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Notes from the Dean

Perspective: Leaders at Penn State – B Stephen Carpenter II

Click on the screenshot above to watch Penn State video about the Michael J. and Aimee Rusinko Kakos Dean in the College of Arts and Architecture.

Contact the Dean

31 October 2022

Our students, alumni, faculty, staff, and friends consistently demonstrate the value of what we do in the College of Arts and Architecture. Whenever it seems appropriate in a situation or conversation, I enjoy recognizing their meaningful and impactful work in informal conversations and at formal events. In mid-October, we enjoyed a wonderful few days of alumni and donor activities, including our annual Alumni Awards ceremony and donor appreciation event. Our Alumni Award winners gave lectures, visited classes, and reconnected with some of the people and places that set them on their paths to success. At the donor appreciation event, which also celebrated the college’s success in Penn State’s most recent capital campaign, guests enjoyed a luncheon, student exhibits, and a preview of the contemporary opera “A Marvelous Order,” which premiered at the Center for the Performing Arts a few days later (see photos from the events).

These events were engaging and enjoyable. They were fun and entertaining. Perhaps most importantly, they demonstrated the breadth and depth of the success of our alumni, the talent of our students, and the generosity of our donors. Quite simply, events like this are #makingpossibilitiespossible.

We continuously strive to make possibilities possible for our students in numerous ways. Currently, one of those ways is through the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP) survey of all College of Arts and Architecture graduates. You should have received an email with a direct link to your survey a few weeks ago. Your responses will help shape arts and design education at Penn State and similar institutions in the years to come. The due date to complete the survey is November 28. I sincerely hope you will participate in this important survey.

For those of you visiting campus in the next few weeks, please be sure to add a performance or exhibition to your itinerary. From pop-up exhibitions at Woskob Family Gallery downtown to Penn State Centre Stage’s presentations of “Cabaret” (through November 5) and “Rent” (November 15–December 3), the Arts District is hopping. The Palmer Museum of Art is also finishing up its 50th anniversary year with some special exhibitions and events. For a list of upcoming musical events and performances, please visit:

It has been a true pleasure to engage with more alumni and friends in recent months. Thank you, as always, for #makingpossibilitiespossible.

B. Stephen Carpenter signature

B Stephen Carpenter II
Michael J. and Aimee Rusinko Kakos Dean in the College of Arts and Architecture
The Pennsylvania State University

Movers Shakers Designers Makers

In the “Movers Shakers Designers Makers” video series, Dean Carpenter takes the opportunity to talk with A&A alumni about professions, practice and Penn State. From gorillas and activism to pedagogy and Peachy Paterno, the topics are timely and free-ranging – laugh, learn and enjoy.

Episode #18: In the latest “Movers, Shakers, Designers, Makers,” Penn State Art History alum Eleanor Gorski (’91 B.A. Art History), executive director of the Cook County Land Bank Authority (Chicago), discusses how her education in art history, history, and architecture has shaped her career path, including her current work to create more affordable housing and economic opportunity partnerships within Cook County.

Click on the screenshot below to watch the latest…

Previous M/S/D/M Episodes

Video screen capture of Noah Breneman, from the Arts and Architecture "Movers, Shakers, Designers, Makers" video interview series.

Episode #17: In the latest “Movers, Shakers, Designers, Makers,” we catch up with Music alumnus Noah Breneman (’18 B.M.), Citizen Musician Fellow and principal oboe with the American Youth Symphony.

Video screen capture of Jeremy Dennis, from the Arts and Architecture "Movers, Shakers, Designers, Makers" video interview series.

Episode #16: In the latest MSDM, Dean Carpenter talks to fine art photographer Jeremy Dennis, a tribal member of the Shinnecock Indian Nation who explores indigenous identity, culture and assimilation in his work. He received his M.F.A. in photography from Penn State in 2016.

Video screen capture of Andy Witkin, from the Arts and Architecture "Movers, Shakers, Designers, Makers" video interview series.

Episode #15: Dean Carpenter talks to Landscape Architecture alumnus Andy Witkin, who was recently inducted into the American Society of Landscape Architects’ College of Fellows.

Video screen capture of Mark Shulman, from the Arts and Architecture "Movers, Shakers, Designers, Makers" video interview series.

Episode #14: Dean Carpenter talks to Integrative Arts alumnus Mark Shulman, who has had an impressive career in high-profile concert promotion and venue development.

Video screen capture of Deb Confredo, from the Arts and Architecture "Movers, Shakers, Designers, Makers" video interview series.

Episode #13: Dean Carpenter and Dr. Deborah Confredo, 2021 Alumni Award winner from the School of Music, chat about shared experiences and the evolution of online offerings in music education.

Video screen capture of Heather Bhandari, from the Arts and Architecture "Movers, Shakers, Designers, Makers" video interview series.

Episode #12: Heather Bhandari – independent curator, author and co-founder/program director of Art World Conference – and Dean Carpenter connect on topics of graduate education, art, curation, and learning.

Video screen capture of Frank Dittenhaffer, from the Arts and Architecture "Movers, Shakers, Designers, Makers" video interview series.

Episode #11: Design and alumni naturally arise in the dean’s conversation with Frank Dittenhafer, president of Murphy & Dittenhafer Architects and the Arts and Architecture Alumni Society Board.

Video screen capture of Patrick Fabian, from the Arts and Architecture "Movers, Shakers, Designers, Makers" video interview series.

Episode #10: Film, stage and television actor Patrick Fabian and Dean Carpenter cover the range.
(Part 1 | Part 2)

Video screen capture of David Gall, from the Arts and Architecture "Movers, Shakers, Designers, Makers" video interview series.

Episode #9: Dean Carpenter and Dr. David Gall chat about art education, teaching and David’s international path to Penn State.

Video screen captures of Brian and Emma Kappel, from the Arts and Architecture "Movers, Shakers, Designers, Makers" video interview series.

Episode #8: Dean Carpenter is interviewed by alum Brian Kappel and his daughter, Emma Kappel, a current A&A student.

Video screen capture of John Hoke, from the Arts and Architecture "Movers, Shakers, Designers, Makers" video interview series.

Episode #7: Swoosh! Or…the Dean chats with John Hoke III, Chief Design Officer for Nike.

Video screen capture of "Frida Kahlo" – a founding member of the Guerrilla Girls – from the Arts and Architecture "Movers, Shakers, Designers, Makers" video interview series.

