the University:

Students who test positive or are presumed positive for Covid19 will be expected to isolate. Students who have had close contact with a confirmed case will be asked to quarantine. During that time, some students may be able to attend classes remotely, but those who manifest symptoms may not be able to participate remotely.

  • After a case of infection is confirmed and the individual is isolated, tracing of close contacts (closer than 6 feet for 10 minutes, starting from 48 hours before the infected person began feeling sick or had a positive test result if asymptomatic) begins. Because classrooms are socially distanced, instructors and classmates are not automatically considered close contacts. More information about what happens when students test positive can be found here.
  • The Contract Tracing and Student Support Services Office will notify faculty members for classes with face-to-face components (i.e., in-person or mixed-mode classes) when a student has tested positive, is presumed positive (awaiting test results) or has been identified as a close contact. This notification will include specific dates that the student may not attend class due to a medical reason. It is important to note that this notification does not necessarily mean a student has COVID-19. If the student gives permission to do so, the University will share the student’s specific circumstance. If the student is infected with COVID-19, and has not recovered by the initial date provided to return to class, the faculty member will be notified that the time has been extended. A notification will be sent to the faculty member and student to indicate when the student is permitted to return to class. If a student returns to class before the permitted date, a report should be made to the Office of Student Conduct.
  • Instructors should facilitate the ability for students in quarantine or isolation to continue making progress in the course as they are able, through either remote or asynchronous participation. For students who are unable to continue making progress, instructors should be flexible in extending due dates and providing alternative examinations without a penalty.

Student Compact

Students are required to agree to the Penn State Coronavirus Compact, which is now available in LionPATH. The compact – which all undergraduate and graduate students at every campus location must confirm that they have read before returning to Penn State or beginning classes – outlines health and safety expectations and requirements for the upcoming semester.

We are aware of a number of concerns from both students and faculty regarding this document and are working to get answers from central administration. While we are waiting on a number of responses, what I have been informed on is that this Compact is not a legal waiver, it is an acknowledgement of increased risk and the individual responsibility of students to help mitigate this risk through masking, social distancing, limited groups size and proper hand sanitization.

I will continue to update you on any additional information I receive on the compact.

Updates from the Vice Provost

For more information

To obtain comprehensive, updated information at any time, please review:

Enjoy the weekend

As we get closer to the start of classes and we spend more time preparing for the return of our students, please remember to take time for yourself. Your health and well-being – both physical and mental – are of the utmost importance. Please, take care of you.



July 31, 2020

Town hall follow-up

President Barron and other University leaders held a virtual town hall yesterday in which they shared more specific plans for fall. Much of the virtual event focused on the University’s testing plans, isolation and quarantine, and other measures designed to manage the spread of coronavirus and maintain the health and safety of students, faculty and staff, and local communities. Read a summary of the topics covered on Penn State News.

The town hall also included information about pre-arrival requirements for students, including details about the student compact and other requirements and expectations. Those requirements include mandatory pre-arrival COVID-19 testing for 30,000 students living in counties across the United States with high infection rates. These requirements are spelled out in another story on Penn State News.

The Back to State testing, contact tracing and monitoring plans that were outlined in the town hall also can be found on Penn State News.

Of course, all of these plans hinge on the cooperation of all of us – faculty, staff, students, administrators and members of the surrounding community – to do our part by wearing our masks, social distancing and being diligent about hand sanitization. If we all work to make this the "normal" behavior, that will go a long way toward containing the spread of this virus.

Sunday's COVID #s adjusted

News sources have reported that the initial number of new cases of COVID-19 reported last Sunday was inaccurate, and that the Department of Health has revised that number. The Department of Health concluded that a number of the tests were not valid. Those individuals were re-tested and 24 cases were removed. Details can be found on and in the Centre Daily Times.

Communication is key

While many of you may already have accessed the University's Fall 2020 Student Communications Recommendations document, it has undergone significant revisions since it was first released and new information has been added. It will continue to be revised so it's a good idea to keep referring back to it here.

This resource, available to all Penn State faculty, (requires WebAccess authentication) provides a suggested timeline for communication to students regarding fall instruction, as well as templates to streamline this process and ensure consistency with key information, and technical information to support faculty in using Canvas as a communications platform. Faculty can use and adapt this resource to suit their specific needs.

