Take Note

Fridays at 12:00 p.m. and Sundays at 7:00 a.m.

Listen to conversations about issues that matter. WPSU’s weekly community affairs radio program features in-depth interviews with central Pennsylvania newsmakers.

Subscribe to the Take Note podcast.

(Transcripts available upon request.)

Judith "Judy" Heumann is an activist, author, wife, and public speaker who has spent her lifetime fighting for the rights of people with disabilities. Her advocacy began at an early age, inspired in part by the ways that her mother fought to ensure that she had access to education and opportunities as a child.

courtesy of Fred Guttenberg

Fred Guttenberg’s 14-year-old daughter, Jaime, was killed on Valentine's Day in 2008 during a mass shooting at her high school in Parkland, Florida. Guttenberg is now an activist against gun violence.

Erin Bagwell is a stay-at-home mom, filmmaker, and blogger. Her latest documentary, Year One, offers an intimate look at the first year of motherhood through Erin's eyes. She talked with us about the film, about how becoming a mom challenged her identity, and about her experience with postpartum depression.

For more from this interview:

To watch the Year One trailer, click here.

Epidemiologist Dr. Nita Bharti
Nita Bharti

The COVID-19 vaccine is slowly rolling out across the country. Some people still have concerns about these new vaccines and their safety.

We had epidemiologist Nita Bharti answer some of those questions. Dr. Bharti is an Assistant Professor of Biology in the Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics at Penn State. She’s been educating the community about COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. 

This Take Note is from the Democracy Works podcast.

We’ll hear about Gerrymandering and the people fighting to take the politics out of drawing districts. Redistricting, which happens every 10 years, is set to happen this year. The guest is David Daley, who just published his second book about Gerrymandering, titled “Unrigged: How Americans Are Battling Back to Save Democracy.” 


Chris Beem: From the McCourtney Institute for Democracy at Penn State University, I'm Chris Beem.

Candis Smith: I'm Candis Watts Smith.

Joshua Yospyn

Dr. Michael E. Mann is distinguished professor of atmospheric science at Penn State and director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center. He is recognized around the world as a leading expert on climate change. His latest book is “The New Climate War: The Fight to Take Back Our Planet,” published by Hachette. WPSU’s Kristine Allen talked with Michael Mann about tactics used by climate change deniers, what needs to be done about the climate crisis, and why he's optimistic about tackling climate change.



Joyal Mulheron describes bereavement as an “invisible public health crisis”—and she’s working to address it. She founded and serves as executive director of Evermore, a non-profit aimed at improving the lives of bereaved families through research, policy, and education.

Casey Affleck won an Academy Award for playing a grieving father in Manchester by the Sea and has explored the grief experience in other roles. He uses his celebrity to bring awareness to the plight of grieving families as a victims’ advocate. 


This year marks the 30th anniversary of when the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law. WPSU's Anne Danahy talked about the landmark legislation and the challenges people with disabilities still face with Leah Zimmerman, executive director of Student Disability Resources at Penn State, and Michael Bérubé, Edwin Earle Sparks Professor of Literature. Zimmerman and Bérubé are co-chairs of Penn State’s new Disability Access Initiative working group.

Shirley Moody-Turner is an associate professor of English and African American studies and co-director of the Center for Black Digital Research at Penn State. Denise Burgher is a doctoral candidate in English at the University of Delaware and project coordinator for The Colored Conventions project. They talked with us about about the contributions of black women to the suffrage movement and the role of black women in political organizing.


Wynton Marsalis
Wynton Marsalis

What does jazz music have to do with democracy? We’ll find that out from this week’s guest, jazz great Wynton Marsalis. He’ll explore power, struggle, finding common ground and how those factor into his new album, The Ever Fonky Lowdown.

Taylor Mickal

Daniella Zalcman is an award-winning documentary photographer whose work focuses on the legacies of western colonization. We talked with her about her work sharing stories of indigenous peoples in North America, about the legacy of coercive assimilation, and about why we need to spend more time thinking about who is responsible for telling our collective stories.

Watch Daniella’s Penn State Fall Journalism talk here.


Dr. Tara Pixley and award-winning photojournalist and professor. Her work focuses on rethinking visual representations of gender, race and sexuality. We talked with  her about her work covering the Black Lives Matter movement, about the lack of diverse representation in the news media , and about the line between documentation and exploitation. 

To view some of Tara's work, click here

For more from this interview: 


Cristina Chipriano, LLCSW-S, is the director of Spanish Programs and Outreach at Bo’s Place, a bereavement center in Houston. She’s developed trainings and workshops for peer bereavement centers across the country that are seeking to provide culturally competent, bilingual grief support for bereaved families. Cristina is a board member for the National Alliance for Grieving Children, a leading non-profit in the space of children’s grief.

Stephen Voss, NPR

Hansi Lo Wang is a national correspondent for NPR and an award-winning journalist. He has been reporting on the 2020 census for NPR since 2017. He discussed the issues surrounding the 2020 census, and, now that counting is over, the next steps in the process.

This interview is from the Democracy Works podcast, a collaboration between WPSU and the McCourtney Institute for Democracy at Penn State. The Institute’s Jenna Spinelle interviewed Hansi Lo Wang.



Headshots of Brad Bumsted, left, and Angela Couloumbis
Photo provided

A year-long investigation by The Caucus and Spotlight PA found lawmakers across Pennsylvania are obscuring campaign spending by not reporting the details to the public -- which is legal in the state. 