Episode #6: Dean Carpenter has a “little bit different” talk with “Frida Kahlo,” founding member of the Guerrilla Girls. (Part 1 | Part 2)

Video screen capture of Adrian L. Smith, FASLA, from the Arts and Architecture "Movers, Shakers, Designers, Makers" video interview series.

Episode #5: Adrian L. Smith, FASLA – team leader of New York City Parks’ Staten Island Capital Projects – speaks with Dean Carpenter.

Video screen capture of Adam Cohn from the Arts and Architecture "Movers, Shakers, Designers, Makers" video interview series.

Episode #4: Dean Carpenter chats with Graphic Design alumnus and A&A Alumni Award winner Adam Cohn about his work as the Vice President of Global Brand Design for Converse.

Video screen capture of Roberto Lugo from the Arts and Architecture "Movers, Shakers, Designers, Makers" video interview series.

Episode #3: Roberto Lugo, ceramic artist, Tyler School of Art faculty, and Penn State School of Visual Arts MFA alumnus talks with Dean Carpenter.

Video screen capture of Samantha Josaphat from the Arts and Architecture "Movers, Shakers, Designers, Makers" video interview series.

Episode #2: In this video, the Dean chats with A&A alumna and architect Samantha Josaphat.

Video screen capture of Mike Karns from the Arts and Architecture "Movers, Shakers, Designers, Makers" video interview series.

Episode #1: Watch M/S/D/M video with School of Theatre alumnus and social media entrepreneur Mike Karns.

Dean's Message Archive

29 August 2022

Every year, during the week just before the fall semester starts, we gather faculty and staff to introduce new faces, share key information, and discuss plans and priorities for the coming year. As part of my remarks this year, I told the story of Henry “Box” Brown, a 19th-century Virginia slave who called on his creative powers—and courage—to escape to freedom in the mid-1800s. With the assistance of a few collaborators, Brown confronted the realities of his existence and took action. Rather than following the common adage of “thinking outside the box,” Brown took the unconventional route of using a box to mail himself from Richmond, Virginia, to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I have long admired Henry “Box” Brown for his courageousness in desperate times.

I shared this story because creativity and courage are integral to our roles as artists, designers, performers, and educators. As alumni and friends of the college, you undoubtedly call on your own creativity and courage daily, no matter where your careers have taken you. For our students—some of whom are stepping onto the mainstage for the first time, pulling their first all-nighter in studio, or performing for the first time in front of a Beaver Stadium crowd—courage and creativity are essential. It’s who we are. It’s what we do. We are creatives.

What DO we do? Now that we appear to be returning to a schedule of activities that more closely resembles pre-pandemic times, we do so much. During the first week of the semester alone, we celebrated the opening of the School of Visual Arts’ alumni show (open through September 16 in Zoller Gallery) and the closing of the Palmer Museum of Art’s SoVA faculty show, hosted the annual Corbelletti Design Charette and lecture, and had several recitals by School of Music faculty and students. Of course, we also greeted an enthusiastic class of first-year students during our annual welcome event—complete with Berkey Creamery ice cream—and reconnected with returning students.

Anyone who steps foot on campus at this time of year can feel the energy, the buzz, and the excitement. I am excited to see our performance venues, galleries, and lecture spaces busy again with students and patrons. I am also excited about the opportunities to visit more of our classes in person. I am also eager to see more of YOU—our alumni and friends—at special events.

If you are visiting campus, be sure to check out our college calendar at, as well as the calendars for the Center for the Performing Arts, Palmer Museum of Art, and Penn State Centre Stage. I guarantee there will be many events for you to consider! Thanks, as always, for your support, and I look forward to seeing you on campus or at an event soon.

29 June 2022

In the words of author Jenny Han, “Everything good, everything magical happens between the months of June and August.” Such an optimistic perspective is a welcome sentiment between the close of one academic year and the start of another. It is indeed a magical time to enjoy the beauty of the University Park campus, while some days seem to be running at a slower pace. It is time to enjoy outdoor concerts—like those presented by the Penn’s Woods Music Festival earlier this month—and the lush gardens of the Arboretum. I hope you have an opportunity to enjoy campus at this lovely time of year, whether you are local or in town for a visit.

It may be somewhat quiet on campus right now, but we ended the academic year with a bang. In May, we conducted our first in-person spring commencement since 2019. The Palmer Museum of Art held its successful 50th Anniversary Gala, “Building on Gold,” and opened an exhibition of artwork by current and former faculty members in the School of Visual Arts. Plus the School of Theatre produced One Night on Broadway, a special evening featuring Penn State Musical Theatre alumni.

Penn State President Neeli Bendapudi enjoys a Penn's Woods Music Festival Concert

Penn State President Neeli Bendapudi enjoys a Penn’s Woods Music Festival concert.

Our alumni volunteers have also been active, with members of our Alumni Society board meeting on campus in mid-June. Many alumni came to State College a day early to attend a retirement party for Joyce Hoffman, who is retiring on July 15 after 25 years as director of alumni relations in our college (and 31 years at Penn State). It would be impossible to overstate Joyce’s contributions to our college. She has shepherded innumerable award nominations, organized alumni gatherings on campus and across the country, and facilitated the chartering of unit-specific alumni groups. She has guided the Alumni Society to becoming more active and visible, including the establishment of the Alumni Society Scholarship, which is now awarded annually to students from each of our academic units. Perhaps most importantly, Joyce has done her job with the utmost grace, dedication, and kindness. The entire college wishes Joyce well in her retirement.

Fortunately for us, another member of the Advancement Office staff will assume the responsibilities of alumni relations. On July 5, Kelsey Knight, who has served as associate director of stewardship for the college since March 2021, will become director of alumni relations and stewardship. I look forward to working with Kelsey in this new position.

In the fall, we will welcome our next class of students. We are planning orientation activities now for the incoming fall 2022 class, and recruitment events for prospective students entering in fall 2023. In late July we will hold in-person information sessions as part of Penn State’s Spend a Summer Day program. If you are the parent of a prospective Penn State student, it is not too late to register for this program where you will learn about academic offerings across the University.

I have been pleased to talk with many of you at college events and other engagements in the community. As we continue to manage our lives in relation to COVID-19, I am hopeful you will return to campus soon to visit the College of Arts and Architecture and attend Penn State events. Enjoy the rest of the summer!