In that document, the first recommended communication to your students is this Monday, Aug. 3. This communication should use the appropriate template for your course mode, with some blanks to be filled in by you. This is not a detailed course outline. It simply is to communicate important information to students enrolled in your classes so they are clear about the mode of delivery and what they can expect in general terms.

It is my intention to send out an email to our students via the undergraduate student listserv and the graduate student listserv, letting them know to be on the lookout for those email messages from you.

There's an app for that

In the next few weeks, the Penn State Go mobile app will feature a symptom tracker that will allow users to check potential COVID-related symptoms and receive instructions if needed. I will share more information about this additional tool to help us control the spread of COVID-19 when I have it.

The iTwo Dashboard also is a valuable resource for faculty and advisers. Accessed through the VPN, iTwo is a web-based and metadata-driven data access, analysis and distribution environment available to Penn State information users. The information in iTwo can be triangulated with other data sources for faculty to get a better idea about whether students enrolled in classes intend to be remote or in person, which can be beneficial when setting up rotations for CM courses, for example.

Resources for faculty

The Keep Teaching website has a plethora of resources for faculty to use in planning their courses for fall. In particular, there are several resources available here for those faculty members who are teaching CM (mixed mode) courses.

Some instructors have made videos to describe their plans for mixed mode course experiences. These videos may give our faculty some ideas about their CM instruction, and also might offer models for ways our instructors could communicate course plans with students.

This site has extremely detailed information and resources for CM (mixed mode) instruction, along with links to similarly detailed pages with resources offered for the other three course modes. There also are many helpful links related to teaching across the modes.

Engaging students with course content through reflective activities, peer discussions, and instructor feedback increases the likelihood of their achieving learning outcomes. Consult the following resources for engaging your remote students:

For more information

To obtain comprehensive, updated information at any time, please review:

Thank you

I say it every week, but I cannot say it enough: thank you for all you are doing in support of providing our students with an exceptional learning experience this fall, whether you are teaching or in a support role. We could not do this without the efforts all of you are putting in to make this happen, and I am grateful for all of you. The semester begins in less than a month. While we all are under deadlines to make the semester happen, I do hope you can take some time for you. Be well!


July 24, 2020

Letter from President Barron

I hope you all had a chance to read the email from President Barron yesterday. His candid remarks should allay some of the concerns about teaching modes and back to campus safety that I've been hearing from many of you. He also discussed the flexible learning options and return to campus plans for the Board of Trustees. Details can be found on Penn State News.

His email message also is pretty clear about the financial challenges facing the University. As he stated, we are a tuition-driven University and enrollment overwhelmingly governs our budget. The best estimate of revenue for our educational budget is a loss of between $130 million and $150 million for the current year, and some scenarios suggest the financial loss could be nearly half a billion dollars with continued significant losses for multiple years.

With this stark financial reality, it's evident that this next year is going to be a very different and challenging year, and we are going to have to work together as a team to ensure the resources we do have as a College are used well to support our educational mission.

On the topic of the general frustration being communicated by many about the lack of details on much of the important planning for fall, the president said in his email that the University will be announcing another town hall meeting at which he will share more information about specific plans and action items to be ready for a return to campus.

President Barron also addressed the moral imperative to reverse systemic racism and bias, and introduced a new website,, which will house the University's work in this area.


We held two very informative forums in the College this week – one for faculty and staff on Tuesday, and one for students on Thursday. Information from Tuesday's session is included on our College FAQ, in a new section on Back to State planning that contains the most up- to-date information we have. Information from yesterday's student forum will be added to the FAQ as soon as we have had a chance to compile it. As another resource, all of the informational emails I have sent out related to COVID-19 since Feb. 28 can be found here.

Faculty guidance

The University has updated a faculty guidance document that contains a lot of the syllabus guidelines and related information instructors are seeking. You can access that document through Box.

Classroom technology survey

The University-wide task force focusing on Campus’ Classroom Technology seeks your input on a critical decision point about the use of chalk/whiteboards in classrooms and their integration into Zoom and other online sessions. By Friday, July 31, please complete this short five-minute Classroom Technology survey about your interest in using digital alternatives to supplement chalk/whiteboard use while teaching mixed-mode instruction (in person/remote synchronous) this fall. This survey is not anonymous. Instructor names will be used to deploy touchscreen monitors to the learning spaces where they are most needed.

