Dear Liberal Arts Undergraduates,
I hope you enjoyed a restful summer and are looking forward to the start of the fall semester. We are certainly excited to welcome you back—or in the case of our incoming first-year, transfer, and change-of-campus students, welcome you—to the Liberal Arts community. Whether you are joining us in-person or via World Campus, please know that our faculty and staff stand ready to provide you with the fullest student experience possible.
Of course, I say this knowing that we are still in the grips of a global pandemic—a pandemic that has become even more worrisome in recent months due to the emergence of the Delta variant and other strains of COVID-19. So, while we look forward to seeing everyone and embracing some sense of “normalcy” this semester (whatever that may entail), there are requirements that we all will need to follow to protect our community. All students, faculty, staff, and visitors are required to wear masks indoors on all Penn State campuses regardless of vaccination status. Students and employees who have not been vaccinated (or have not informed the University of their status if they have been vaccinated) will be subject to regular testing during the fall semester or until they are fully vaccinated and provide that information. While I understand adhering to these requirements may feel like an inconvenience, it’s the least any of us can do—besides getting vaccinated—to allow us to regain the sense of “normalcy” we all crave. And while the University is currently not mandating COVID-19 vaccinations, as your dean—and as a concerned citizen—I encourage everyone who can be safely vaccinated to do so if you have not already done it.
I realize that tackling personal and academic obstacles during a “normal” semester can be challenging enough—so I understand and appreciate how trying to do so in the current environment may at times feel overwhelming or terrifying. By each of us doing our part to take care of ourselves and each other, we will weather this storm and become stronger—not just individually, but also collectively.
Some of our faculty and staff are feeling similar emotions, too. Although they have been working diligently and are eager to welcome you back next week, many are experiencing angst and concern for the well-being of friends and loved ones (and their own health and safety, for that matter). In recognition of the real health and safety risks posed by this pandemic, the University has provided fall work adjustments to those faculty and staff who qualify to receive them. As a result, the mode of delivery of some of your courses may shift; but if this occurs, you should be notified as quickly as possible.
As dean, I will continue to make every effort to ensure that you have the support you need to navigate whatever circumstances arise and successfully pursue your degree. Along those lines, I want to remind you of several resources that are available as you prepare for the start of the semester:
- The college’s COVID Updates page (and the Students and Additional Resources pages in particular) is a one-stop location for key reminders about the upcoming semester and a host of college and University academic, financial, housing, IT, advising, career enrichment, student engagement, health/wellness, and additional information.
- Penn State’s Coronavirus Information page provides the University community with the latest information and updates related to the pandemic. Students may find the Vaccine Information, Testing and Support, and FAQs especially helpful.
- If you experience any emotional distress during the semester, please know that Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) is available to help. If an emergency arises that requires on-site assistance during normal business hours (8:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. EDT, Monday–Friday), please call CAPS at 814-863-0395 for directions; if an emergency occurs after hours, contact the 24/7 Penn State Crisis Line at 877-229-6400.
I will continue to reach out throughout the semester to see how you are doing and share any pertinent information. In that vein, I invite you to attend my “Meet the Dean” presentation taking place at 1:30 p.m. EDT on Thursday, August 26 in Paterno Library’s Foster Auditorium. While all first-year students are expected to attend this “Meet the Dean” event, any Liberal Arts student may attend as well. For those who are unable to make it in person, a livestream link for the event is available on the college’s Welcome Week webpage.
One of the initiatives I look forward to introducing at the “Meet the Dean” event is our college’s new Roz and Gene Chaiken Center for Student Success. We are creating this center to provide programming that will more tightly connect undergraduate students to existing college and University services toward academic success, degree completion, graduation, and career readiness. The Chaiken Center will also coordinate and promote activities to enhance undergraduate engagement and cohort-building. I will have more to share about the Chaiken Center next week and throughout the semester.
I look forward to seeing you on campus or online as circumstances permit. Until the next time we talk, please be safe, be wise, and be well.
Susan Welch Dean of the College of the Liberal Arts
Professor of African American Studies
The Pennsylvania State University
111 Sparks Building
University Park, PA 16802