28 April 2022

28 April 2022

It is “celebration season” on campus! Despite the snow we had just 10 days ago, we are in full-on spring mode with activities across the college honoring faculty, staff, students, alumni, and donors. Although the presence of COVID still lingers, gathering in person again has been wonderful, and I have enjoyed meeting more alumni and friends over the past few months.

Some of you may have noticed a change – an addition, really – to my title. I am incredibly honored to be the inaugural Michael J. and Aimee Rusinko Kakos Dean in the College of Arts and Architecture. The Kakoses’ commitment to furthering arts and design education at Penn State is inspiring. The endowed dean’s chair is a transformational gift for the college and we are all grateful for the opportunities their generosity will provide. You can read more about their gift here.

Last weekend we celebrated the Kakoses’ gift and all gifts received over the past six years as part of the University-wide campaign celebration for A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence. The campaign began on July 1, 2016, with a $2.1B goal for Penn State and $70M goal for the College of Arts and Architecture. As of the April 22 celebration, Penn State donors have contributed $2.166B to the University and almost $90M to the college, and we are still counting. The campaign officially ends on June 30, 2022. The 90-minute campaign celebration event, directed by Rick Lombardo, director of the School of Theatre, featured lighting, sound, and technical design by students in the school; performances by members of our faculty, by the Blue Band, directed by Greg Drane, and by students in our Musical Theatre program, directed by John Simpkins; and a presentation about the Palmer Museum of Art by Erin Coe, director of the museum. College of Arts and Architecture interns, under the direction of Stephanie Swindle Thomas, also provided photography and videography support. Read about the celebration here.

Earlier in April we held our annual spring awards ceremony, where we honored undergraduate and graduate award winners, faculty and staff outstanding service recipients, and faculty and students who received University-level honors. It was my first time hosting the ceremony in person, and congratulating our winners with their colleagues looking on was very meaningful. Please take a moment to read more about our amazing recipients on our college awards website.

This weekend we are finally recognizing the Class of 2020 with a campus-wide celebration, plus a special event for Arts and Architecture alumni on Saturday afternoon. I hope to see some of you there!

Our final “spring celebration” is, of course, commencement, at 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 7, in Eisenhower Auditorium – the first college-specific in-person commencement since 2019. We are excited to welcome visual artist Dread Scott as our commencement speaker. He will sit down with me for a public interview at 10 a.m. on Friday, May 6, in Foster Auditorium. The interview is co-sponsored by the College of the Liberal Arts. Read more about Dread Scott and the event here.

Theatre Design and Technology student David Reingold will lead his classmates at commencement as college marshal. David and our academic unit marshals, who were selected based on academic achievement, leadership, and engagement, are stellar examples of the types of students we nurture in this college – high-achieving, creative, collaborative, and ready to lead us all into the future. You can read more about the marshals here. Finally, I have been asked to serve as the commencement speaker for the Graduate School on Sunday, May 8. In my remarks, I will reflect on my experience as an Art Education graduate student here at Penn State and offer thoughts on time, possibilities, and the power of verbs.

The past weeks have highlighted, more than ever, what an incredible community we have in the College of Arts and Architecture. Whether you are an alum, supporter, faculty member, staff member, or student, you make this college what it is – an amazing place to learn, work, and create. Thank you. I appreciate you.

28 February 2022

28 February 2022

Yet again, we find ourselves in transition from one month to another. For almost 100 years, the month of February has served as the time to teach, learn, and acknowledge the ways in which the history of the United States has been co-written by the sacrifices and achievements of African Americans. From its beginnings as Negro History Week in 1926, as a means to make sure the lived experiences and histories of African Americans would be included in school curricula, Carter G. Woodson’s idea of a collective, national reflection has evolved into Black History Month. (To learn more about the history of Black History Month, check out this NPR story). Here in the College of Arts and Architecture, an array of events and performances took place as part of our own collective remembrance and knowledge.

At the beginning of February, the Arts Ambassadors, our student leader group, hosted artist and activist Hamilton Glass for a screening and talk-back session on the documentary “Mending Walls,” a public mural project he launched in Richmond, VA, that brought together artists from all walks of life in order to spark deeper conversations within the community. Inspired by Hamilton’s work, our Arts Ambassadors are planning to work with him to launch an anti-racism initiative at Penn State, fueled by the arts. I met with Hamilton while he was on campus and was struck by his compassion, commitment, and willingness to work with our undergraduates to help them make a difference in their own campus community.

Later in the month, the Center for the Performing Arts presented the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company in an experimental dance work, “What Problem,” featuring local dancers. The powerful performance, part of The Reflection Project, a center initiative funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, deconstructed what W.E.B. Du Bois called “the problem of the color line.” The performance elaborated on “otherness” by expanding the term to include sexual politics, gender identity, class struggle, and immigration. The performance was part of the center’s Fierce Urgency Festival, with a theme this season of “Hope-Resist-Heal.” The title of the series comes from Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

These are just a few examples of the types of programming we presented during Black History Month. As we reach the end of the month, it’s time to not simply reflect back on the last 28 days, but rather to look ahead to what the College of Arts and Architecture will do in its ongoing effort to establish a culture of anti-racism and anti-oppression, where differences are acknowledged and accepted. I am energized by the work Folayemi Wilson, our associate dean for access and equity, has been doing since she joined us in August 2021. She led a fantastic town hall in late January, where she shared what she learned during her fall semester “listening tour” with faculty, staff, and students across the college. Associate Dean Wilson is in the process of developing a website for her office, with the goal of it becoming a rich library of resources related to diversity, inclusion, access, and equity for the entire college community. We look forward to sharing that site with you when it is complete.

While we are looking ahead, I want to highlight a few upcoming events we are very excited about. The School of Music President’s Concert returns in March, after a hiatus due to COVID in 2021. We are excited to present the Philharmonic Orchestra and Oriana Singers at the Capitol One Hall in Tysons Corner, VA, on March 16. In addition, on April 30, we will FINALLY celebrate the class of 2020 as part of a larger University-wide event to honor that class of alumni. A college-specific celebration for that afternoon is in the works—details to come!

This issue of our e-newsletter contains some fantastic stories, including one on School of Music faculty member Marica Tacconi, who was named a distinguished professor at Penn State (one of the most prestigious honors at the University), as well as my “Movers, Shakers” interview with Jeremy Dennis, an M.F.A. alumnus of the School of Visual Arts whose creative practice examines indigenous identity and culture.