You can find resources at to help meet the needs of flexible instructional modes for this fall. If you need assistance and individual online consultation, it will be provided. If concentrated support is required, it is available. Tech Tutors and the IT Service Desk are available to provide technical support around services that deliver course content online.

Student engagement webinars

As part of the preparations for the fall semester, the University is organizing a lunchtime series to share best practices regarding student engagement and success. The goals of the series, which is open to all instructors and staff, University-wide are to:

  • Reinforce a shared University-wide commitment to support all students during the fall semester regardless of the delivery mode of their courses.
  • Support colleges, campuses, and units as they develop their plans for fall.
  • Provide a platform to share and disseminate innovative ideas and to empower the work of staff and instructors.
  • Inspire cross-University collaboration.

In the first session, which will be held from noon to 1 p.m. this Monday, July 27, Associate Dean Rayne Sperling will be sharing our College's first-year engagement plan for fall. The Zoom webinars, which will be held from noon to 1 p.m. each business day beginning Monday, July 27, through Friday, Aug. 14, can be accessed at j/99280363051 and more information about the series can be found on Penn State News.

Helpful resources

The University has prepared several documents to assist staff and faculty in their support to students who are considering Start at Home or Continue at Home. A webinar attended by 500+ staff and faculty was held earlier this week, and the following materials were distributed via Sharepoint as helpful follow-up information:

International students

We have some good news on the international student front. A resolution was reached by the parties in the lawsuit filed by Harvard and MIT against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). ICE agreed that the guidance on international students would revert back to the guidance issued in March 2020. The enrollment requirements in the July 15, 2020, FAQ as we understand them are:

  • New students – at all levels – who enter the U.S. for fall 2020 can have only one online course this fall; the rest must be in-person (CP) or hybrid/mixed style (CM).
  • Continuing students – either in or outside the U.S. – may continue with the full range of options (CP, CM, CR and CW).
  • New students – at all levels -- who are outside the U.S. because they are unable to come to the U.S. will be able to take only remote options (CR and CW).

Faculty and staff should direct all questions to Students may complete a SUBMIT A QUESTION eForm in

Employee benefits

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the IRS recently issued Notice 2020-29. The notice permits employers to offer greater flexibility to employees with respect to mid-year election changes for health care plans and Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA), which include Health Care and Dependent Care (child care). The provisions are optional, and an employer is not required to adopt them. However, Penn State has implemented the changes, effective through Dec. 31, 2020. For details, check Penn State News.

For more information

To obtain comprehensive, updated information at any time, please review:

Thank you!

Summer is flying by, and we have only one month until the start of fall semester. There is much to be done in that time to get ready, and I appreciate the heavy lifts you all are doing to make the fall semester happen. THANK YOU!

Please find some time to carve out for yourself in the coming weeks, while there is much work to do, we need to take care of ourselves and avoid burnout before the start of the semester the best we can…


July 18, 2020

International Students

This week, Immigration and Customs Enforcement reversed course and agreed to rescind a directive that barred international college students from the U.S. if their colleges offered classes entirely online in the fall semester. While this certainly is a positive development, we must remain vigilant as we do not know what policy will take its place. It is possible guidelines may revert to pre-COVID-19 policy that stipulates International students may take no more than one class online. Our understanding is evolving, and we are not sure that this is the case, but we will keep you posted on developments of this. Also, please continue to check the notifications from Global Programs found here.

As a college, our response to the now rescinded policy was to stand up a graduate course on Educational Equity, as a CP class, with multiple faculty volunteering to host one class meeting each and presenting on their work related to this area. We are keeping this course on the books, just in case.

College Town Hall

Our next College of Education faculty/staff town hall will be held from 4 to 5 p.m. Tuesday, July 21, via Zoom. Connect at and as always, feel free to email your questions to in advance.

Student Town Hall

We will be holding a student town hall from 4 to 5 p.m. Thursday, July 23. The first 10-15 minutes will be all students in aggregate, and we will then direct students to another meeting for specific topics including TA's, student teachers, international students and first year students. The link to that town hall is

New PA Regulations

New regulations for Pennsylvania should help the issues related to bars and downtown social activity. This site contains important information we all should know regarding COVID-19 guidance from the state.

