August 12, 2020

Preparing for the Fall Semester – A Message from Dean Lang

August 12, 2020

Dear Liberal Arts Undergraduates,

I hope this message finds you well as summer draws to a close and we set our sights on returning to campus in less than two weeks.

Much like everything else that has transpired during 2020, I realize that our “return” will be unlike any other in recent memory. For those taking classes remotely or via Penn State World Campus, in fact, your return will take place without you physically setting foot on campus. Whether it be in person or virtually, though, please know how excited I am to welcome you back – or in the case of our incoming first-year students, simply welcome you – to the Liberal Arts community. Also know that our faculty and staff have spent these past few weeks busily preparing for the start of the semester and look forward to providing you the quality liberal arts educational experience that you expect and deserve.

I recognize that trying to tackle whatever personal and academic obstacles arise during the course of a “normal” semester can be challenging enough sometimes. I also appreciate that trying to do so in the midst of global pandemic, political fragmentation, civil unrest, a tense election year, and tremendous economic uncertainty can, without a doubt, feel overwhelming and somewhat terrifying. When moments like that arise, please keep in mind that we are here for you. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again – there is nothing that matters more to me than the health and well-being of our students, faculty, and staff. As dean, I will make every effort to ensure that you have the support and resources needed to help you navigate these challenging times and successfully complete your degree.

Along those lines, I want to remind you of several resources that are available online to help you prepare for the start of the semester:

  • The college’s COVID Updates page, and its 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, career enrichment, student engagement, health/wellness, and additional information and resources.
  • Penn State’s Coronavirus Information page is a valuable resource that provides the University community with the latest information and updates related to the pandemic. The site’s FAQs and Latest News pages are especially helpful in addressing individual’s concerns about the fall semester and a return to campus.
  • Penn State’s Keep Learning page is an especially helpful resource for students who will be studying partially or entirely remotely this fall.

I hope that all the adjustments being made for the fall will be short-term, temporary responses that will enable our situation to return to “normal” sooner rather than later. For that to be the case, however, we must all commit to following University and community wellness protocols to the letter. Wear your face mask; practice physical distancing, wash your hands frequently; follow proper guidelines for covering coughs and sneezes; avoid large gatherings; and stay home if you don’t feel well, especially if you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms – these are expectations, not options. The fact that the Big Ten has decided to postpone the 2020-21 fall sports season, and there will not be any Penn State football this year, is a development you should regard as a powerful indicator of the severe conditions we face as a University community. 

Without a doubt, this semester will be unique and memorable in many ways. By each of us doing our part to take care of ourselves and look out for one another, however, I believe we will weather this storm and emerge as an even stronger college and University. WE ARE Penn State, and WE ARE in this together.

I will continue to reach out throughout the semester to see how you are doing and share any pertinent information. I also invite you to attend my “Meet the Dean” presentation taking place virtually at 1:30 pm EDT on Thursday, August 27 (and my thanks go to the Liberal Arts Undergraduate Council for hosting the event). Please click on this link to register in advance.

I hope you enjoy these last few days before the start of the semester. Until the next time we talk, please be safe, be wise, and be well.


Dean Lang

Clarence Lang
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