I am proud of and inspired daily by the faculty, staff, and students in the College of Arts and Architecture, and I am forever grateful to our alumni and friends who support us in so many ways. One of the ways you have provided support is through our Educational Equity scholarships, established to assist students in financial need and whose identities will help diversify our college and the University community. One of these scholarships was created in honor of Mary Godfrey, an art education professor from 1956 to 1979 and the first full-time Black faculty member at Penn State.

Our transition from February into March also means the promise of warmer weather in the coming weeks and months, as well as the beauty of campus in the spring. I hope to see you in person the next time you are here.

December 2021 Holiday Greeting

December 2021

Video Greeting

Hello! As I reach the two-year mark as the dean of the College of Arts and Architecture, I want to personally wish you and your families a happy, healthy, and safe holiday season. While I have had limited opportunities to meet with our alumni and friends in person, I have greatly enjoyed connecting with many of you on screens, by email, and in writing – and look forward to meeting more of you in person in the near future.

I think it’s safe to say that these past two years as dean of this amazing college have been unlike those of just about any other new dean. Despite the challenges, there have been many, MANY silver linings. As an alumnus and faculty member in this college, I already knew we had an amazing community here – inspiring students, resourceful and dedicated faculty and staff, and committed alumni and friends all around the world who so generously share their time and talents to support our college.

Over the past two years, I have also observed first-hand numerous examples of incredible resourcefulness, flexibility, and creativity, as well as gestures of generosity and kindness. Challenging situations can often bring out the “best” of who we are – alumni facilitating virtual internships and networking opportunities, donors stepping up to support new initiatives in our “current normal,” faculty adjusting their teaching modes and making accommodations to support students with varying needs, and staff working above and beyond expectations in an environment that brings large and small changes and challenges daily.

We have had a successful fall semester overall, with a return to in-person performances and other events following COVID-safe protocols, along with an array of virtual opportunities to accommodate different audiences. Those virtual opportunities – many of which we plan to continue – have been one of the “silver linings,” because they allow us to reach a wider audience than usual, and to do so on a more regular basis than before.

My recent mantra for the college has been “making possibilities possible,” so I want to close by saying YOU – our incredible College of Arts and Architecture community – are what make so many things possible, through your support, your time, your incredible ideas, and your commitment to seeing them to fruition.

I hope you are able to enjoy time with family and friends in the coming weeks. Best wishes for a brighter 2022!

2 November 2021

2 November 2021

The Penn State College of Arts and Architecture denounces Milo Yiannopoulos’ presentation at Penn State on November 3, and fully supports the Center for Gender and Sexual Diversity’s “Love is Louder” event. The college also supports all programs and social actions that foster individual differences, promote understanding and respect, and resist harming or disrespecting others. Together with the University, we strongly condemn Yiannopoulos’ message while acknowledging Penn State’s position that the student organization Uncensored America has a Constitutional right to host the event (see University statement here).

One of the four goals in the College of Arts and Architecture’s strategic plan is “Establish a culture of anti-racism and anti-oppression that embraces individual identities, fosters a culture of inclusion, and promotes equity through our curricula, values, standards, ideals, policies, and practices.”

Yiannopoulos’ ideas are in direct opposition to this goal and contradict the University’s values. The College of Arts and Architecture is firmly committed to supporting individuality, fostering inclusion, and promoting equity while fighting racism, sexism, homophobia, and other forms of oppression. This commitment aligns with Penn State’s own mission, as demonstrated by University leadership and many organizations across campus.

25 October 2021

25 October 2021

As we pass the mid-way point of another semester, several challenges remain, yet we have much to celebrate. Thanks to the efforts of faculty and staff throughout the college, we have been able to return safely—with appropriate COVID protocols—to live, in-person music and theatre performances, in-person lectures and studio critiques, and, overall, the type of teaching and learning that enables our faculty and students to thrive. Granted, it is not just like it was before COVID. However, we have used the lessons learned during the pandemic to adjust and accommodate, often at a moment’s notice. I continue to be amazed by the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the College of Arts and Architecture community.

In our August issue, we introduced Folayemi Wilson, our first associate dean for access and equity. Folayemi is spending this semester on a “listening tour,” meeting with administrators, faculty, students, and staff to better understand our college and the experiences of the people who work and learn here. In January she plans to hold a town hall where she will share what she learned, and reveal plans for moving forward. Stay tuned for details.

This fall our faculty and students are continuing their work on amazing, interdisciplinary research projects. In this issue you can read more about Landscape Architecture faculty member Peter Stempel and his work on a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration grant project to study the effects of sea level rise. Also featured in this issue is Art History faculty member Heather McCune Bruhn and her work on an Institute of Museum and Library Services grant project to enhance the public’s online viewing experiences of works of art. In addition, you will find a story on Natalie Walter, an Architecture student who is researching the use of mushroom-based composites in acoustic architectural components. Her work is funded in part by an Erickson Discovery Grant.

Next week we welcome our 2021 Alumni Award recipients to campus to meet with students and faculty and to receive their awards. The awards ceremony, to take place at 4 p.m. on Friday, November 5, in the School of Music Recital Hall, is open to the public and will also be livestreamed. From a founding member of the Guerrilla Girls Collective to a well-known face on television screens, we are honoring some fantastic people. Scroll down to see my interviews with these alumni as part of the “Movers.Shakers.Designers.Makers” series, and read more about them here.

Speaking of alumni, I recently had the chance to speak with Integrative Arts alumnus Mark Shulman, senior vice president for programming at UBS Arena, for “Movers.Shakers.Designers.Makers” (check out the interview here). Mark has had an impressive career in high-profile concert promotion and venue development, and is an inspiring example of how studying the arts and focusing on a passion can prepare you to pursue various professional paths.

Because our next e-newsletter is not until December, I encourage you to mark the date of November 30—Giving Tuesday—on your calendars. We will have a number of campaigns in the College of Arts and Architecture, from the Alumni Society Scholarship Fund to initiatives in the School of Music, School of Theatre, and Center for the Performing Arts. Check College of Arts and Architecture and Penn State social media in the coming weeks for direct links to campaigns and instructions on how to give.

Thank you, as always, for your support, your time, and your collegiality. I look forward to more in-person gatherings and opportunities to meet with you in the near future!