Teaching This Fall

A series of webinars is being offered to support instructors in preparing for Fall 2020 instruction. There are four that are upcoming topics:

  • Overview of the Flexible Instructional Modes
  • Strategies for Mixed-Mode Instruction (2)
  • Active Learning in Socially Distanced Classrooms (2)
  • Strategies for Remote Synchronous Instruction

Click here for the schedule and descriptions.

Back to State Videos

Great "Back to State" videos can be found here on a host of topics related to our re- opening plan for fall 2020. I strongly encourage everyone to visit the site and watch the messages. Also remember to check the University's Coronavirus information website, the College of Education FAQ and the Keep Teaching FAQ for information for the most accurate, up-to-date information on the Back to State initiative.

Updates from the Office of the Vice Provost of Faculty Affairs

While the Vice Provosts’ office sends out weekly digests to faculty, some of it also may be useful for our staff. In addition to the direct emails to faculty, these digests will now also be sent out on our staff listserv. To view previous news digests, they have been archived here.

Questions from faculty

Q: How is the University working with the Borough of State College and officials in other campus communities to encourage adherence to the Governor’s order to wear face coverings when six feet of social distance cannot be maintained?

A: Several cooperative initiatives are underway. The Office of Government and Community Relations, Student Affairs, and Strategic Communications are actively working with local government leaders, businesses, landlords, and community leaders to collaborate on communications and enforcement. We understand that the Borough of State College is in the process of drafting a new ordinance that would give them more tools to enforce the governor’s mask-wearing order, which they are targeting for passage in early August.

We fully understand that the University and the community must work together to address the many challenges ahead, and we have been committed to doing so since the start of this pandemic. For more on these efforts, click here.

Q: Will the Nittany Lion Inn in University Park be utilized for classroom space?

A: The University had previously announced that the Nittany Lion Inn would provide isolation space as needed during the pandemic. However, due to the need for additional classroom space this fall, only students in need of single-occupancy housing will be assigned to the Nittany Lion Inn. Isolation space instead will be provided at the Eastview Terrace residence hall complex, enabling the University to utilize the Nittany Lion Inn for much-needed additional instructional space.

Q: What are the “Start from Home” and “Continue from Home” flexible options that have been announced for students?

A: Students will be enrolled but will not be required to be on campus. Start from Home is for first-year students, while Continue from Home is for upperclass students. Learn more about Start from Home and Continue from Home. Also, you are invited to attend a special webinar on this topic from 9:30-10:30 a.m. Monday, July 20. Contact Judy Wills for Zoom log-in information.

For more information

To obtain comprehensive, updated information at any time, please review:

Again, I look forward to connecting with all of you at our town hall on Tuesday. And thank for all you are doing to help us meet the needs of our students and keep our workforce safe – I know it is a lot, but it is deeply appreciated.

Take some time to recharge this weekend and enjoy the beautiful outdoors wonders of Happy Valley!


July 10, 2020

Members of the College of Education Community - we are trying a slightly different format for the email update this week - with the hope that it makes digesting the information a little easier. There are a number of topics covered in this update, please check the information in each section below.

ICE regulations

As President Barron said in his message earlier this week, the recent changes in regulations by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are very harmful to our international students, and to our University. Through our advising office and the department heads, I reached out via email to our College of Education undergraduate and graduate international students last Friday with some initial interpretations from the new ICE regulations. It is important that they know we care deeply about them and highly value their presence, and the cultural assets they bring, in our classrooms – in person or online. We will be holding a town hall for our international students from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, July 15 to address additional concerns and discuss more specifics on the registration choices that will best protect them. The early-morning timing is intentional to accommodate best accommodate students across time zones.

The last thing we want to do is communicate a solution that will not work for students and could potentially end up confusing them or inadvertently directing them down the wrong path.

Please do not rush to a solution here, this situation is incredibly complex, and our understanding is still evolving. While there may be more flexible solutions down the road, there is no consistent understanding that an independent study or a 600 course will be enough to keep our international students safe. The last thing we want to do is communicate a solution that will not work for students and could potentially end up confusing them or inadvertently directing them down the wrong path.