Courtesy Tierra Williams

Tierra Williams is a mother, artist, performer and activist who joined the social justice movements in Central Pennsylvania after moving here from Mississippi. She talks with us about why she uses her voice to speak up against injustices and what she wants her son to know about the importance of fighting for equality.  


Courtesy Kyra Gines

George Floyd’s killing by Minneapolis police led people all over the world, including here in Central Pennsylvania, to take to the streets in protest. Kyra Gines, a Penn State sophomore, joined a diverse group of high school students to organize a 12-hour protest in downtown State College. Kyra’s activism began at State College Area High School, spurred by the 2016 election. She participated in protests around issues including gun control and led the school’s Diversity and Activism Club.

Jenn Hepton spent a decade struggling with infertility.

She endured multiple miscarriages, had to terminate her twins for medical reasons, and suffered the stillbirth of her daughter, Loey. 

She now uses her experience to help others as a certified life + parenting coach and grief awareness educator

We talked with her about her motherhood journey, about the trauma she didn’t know she was carrying, and about how she found purpose in her pain. 

Head shots of Michael Berkman and Candis Watts Smith
The McCourtney Institute

The Presidential election is about a month away. Mail-in ballots, whether people will trust the election results, and the role of local politics are a few of the issues factoring into the race. WPSU's Anne Danahy spoke about those topics and more with Michael Berkman and Candis Watts Smith from The McCourtney Institute for Democracy at Penn State. 

Kelly Holder is the Director of the Office of Professional Mental Health at the Penn State College of Medicine and Hershey Medical Center. She talked about mental health challenges and what people can do to to keep their minds active and positive during the COVID-19 pandemic. 


Nancy Thomas is the Director of the Institute for Democracy and Higher Education at the Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University. She discussed the challenges student voters could face in the upcoming presidential election, and what colleges and universities can do to eliminate barriers and motivate students to get out and vote. 

This interview is from the Democracy Works podcast, a collaboration between WPSU and the McCourtney Institute for Democracy at Penn State. The Institute’s Jenna Spinelle interviewed Nancy Thomas.

Janet Williams is the Director of Community Outreach for the mid and South Atlantic regions at Autism Speaks. In her latest article, "Making Progress Toward the Dream: Autism in the Black Community," Williams shares her thoughts about the barriers to autism diagnosis in the Black community. She recently started Autism Speaks' newest interfaith initiative called "Blue Blessings" to help faith-based communities create more inclusive spaces for people with autism.  



Kim Ruocco is the Vice President of Suicide Prevention and Postvention for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, better known as TAPS, an organization that provides comfort, care, and resources to those grieving the death of a military loved one. She is the surviving widow of Marine Corps Major John Ruocco, who died by suicide in 2005.

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, many students are returning to colleges and universities across the U.S. 

In central Pennsylvania, that includes Penn State, Pitt Bradford, and Juniata College. 

Kevin Kinser is a Penn State professor and head of the Department of Education Policy Studies. He’s a senior scientist at Penn State’s Center for the Study of Higher Education and has written several books about higher ed. 

Divine Lipscomb talked with WPSU about how his own experience turned him into an advocate for better supporting those reentering society.
Courtesy of Annemarie Mountz

Divine Lipscomb is a formerly incarcerated student studying rehabilitation and human services at Penn State. He also works as a special projects coordinator for the Restorative Justice Initiative in the College of Education, where he creates dialogue around the intersection of race, institutional barriers and trauma associated with incarceration. He’s the recipient of this year’s Outstanding Adult Student Award and Stand Up Award from the Rock Ethics Institute at Penn State.

Students outside of State College Area High School on Jan. 8, 2018.
Min Xian / WPSU

School districts across Pennsylvania are finalizing plans for reopening classrooms and teaching students remotely as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. WPSU's Anne Danahy spoke with State College Area School District Superintendent Bob O’Donnell and school board President Amber Concepcion about how that district is preparing for the fall.


Mack Brady was two weeks shy of his ninth birthday when he died unexpectedly from a blood infection on New Year’s Eve in 2012. In the time since, his parents, Elizabeth and Christian Brady, have both used writing as an outlet for their own grief and as a way to help others who are grieving. 

Click here to read some of Elizabeth’s essays. 

Read an excerpt from Christian’s new book, Beautiful and Terrible Things: A Christian Struggle with Suffering, Grief, and Hope:

Terry Engelder, professor emeritus of geosciences at Penn State, holding a large rock.
John Beale / Penn State

In 2007, Terry Engelder, then a professor of geosciences at Penn State, estimated how much natural gas could be accessed in the Marcellus Shale formation using hydrofracking. That calculation led to a drilling boom across the Marcellus region in Pennsylvania.

Widely recognized for his work, Engelder has advised state agencies and received funding from companies in the industry. Now retired and a professor emeritus, Engelder is working on a book called “A Frackademic from Appalachia.” 

On May 25th, a police officer killed George Floyd while arresting him by kneeling on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Videos of Floyd’s killing have led to weeks of protests across the country and calls for police reform.

Penn State professors Eleanor Brown and Ben Jones recently wrote an OpEd that ran in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Philadelphia Inquirer about barriers to police reform and State College’s own police killing of a Black man with schizophrenia, Osaze Osagie. 


Dr. Tashel Bordere is an assistant professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Science at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Her research focuses on grief and loss among African American youth. She’s authored numerous publications focused on black youth affected by homicide, gun violence, and race-based trauma and has identified the term suffocated grief to describe when normal grief reactions among marginalized populations are not only dismissed, but punished.