30 August 2021

30 August 2021

As has been my experience, the start of a new academic year brings with it a palpable energy in college towns in late August. This year, I sensed that same energy in State College. Busy streets and campus walkways. Bustling big-box stores with shelves wiped clean of convenience foods. Congested apartment and residence hall parking lots. The students have returned. For many students, as well as faculty and staff, this month marked their first time back on campus since March 2020. For first-year students, this was the beginning of their academic journey. And while Penn State is still carefully navigating the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially the delta variant, WE ARE … back on campus and in residence.

I am embarking on my first full in-person year as dean of this amazing college. Since I took on this role in January 2020—and especially over the past 18 months—I have been amazed by and grateful for the dedication, work ethic, and innovation shown by our college community. Creative practice and thinking germane to each of our disciplines has translated into creative approaches to the ways we teach, learn, perform, and research. We have all learned lessons during this pandemic. Yet despite the incredible challenges, stress, and losses we have faced, I think it’s safe to say we have also learned positive lessons that influence our lives every day.

In early summer, we began planning in earnest for the fall—from in-person classes and studios to performances, recitals, and exhibitions. The rapidly changing nature of the pandemic meant we had to adjust some of our plans. We have had to take the guidance from the University and translate much of it for specific situations in our studios, stages, and performance spaces. I want to assure you that the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff, and patrons have been our highest priority. We are so excited to see you back in our spaces—when it feels safe for you, and you are comfortable to do so. As you plan to attend any events on campus, please be sure to review Penn State and college-specific guidelines before you arrive. Please keep in mind those guidelines are updated frequently.

Last week we celebrated an incredible milestone for the college and the University—the groundbreaking for the new Palmer Museum of Art, to be located at The Arboretum. As I said in my remarks during the ceremony last Friday, my hope is for Penn State to become not only a cultural destination, but also a cultural epicenter of arts and design. The new Palmer Museum of Art is poised to become a place from which ideas and possibilities activated through the arts and design can play a role in changing the world for the better.

Construction of the new museum will take place over the next two years. In its current location, the Palmer will continue to offer both in-person and virtual programming, as will the Center for the Performing Arts, Penn State Centre Stage, the School of Theatre, Penn’s Woods Music Festival, and the School of Music. We also will have a slate of virtual and in-person lectures from the Stuckeman School, School of Visual Arts, and Department of Art History (see the college website for details). As we slowly and carefully resume some of our in-person offerings, we are using the lessons we have learned during the pandemic to continue to offer robust virtual options to allow us to safely stay connected with our college community locally and beyond. Thank you, as always, for your support. I hope to connect with you soon!

7 July 2021

7 July 2021

Dear College of Arts and Architecture Faculty, Staff, and Students:

I hope you are having a good summer and enjoying activities that were not possible during the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the pandemic is not yet over, vaccination is one key factor in allowing us to move forward and safely resume gathering with friends and family, traveling, and attending events.

The University strongly encourages vaccination for anyone who is eligible. In accordance with current guidance, individuals who are vaccinated do not need to wear a mask indoors on our campuses, but wearing a mask is expected for unvaccinated individuals. The College of Arts and Architecture is making plans for in-person performances, student engagement events, alumni gatherings, and other activities, yet we reserve the right to adjust our plans for these events and activities based on conditions regarding COVID-19.

Penn State students and employees are strongly urged to share their vaccine status with the University, to allow for appropriate planning for the fall. If you are vaccinated and have not already filled out the survey in President Barron’s recent emails, click here. Through August 23, students and employees who have shared their vaccine status with the University will be eligible for various prizes, including $1000, Barnes & Noble gift cards, and a football signed by Coach James Franklin. See this Penn State News article for more information.

The University may need to put measures into place for unvaccinated employees and students if not enough members of our community are vaccinated. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of vaccination to help us as a college be successful this fall. Keep in mind that the timeline to be fully vaccinated takes several weeks, so it is important to act now to ensure you are vaccinated well before the start of the fall semester.

The College of Arts and Architecture community has shown amazing resolve and resilience in the face of the pandemic. From performances staged in living rooms to socially distanced studio critiques and virtual exhibitions, our students, faculty, and staff have demonstrated incredible creativity and determination. We are all anxious to resume safely the in-person interactions that are so important in the arts and design disciplines. I encourage everyone to do their part, so the 2021–22 academic year will be all it is promised to be.

29 June 2021

29 June 2021

As I write these words, I am surrounded by the warmth of the June sun in State College. The days are among the longest all year and afford more opportunities to spend time outdoors. This time of the year has always been restorative for me and 2021 is no different. In fact, it appears our collective navigation of the pandemic is beginning to allow us to participate in activities similar to those we took for granted over a year ago. You may also be sensing a degree of restoration and the possibilities in the months to come. In the college, we are a couple of months away from the start of a new academic year and a new set of possibilities.

The idea of “MakingPossibilitiesPossible” has been on my mind of late. In some ways, the four goals in the college strategic plan are built on this notion. Revised during much of 2020 to align with the revised University strategic plan, the college plan is constructed on four goals. In short, these goals seek to:

  • Cultivate transformative opportunities and experiences,
  • Establish, foster, and promote a culture of anti-racism, anti-oppression, inclusion, and equity
  • Advance innovative practices; and
  • Develop strategic alliances.

As a collective effort, we developed these goals through a series of workshops, conversations, and editing exchanges. These four goals are described in more detail in the full strategic plan, but you can find a one-page summary here. This plan has always been imagined as a living document. As such, it is designed to morph and take the form of the spaces we imagine and create over the next four years.

In addition, I have constructed a list of my own priorities for the next four years, as well as specific goals for 2021-22. One of these goals is to socialize and begin implementation of the strategic plan and my priorities for the college. By sharing my priorities here, I am initiating that action. They are:

  • Enable student success and achievement;
  • Create space and spaces of possibilities;
  • Support programmatic innovation, research, and creative practice;
  • Endow positions, departments, and schools;
  • Secure support for the educational and operational initiatives of the Palmer Museum of Art;
  • Center/advance/normalize policies and practices of access, anti-racism, and social equity;
  • Recruit and retain students, staff, faculty, and administrators from marginalized populations & diversify the demographics of our councils, committees, and affiliates;
  • Increase the visibility of our research, creative practice, accomplishments, and programs.

We have already seen evidence of some of these goals and priorities taking shape as our students, staff, faculty, and alumni continue to achieve, succeed, and have a positive influence on our world. These priorities are all about #MakingPossibilitiesPossible. I will elaborate on these priorities in future messages. Keep an eye on the college website, Penn State News, and our social media accounts across the college for stories about what we are up to, including—in this issue—alumnus Bill Holloway’s Presidential appointment, recent graduate Leo Wang’s innovative exhibition in downtown State College, and more.