To ensure the safety of our students to the extent that we can, the best solution is to enroll students in a curricular course that meets frequently in person (CP is best, CM if there is a high in person contact), is at least three credits, and is open to not only international students, but all of our students. As a leadership team, we met this morning to plan a college-wide solution and we will be sharing information regarding this potential solution through department heads this weekend as we formalize plans. This situation is evolving, so I encourage you to check the Global Penn State website often for the most accurate, up-to-date information.

Return to campus requirements

Please remember that we need to file the Back to On-site Work form for you if you will need to be on campus to perform required work tasks. The Department Head for each area will be batch-completing forms for faculty teaching in person and staff with requirements in public-facing offices. This will be phase one. It can take up to two weeks to gain approval from the provost and have the building spaces prepared for your return, so we need to start the process now. As we move into the fall semester and more needs arise, we will process more requests on demand. There is no policy for use of spaces for non-required in person tasks. However, as I have said before, density and sanitation in shared spaces is an issue and we are requesting that if it is not essential to be on campus to complete an in-person task, it is safer for everyone that you stay remote.

Back to State

I have heard your concerns about the return to campus in the fall, and the University leadership has heard you as well. I want to remind you that we shifted quickly to remote learning in the spring, and we will not hesitate to do so again if conditions warrant the change before the planned Nov. 20 shift.

As stated on the University’s Back to State FAQ, “While we are busy planning for a return to campus for fall, the University leadership is keeping a close eye on the pandemic and remains agile and flexible. The University leadership is concerned about recent trends and continuously monitoring state and national disease data and following guidance from state and local health officials. Based on that guidance, and in consultation with faculty experts in epidemiology, medicine and public health, the University is prepared to adjust its approach as necessary, including the possibility that Penn State would need to shift the semester to a fully remote learning environment.”

For more information about the Back to State planning for the fall semester, visit the "Latest Updates" section of Penn State's comprehensive FAQ. This page will be updated regularly with new or significantly revised questions and answers for students, faculty, staff, and the community. Also, monitor the “Back to State” and “Latest News” pages for more information.

Guidelines for instructors

The latest update on Classroom and Syllabus Guidelines for Instructors can be found here. The document is evolving, and your feedback is welcome.

Simba is live!

We are past the transition and into full implementation. It would be good to familiarize yourself with Simba. SSRI has a great resource for faculty that provides a good overview.


A loud ROAR for the advising group and all of the work they are doing in terms of outreach to our returning and new undergraduate students. We are looking strong at the undergraduate level, and this is in no doubt due to the high volume of outreach, contact and communication the advising team has been doing with our students throughout the entire COVID disruption.

Reach out

I want to add a quick reminder that we cannot forget about our graduate students. Please continue to reach out to your grad students and advisees. See how they are doing, and ask them if there is anything you can do to help them with enrollment decisions or anything else as we transition back to campus. Make sure they know to check the Back to State FAQ and our College FAQ for updated information about fall planning.

Thank you for all of the work you are continuing to do to help our college thrive. I appreciate all of you as will our students come this fall! Try and take some time to get outside this weekend and recharge…

All my best,


July 3, 2020

Members of the College of Education faculty and staff community,

I'm sending my weekly update email a little early today, to try to catch as many of you as possible as we head into the July 4 holiday weekend.

In spite of my many attempts to communicate important information in many different ways, there continues to be confusion about some topics – understandable, there is a lot of information and a lot of uncertainty that sometimes make it difficult to know what to attend to. I will try to address many of the questions that have surfaces here, and continue to get information out as fast as I can. Also, all of my email updates since the beginning of the COVID disruption are archived on our website for easy retrieval. The link to these emails also is included in the table of contents on our college FAQ.

