Penn State

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.



People walking on the sidewalk in downtown State College
Min Xian / WPSU

Prompted by COVID-19, State College is looking into creating a health department, which would give the borough more control when responding to future pandemics and other public health issues.

Borough Manager Tom Fountaine said having a health department would let the borough be more agile when responding to situations like the significant population fluctuations that happened this year during the pandemic. State College saw most Penn State students leave in March then return in the fall.

Jennifer Granholm at a podium speaking
Carolyn Kaster / The Associated Press

As governor of Michigan, Jennifer Granholm helped lead efforts to bail out the auto industry, including offering government incentives to invest in electric vehicle technology. 

Now that President-elect Joe Biden has nominated Granholm to be secretary of Energy, the reaction from the academic and environmental sectors has been positive.

Susan Brantley, a distinguished professor of geosciences at Penn State, said Granholm has a track record when it comes to energy policies. 

Head and shoulder shot of Eric Barron
Gene J. Puskar / AP

Penn State President Eric Barron said he’s looking forward to environmental issues getting more attention — and possibly funding — under President-elect Joe Biden’s administration. 

He said environmental issues have taken a “back seat” at the national level in recent years — from the government removing some climate change terminology to cuts in funding. 

Junior Nate Paisley prepares to walk around a wintery State College.
Nate Paisley


Roughly 35,000 students came back to Penn State this fall for classes during the coronavirus pandemic. One out of every seven of those students contracted COVID-19 during the semester. Some Penn State students who tested positive shared their experiences with the virus and whether catching it made them more or less cautious. 

A person walks across an empty mall on Penn State main campus
Min Xian / WPSU

Citing “worsening virus conditions,” Penn State will delay the beginning of in-person classes for the spring 2021 semester until Feb. 15, the university announced Friday. 

Under the new plan, the semester will begin on Jan. 19 with remote instruction at all campus locations. In-person classes are slated to begin on Feb. 15, but Penn State says that “could change based on health and safety factors and guidance from the state.”

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.

Penn State student Kaitlyn Harris did an asymptomatic saliva test at a mobile testing site in August.
Min Xian / WPSU

Penn State is one of many universities that had students return for fall classes during the coronavirus pandemic. Classes at Penn State and many other universities have now moved to remote learning at the Thanksgiving break. WPSU took a look how different universities handled testing and their COVID-19 numbers relative to Penn State. 

Penn State president Eric Barron speaks during Wednesday's town hall.
Andrew Destin

Penn State president Eric Barron hosted a virtual town hall Wednesday to discuss racism, bias and community safety within the university. Two groups tasked with addressing these issues presented their recommendations about how Penn State should move forward.

The Select Presidential Commission on Racism, Bias and Community Safety and the Student Code of Conduct Task Force have drafted reports about changes they want to see at Penn State. The commission would like Penn State to make broad changes, such as promoting an inclusive and antiracist campus culture.

FILE - In this March 24, 2017, file photo, former Penn State president Graham Spanier walks from the Dauphin County Courthouse in Harrisburg, Pa.
Matt Rourke / AP Photo

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A federal appeals court is reinstating former Penn State President Graham Spanier’s conviction for child endangerment over his handling of a report that former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky sexually abused a child.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Tuesday that a lower-court judge had improperly vacated Spanier’s misdemeanor conviction for the 2001 incident.

Spanier’s defense attorney declined comment.

Penn State Old Main building
Min Xian / WPSU

As Penn State wraps up the in-person portion of the fall semester this week, 236 students university-wide have tested positive for COVID-19 from 15,600 departure tests conducted since Nov. 12, according to a release from the university Friday.

More than 5,500 results are still pending at University Park, where the majority of departure tests were administered. Penn State says results can take up to 48 hours or more and tests administered later in the week will be included in next Tuesday’s dashboard update.

Sam Davey / courtesy of Centre Film Festival

The Centre Film Festival is happening this weekend. It was held at the Rowland Theatre in Philipsburg last year. But this year, because of the pandemic, it’s coming to a living room near you.


“So we’re in our second year, and obviously we hope to continue in person next year,” says Pearl Gluck, who teaches film in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications at Penn State. She’s co-founder of the Centre Film Festival. 


A mobile COVID-19 test site on Penn State University Park campus.
Min Xian / WPSU

Penn State is urging students to get tested for COVID-19 before the university transitions to fully remote instruction for the rest of the fall semester on November 20.

In a webinar Tuesday, the director of the university’s COVID-19 Operations Control Center, Kelly Wolgast, said free departure testing for all students is voluntary but highly recommended. More than 6,000 University Park students have already scheduled one.

Pat Mansell / Penn State

It's Halloween: time for chilling tales of local hauntings.  And in the interview below, Matthew Swayne delivers the goods. Swayne, originally from Tyrone, Pennsylvania,  is a science writer for Penn State's Institute for Computational Sciences.  He is also the author of "Haunted Valley: the Ghosts of Penn State."


ALLEN: You wrote a book on hauntings at Penn State.  How did you get interested in that?