I trust the remainder of the summer will treat you well. Enjoy! The fall is right around the corner.

27 April 2021

27 April 2021

As the spring semester draws to a close, we mark the conclusion of another academic year. For many people, the official conclusion is signified by the commencement ceremonies held in honor of our graduating students. While commencement will not look like it did pre-pandemic, we are grateful for the opportunity to recognize our College of Arts and Architecture graduates in person at Beaver Stadium on May 8, as part of a joint commencement ceremony with the Eberly College of Science, the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, and the College of Nursing (livestream will be available here).

As was the case for other colleges and universities, at Penn State the past year-and-a-half was defined by an extremely challenging collective shift from in-residence instruction to online, hybrid, and modified in-residence teaching modalities. We essentially had to reconfigure the merry-go-round while we were riding on it. In addition, the heightened visibility and injustice of racism compounded by divisive political rhetoric have added layers of unease, fear, and frustration. While the University may have adopted the idea of resilience as a goal—or at the very least a mantra—survival and endurance are terms I believe best reflect the daily existence of many of us.

Over the past year, we have reflected more than ever on how what we do in our college—the creative collaborations, the studio instruction and discussions, and a host of events and experiences—will inform critical conversations in the present and influence future generations. Among our many roles in the college is the responsibility to make spaces for such opportunities and conversations to empower our students to make future possibilities possible.

In the here and now, we revised and finalized our five-year strategic plan as part of the University-wide strategic planning process, Our Commitment to Impact. We staged virtual performances over Zoom, both live and streamed, and hosted workshops, symposia, town halls, and awards ceremonies. Many people and programs in the college have been recognized with awards for excellence. We have mourned the loss of friends and alumni of the college. We have sent well wishes to colleagues who have decided to move on, and have recognized others as their long careers have come to a close, with retirement plans shaping the next steps on life’s journey. These changes in turn have welcomed new members to our college community, ready to become part of this amazingly complex, innovative, and inspirational academic unit.

Of course we have also recognized our students throughout the year as they have met and exceeded our expectations, as they always seem to do. Our roles as artists, educators, scholars, designers, and cultural change agents demand we widen the views and perspectives of the students who move through our programs, readers who consider our scholarship, and visitors who experience our performances and view our productions and creations.

A highlight for me over the past year has been my conversations with numerous alumni—some captured in our “Movers, Shakers, Designers, Makers” series. For a twist, School of Visual Arts alumnus Brian Kappel and his daughter, current photography student Emma Kappel, interviewed me for the latest installment—check it out here.

Each of our alumni has had different Penn State experiences, yet they have all remained connected to the University and the college in some way, whether through vivid memories, mentoring, networking, or volunteering, to name a few. Thank you all for the many ways you have remained connected to Arts and Architecture. Best wishes for a safe and healthy summer.


B Stephen Carpenter II
Dean, College of Arts and Architecture
The Pennsylvania State University

19 March 2021

19 March 2021

On behalf of the College of Arts and Architecture, I mourn for the eight victims of the murders in Atlanta, Georgia, last week and extend my heartfelt sympathy to their family and friends. While details of these murders are still being assembled, it appears the majority of the victims were Asian American women. Over the past year, during the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, reports of vicious acts of hate and racialized domestic terroristic violence against Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and other members of the Asian Diaspora have increased across the country.

Mortal acts of violence, and the bigoted discourse that surrounds them, are reminders of the centrality of racism, hate, and xenophobia in the historical narrative of the United States. Acts of violence and hate based in race, identity, ethnicity, and nationality are intolerable.

I have written more of these statements in the past year than I had imagined I would need to write, yet I am compelled to do so once again. Hate and violence in any form, and particularly when motivated to diminish others based on their race, gender, ability, ethnicity, nationality, or sexual identity, is never acceptable.

I trust the students, staff, and faculty from the Asian and Pacific Island Diaspora know you have the support you need in the wake of the violence last week. Students in the College who seek support may reach out to Curt Marshall, coordinator of multicultural and recruitment programs. Similarly, any member of the College may contact me at


B. Stephen Carpenter II
Dean, College of Arts and Architecture

25 February 2021

25 February 2021

As we conclude the month of February 2021, spring is on the horizon, as well as hope that we are making our way out of the pandemic. Of course, some degree of pre-pandemic normalcy rests in front of us, although there is still uncertainty about vaccine distribution, access, and timeframe. With the University’s recent announcement of plans to increase the number of in-person courses this summer in hopes of having a full on-campus learning environment this fall, we have reason to be cautiously optimistic.

February is the second month of the calendar year, the month with the fewest days, and the month in which Black History Month and Valentine’s Day are both situated. I cannot take credit for this less than insightful observation – my recollection is I first heard this fact pointed out by a stand-up comedian on some late-night television show – however, the point raises questions for consideration. This year, during February, Penn State and other institutions fell victim to racist, anti-Semitic, and misogynistic Zoom bombings, a stark reminder of ongoing issues related to campus climate and our need to stand firm in our commitment to establishing a culture of anti-racism and anti-oppression in combating social injustice, inequality, and systemic oppression.

This month severe weather conditions produced power outages and interruptions in services across the country. Yet during this same short month, the University resumed in-residence instruction for some courses. The College of Arts and Architecture continues to make necessary adjustments to teaching, creating, researching, performing, rehearsing, and working within the context of heightened attention to health and safety regulations, including increased testing for on-campus students.

While in-person activities are still limited, we continue to offer numerous virtual options. Look for engaging conversations in the “Movers. Shakers. Designers. Makers,” series in which I conduct 1:1 interviews with alumni from our college. The most recent interviews are with Alumni Award recipients such as Landscape Architecture alumnus Adrian Smith and “Frida Kahlo,” an alumna and founding member of the Guerrilla Girls. We hope to honor these and other Alumni Award recipients in person in the fall.

The Palmer Museum of Art reopened earlier this month with a new timed-ticketing system and a new website. The Center for the Performing Arts, the School of Music, and the School of Theatre continue to make the performing arts accessible to audiences locally and elsewhere. Check out the college calendar for a complete list of events, talks, and performances.