  • KUDOS. First, I want to thank all of you who have worked so hard over the past few weeks to determine the modified portfolio of classes for our College this fall. Our course schedulers, led by Christi McClellan, currently are working to procure appropriate classroom space for those that elected to teach in person. The University expects to have all courses with their proper designations and rooms into LionPath by about July 15 so students can make necessary adjustments to their schedules. The University also is asking students to complete a single-question poll in LionPATH regarding their intentions about returning to campus. Details about that are on Penn State News.
  • FAQ. We now have posted the aggregated FAQ from the four departmental faculty town hall meetings held last Friday. You can find that here, and it is linked in the table of contents from our college FAQ. In addition, your department heads have received a Word document with exactly the same contents mid-day yesterday with a request to share it with you. Please reach out and ask them to forward it to you if you prefer to have the information that way.
  • SURVEY. The Faculty Council has shared with me the aggregated data from the faculty survey it conducted. I will follow up soon with information addressing topics raised there.
    • As we attempt to move forward with plans for maintaining a safe environment for those coming back to work in person, one of our tasks is to develop a contact tracing document. This week the planning team discussed how we might do this, and discussed the use of a form that we errantly called an “adjustment form.” This caused a great deal of confusion, I apologize for that. Through multiple phone calls with HR, Faculty Affairs and General Council, we settled on using the existing “Return to Workplace” form for this purpose – which is completed by unit supervisors. We will be talking through the logistics of this and will be sending out an email about the process for this early next week.
    • Your ombudsperson has shared questions (anonymously) with me as well. Many of them overlap with what is included in our college FAQ, the faculty town hall FAQ and/or the University's Back to State website. But, I also wanted to highlight a couple of them here.
      • Regarding the decision made for teaching modality this fall: it should absolutely not be part of the discussion or deliberations in the P&T process. I cannot be more clear about this. Nowhere in the dossier does it ask about teaching in a pandemic. We do ask if the teaching is effective. We don't examine the venue that faulty teach through, but rather focus on if the students perceived that they learned. However, we will discuss this in the charge for committees and we will watch for bias – of any kind. I also answered a similar question in the town hall FAQ.
      • Questions are continuing to be raised about faculty rights to choose teaching modality. As I have said in multiple places, including our town halls and in the FAQ, at the end of the day I will NOT force anyone to teach in person who is uncomfortable doing so. However, I do expect these decisions also are taking into account the greater ecology in which we exist, the expectations of students' continued experiences with us in residence, and that there are many vulnerable employees and community members who do not have the ability to choose. It is a complex decision that is not only personal. The University's complete guidance on work adjustments for faculty can be found here. The guidance for staff can be found here.
  • VIDEOS: The University has released a few videos with important information. I strongly encourage you to watch them as they likely will address many of the concerns I have been hearing.
    • video from Provost Jones and Vice Provost Bieschke, shares a message with faculty members about the University's plans for a return to campus in fall 2020.
    • An informational video featuring Matt Ferrari, associate professor of biology, who is co-leading the University’s Public Health and Science Task Group. Ferrari describes two important areas of focus, including the monitoring of local community health care systems' capacities and the University's capacity to house and safely isolate students.  
    • An informational video featuring Keefe Manning, professor of biomedical engineering and associate dean of the Schreyer Honors College discusses PPE testing and will soon release initial mask- and PPE-wearing guidelines that will continue to be updated as additional information is gathered.
  • FROM THE PROVOST/VICE PROVOST: Just out today, the Provost's Office has released an evolving document on Classroom and Syllabus Guidelines for Instructors Related to COVID-19 and enforcement of PPE with students. It can be accessed on the student conduct website through Box. In other news:

I realize this email is long and I thank you for reading to the end. But I am trying to organize and get information out to you in the best way I know how. As always, please keep questions and feedback coming, I can’t address an issue or find an answer if I do not know what the question is. 

Thank you for continuing to engage in this difficult but important work – I know we are all in this together… one community, many hearts. Enjoy a safe, socially distanced holiday weekend!



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 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.


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 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,


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 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.


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 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 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 and I look forward to having you join us at our Zoom forum on Tuesday.


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

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 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,

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.


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 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 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!


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 to find a link to the recorded version. 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.

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:


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 for the Zoom webinar.

Those wishing to submit questions in advance may do so by emailing

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.


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…


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.


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,

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.


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

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 or Jerry Henry at


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

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 Stay safe, but also stay a community.


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 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!


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 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 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.


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 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 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,

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 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 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 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.


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:

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


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

Thank you again for all you are doing.


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


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!


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 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 all of you to visit the site, as it contains valuable information that can help even those who are experienced in remote course delivery. Please share the 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

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 ( 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.


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 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 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 - 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