Broadcast Journalism student Anan Hussein was the only in-person student for Photojournalism with Professor Will Yurman on October 8, 2020. The rest of the class attended on Zoom. On some occasions, none of the class's 13 students were in person.
Will Yurman


In July, Penn State president Eric Barron announced that nearly half of the university’s classes this fall would have some in-person component. But since the start of the semester, attendance for some of those in-person classes has dropped substantially. 


Old Main, the Penn State administrations building on the University Park campus.
Min Xian / WPSU

Twice a week, Penn State updates a public website that lists the number of COVID-19 cases on its campuses, but one thing Penn State does not include is information about whether any of those students are hospitalized.

While Penn State offers general information about the number of COVID cases among students and employees, it does not include hospitalizations. Instead, a spokeswoman said, that would be “up to the hospital.”

This is a Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, County of Allegheny Official Mail-in General Election Ballot in Pittsburgh on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020.
Gene J. Puskar / AP Photo


Penn State senior Kamron Sarmadi is registered to vote in Virginia. Mail-in voting is the only viable option for his first presidential election.


“I don’t want to drive three hours back home. And, obviously, before all the big changes started coming through, USPS is like the one government-run thing that I really appreciate,” Sarmadi said.


A satellite election office for Centre County is located at Bryce Jordan Center on Penn State's University Park campus.
Kristine Allen / WPSU

Pennsylvania is a crucial battleground state in the 2020 election. And now, for the first time ever in a presidential election year, mail-in ballots are available to all registered voters in Pennsylvania, without any excuse. That means there is now actually a way for you to vote early in person.

Your polling place in won’t be open until Nov. 3.  But between now and Tuesday, there is a place you can go to vote early. 

Penn State coach Patrick Chambers reacts to a call late in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Rutgers, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020, in State College, Pa.
Gary M. Baranec / AP Photo

Patrick Chambers has stepped down as Penn State’s men’s basketball coach. Athletic Director Sandy Barbour has accepted and confirmed Chambers’ resignation.

Penn State Old Main building
Min Xian / WPSU

More than one in 10 Penn State University Park students who returned to State College for the fall semester has now had COVID-19, a WPSU analysis finds. 

A sign that reads "keep you distance" on Penn State campus
Min Xian / WPSU

Penn State is reporting 289 new cases of COVID-19 among students at University Park since last Friday, according to its COVID-19 dashboard.

There have been a total of  3,448 cases of COVID-19 from University Park students and seven from staff since Aug. 7.

Dr. Deborah Birx spoke outside of the Penn Stater hotel in a mask
Min Xian / WPSU

More widespread testing and adherence to COVID-19 safety measures, such as masking and distancing, are necessary to prevent a resurgence in cases in Northeastern states, said Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, after a roundtable discussion with Penn State leaders, students and local officials in State College Wednesday.

Penn State Old Main building
Min Xian / WPSU

The number of positive COVID-19 tests at Penn State University Park increased by 196 Friday, since Tuesday’s dashboard update. That brings the total so far for the week of Oct. 2-8 to 287 positive cases, with 653 tests still awaiting results for the time period. The total positives at University Park are now 3,166.



Penn State President Eric Barron hosted a virtual seminar on Thursday for faculty and staff to ask questions about the university's approach to the coronavirus pandemic. The university is looking into new health protocols for the spring.  

Two masked students walking on the Penn State University Park campus
Min Xian / WPSU

Positive COVID-19 tests among Penn State University Park students were down by 30% last week from the week before, according to Tuesday’s dashboard update

The new total number of cases among University Park students for the week of Sept. 25 to Oct. 1 is 485, about two-thirds of the previous week’s 694.

A sign near the Nittany Lion statue urging compliance with COVID-19 safety guidelines
Min Xian / WPSU

The number of Penn State students who have tested positive for COVID-19 at the University Park campus increased by 203 since the university updated its COVID-19 dashboard Tuesday, bringing the total number of positive cases among University Park students to 2,678, according to Friday’s update.

Penn State added 352 new COVID-19 cases among University Park campus students since the numbers were updated Friday.
Min Xian / WPSU

Penn State added 352 new COVID-19 cases among University Park campus students since the numbers were updated Friday, according to its COVID-19 dashboard Tuesday.

A COVID-19 nasal swab test is administered to a person in a car
Min Xian / WPSU


Free COVID-19 testing at the Nittany Mall in State College began Friday, drawing a long line of residents, as part of the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s effort to contain the rising case numbers in Centre County.

Naomi Niyah, a graduate student at Penn State, went to the site on Friday morning. She said she hasn’t been contacted by the university for its surveillance testing program.

“I don’t like the current situation for testing so might as well do it myself here,” Niyah said. 

Penn State student Kaitlyn Harris did an asymptomatic saliva test at a mobile testing site in August.
Min Xian / WPSU



Penn State is reporting a 294-case increase of COVID-19 among students at University Park since it last updated its coronavirus dashboard on Friday.


It brings the total number of cases to 1,665 students at University Park. The dashboard lists 23 cases among students at Penn State Altoona, with 17 still active. There are 33 students in quarantine at that campus.


A pop-up testing site on Penn State campus
Min Xian / WPSU

Penn State added 320 new cases of the coronavirus for the week of Sept. 11 to 17, as the university updated its COVID-19 dashboard Friday.