Over the past month, as has been the case throughout the past year, former classmates, alumni, donors, and friends of the college have shared notes and e-mails of support and encouragement. They have posed questions inquiring about how staff, students, and faculty are managing. I appreciate your gestures of concern and hope you and your loved ones are safe and healthy. I recognize this year has been difficult for many of you – keep in mind the winter weather will soon be behind us with another spring soon to follow.

May you and those around you take care of each other. I hope to see you in person on campus in the near future.

7 January 2021

7 January 2021

The events on January 6 in Washington, D.C., gripped the country and the world. The actions of the mob who invaded and terrorized the U.S. Capitol Building and the procedural actions of the elected leaders of the country stood in contrast to and yet reflected points on a continuum of what it means to live in the current state of our democracy.

In response, President Barron issued a statement earlier today. He noted our responsibility, as members of the University community, to put aside differences and to rise above hate. I remain steadfast in making sure the arts and design work we do in the College of Arts & Architecture occurs within a space supportive of open dialogue, critical discourse, and creative inquiry informed by the lived experiences of those who create it, learn from it, and respond to it. I know personally how difficult and painful it can be to be subjected to systemic oppression and social inequity. Our conversations and actions in response to oppression and discrimination, and in service of equity and social justice, are not exercises. They are imperatives.

As we prepare to enter a third semester of academic work under the cloud of COVID and within the context of remote teaching, learning, and working, we must persevere. We must step forward with renewed resilience as we attend to our responsibilities just as the resilience of the foundations of this country must continue.

Civil unrest and illicit acts are not the same as civil disobedience and civil disagreement. Fomenting hate and provoking violence are not the same as inspiring peaceful protest to resolve matters of conflict.

Artists and designers certainly understand the power of embodied and performed means of conveying ideas and beliefs, but not at the cost of someone’s life or the dissolution of respect for the very institutions that enable people to do so freely. The work, research, and creative activity that is cultivated in this college is vital to ensuring our society has access to means through which discordant, divergent, controversial, and even questionable ideas can be made public for the purpose of critical consideration, innovation, and positive change.

We will continue our efforts in support of equity through actions grounded in the ideals of anti-racism, anti-bias, and anti-oppression. We will resist caste hierarchies, socially constructed systems of privilege, and the marginalization of difference. We will condemn hate. We will not condone violence. We will not disregard the perpetuation of lies, or the dismantling of the principles of a democratic republic, or the disrespect of others.

As we prepare for the spring semester and more uncertainty to come, you might find these resources for students and faculty and staff helpful.

While we are physically distanced, we are otherwise linked through our common purpose as artists, educators, scholars, historians, designers, colleagues, staff members, and students, all dedicated to our mutual success. The arts can be modes by which social institutions and the actions of individuals are placed on display for critique. They can also be means through which promises of hope and civility are enshrined. They can be channels to encourage and remind anyone brave enough to pay attention, of what is just, right, and virtuous.

17 December 2020

17 December 2020

As we enter a holiday season unlike any we have experienced before, I want to thank you, our alumni and friends, for your support, encouragement, and collaboration over the past year.

When I assumed the dean position in January 2020, I was appreciative of the opportunity and optimistic about assuming my new set of responsibilities. I was excited to transfer my experiences as a graduate student, faculty member, and administrator in the College of Arts and Architecture to the next phase of my professional journey. I was determined to visit staff and faculty members to gain a better sense of who they are, and where they work, teach, and create. Two months later my plans—and the world—came to a screeching halt.

The year 2020 has been defined in part by myriad challenges and losses brought on by the global pandemic. We are all struggling, in various ways. There is no denying that. Yet, we also have reasons to be hopeful. The distribution of vaccines is on the horizon. The start of a new calendar year is just around the corner. We also have reason to be proud. As artists and designers, we have played an integral role in helping people get through the pandemic. Through our work, we have provided an escape, a respite, and some entertainment. We have risen to the challenge of creating in unusual environments and physically distanced circumstances in small apartments, at dining room tables, in makeshift garage studios, and on late-night living room stages.

As scholars, educators, students, and staff, we had to shift, adjust, and in some cases change completely how we do our work. Who could have imagined teaching music remotely from home while students are in their dorm room? Hosting awards ceremonies and retirement celebrations through Zoom? We found ways to remain connected while being mindful of doing so while masked and from a safe distance.

Our entire College of Arts and Architecture community, of which you are a part, has rallied. You have supported us and each other in so many ways. As proud and dedicated alumni, you have performed in Penn State Centre Stage Virtual productions and have delivered remote lectures. You have remained active on alumni group boards. You have made connections with students through internships even as so many job options appear to be uncertain.

Our donors have also stepped forward during these challenging times. Through your generous contributions, we have established six Educational Equity Scholarships over the past few months, among numerous other gifts in support of our many programs. Friends of the college also showed up in a big way for #GivingTuesday, contributing generously to campaigns across the arts and design.

Thank you for being members of the College of Arts and Architecture family. I know this holiday season will be different from those we have experienced in years past. Yet, like we have demonstrated this year, we will find ways to make the most of the situation. May you find some joy and hope with friends and loved ones.

Be well. Be safe. Best wishes for a healthy and hopeful 2021.

30 October 2020

30 October 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold of the country last March, it quickly became clear to many that the arts were more than creative outlets and modes of cultural expression. Artistic and creative forms of resilience were beginning to emerge in myriad ways.

We watched elaborately edited ensemble performances with each singer occupying a tiny box on our computer screens instead of situated on a well-lit stage. Visual artists took their work in new directions, using unconventional materials and exhibition formats while they grappled with our “new normal.” As an entire industry shut down with no reliable reopen date in sight, theatre professionals figured out how to stage performances via Zoom.

While our current available opportunities to experience the arts in person remain limited, there is no denying what the arts “do.” The arts bring us together. The arts reflect our current circumstances. The arts assist us as we deal with what is likely the most challenging period in our collective lifetimes. The arts help us feel like we are not alone, even if we are no longer together.

As alumni and supporters of the College of Arts and Architecture, I know you are intimately familiar with what the arts “do.” So, you may be wondering how, in the midst of a global pandemic, we are “doing” the arts at Penn State. For sure, it does not look like what you remember or may have experienced when you were a student. What is similar, however, is how our academic and outreach units have continued to offer a robust schedule of visual arts and performance opportunities, visiting artist and scholar lectures, panel discussions, workshops, and educational programming—all in a virtual format.

While it seems like very little of what we do is the “same,” teaching and learning in the arts and design at Penn State is not as different as you might imagine. Thanks to the tremendous efforts of our staff and faculty, we have figured out how students can work safely in studios, on stages, and in classrooms. Health guidance and safety protocols have required us to call into question many of our uses of indoor spaces. That is, the likely locations for doing what we do have yielded to other spaces in which we now perform, design, and learn.

Too many students for a rehearsal hall? The Nittany Parking Deck has proven to be a suitable site to rehearse and perform music. Concerned about adequate ventilation in small music and theatre studios? Limit the number of students in the space for 30 minutes, and allow 30 minutes for the air to change before the next group can enter. Design studios are following strict schedules with small numbers of students allowed at one time. Faculty members have developed more sophisticated and creative ways to engage students via remote learning informed by what they experienced during remote instruction last spring. These are but a few examples of how we are making it work.

We cannot “make it work” without your support—as volunteers, as mentors, as donors, and simply as friends. On December 1, you will have an opportunity to support several different initiatives in the College of Arts and Architecture as part of Giving Tuesday: Glee Club Endowment Fund; Blue Band Legacy Fund; Penn State School of Theatre Future Fund; George Trudeau Endowment for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the Center for the Performing Arts; K–12 education and diversity programming at the Palmer Museum of Art; and African American Music Festival hosted by Essence of Joy. Check and our social media channels in the coming weeks to learn more about how you can contribute to these initiatives. With your support, we can continue to do what we do and “make it work.”

I encourage you to check out some of our virtual programming in the coming weeks and months—I promise you will not regret it! As always, I appreciate your support of and engagement with the College of Arts and Architecture. Thank you.

28 August 2020

28 August 2020

The new academic year is officially underway and you likely have visions and memories of campus at this time of the year, filled with new students roaming the halls, friends hugging and reconnecting, and faculty and staff prepared and ready for another promising semester ahead. Yet, as we know, this fall will be unlike any we have faced previously.

As we frame our path forward, we will do so in the spirit of a #CultureOfChange. In short, the ways we reimagine what and how we do what we do will define who we are as a college and where we will go.

Within this evolving landscape of change, some elements have remained essentially the same but taken on different formats. For example, I have maintained the ability to meet many long-time donors, friends, and alumni of the college through events; however, the locations for these meetings have been confined to our computer screens.

The online space has also enabled us to rethink some of our work and the engagements we make beyond campus. Penn State Centre Stage has produced a series of streaming video evening performances. The Palmer Museum of Art has provided a host of virtual museum resources to keep access to our collection, exhibitions, and educational programs available. Penn’s Woods Music Festival offered a rebroadcast of some of last year’s concerts along with live, virtual discussions with some of the performers.

One of our new efforts is a conversation series called “Movers, Shakers, Designers, Makers,” in which I talk one-on-one with some of our inspirational alumni. Check out the second installment in the series, with architect Samantha Josaphat, lower on this page. The first interview was with social media entrepreneur Mike Karns, and next up is visual artist Roberto Lugo. You can see them all on the College of Arts and Architecture’s YouTube channel.

While we deal with health and safety issues directly related to the pandemic, the past several months have also elevated the national conversation on racial injustice and the need to address systems of oppression. The College of Arts and Architecture is committed to resisting racism, bias, and oppression is many ways, not the least of which includes positioning this goal within our strategic plan. As you may be aware, President Barron has established a matching program to support the creation of equity scholarships for students whose economic and financial situations would otherwise limit or prohibit them from attending college. In essence, these scholarships recognize what many of us already know—to make a positive difference in the world, sometimes we need to make a positive difference for each other.

As we move into yet another semester, one that will certainly be defined by more uncertainty, I am confident in our efforts to forge ahead.

10 July 2020

10 July 2020

Racism, Social Media, and Actionable Items for the College of Arts & Architecture

I am writing to acknowledge the numerous emails and social media posts in recent weeks from alumni and current students of color at Penn State documenting personal experiences of racism and racial inequities. Most of these posts are anonymous. I have paid close attention to the posts about issues of racism and marginalization within the College of Arts and Arts and Architecture specifically. As dean, and as an alumnus of the college, these posts ring close to home.

I hear you. I see you. I empathize with you.

As a scholar, artist, and citizen, and now as dean, I am committed to resisting racism, oppression, and social inequity in and through the arts and design. In the week after George Floyd’s death, I commented as much and committed to addressing structural racism through systemic change. To do so, we cannot return to normal. We must instead take deliberate and meaningful action. Our steps in this direction will require us to make shifts in the college’s culture [the way we do things around here], our policies [the agreements that guide what we do and why], and our allocation of resources [the support we provide to act on what we believe]. Shifting our culture, policies, and resources will be key to successful forward progress.

As we revise the College’s strategic plan, we will include a goal to establish a culture of anti-racism and anti-oppression through our values, standards, ideals, policies, and practices. Below is a list of just some of the actionable items that will fall under this goal:

  • Develop an anti-racism and anti-oppression statement for the College and commit ourselves to specific goals and actions.
  • Establish an equity audit series in which scholars, artists, and designers conduct anti-racism and anti-oppression equity audits of the College.
  • Conduct a College-wide anti-racism and anti-oppression audit of curricula, policies, and practices.
  • Conduct a national search for an assistant/associate dean whose charge will be to foster social equity, access, and impact through the lens of anti-racism and anti-oppression.
  • Revise curricula and degree expectations for every student in the College to complete at least one anti-racism/anti-oppression course before graduation.
  • Commit funding to support anti-racism and anti-oppression research, creative activity, and outreach initiatives.
  • Hire faculty, staff, and student interns to advance racial justice, anti-racism, and anti-oppression initiatives.
  • Increase anti-racism and anti-oppression programming.

These actionable items align with my personal priority to foster and sustain a culture of anti-racism and anti-oppression in the College. While we cannot revisit the past and revise what happened previously, we can take ownership of where we are now and make meaningful change in our present moment. This incomplete list of actionable items begins to take up that work.

There are two other actionable items that are under development. First, I plan to initiate a conversation series to discuss systemic inequities, oppression, and racism generally, with specific attention to the ways in which these systems operate within and as the arts and design. The format of the conversations is under development but will require participation by students, staff, faculty, alumni, and others associated with the College who are willing to share their stories, contribute to meaningful dialogue, and work toward positive action and change. Second, I am prioritizing the establishment of endowed scholarships to improve our recruitment and retention of students with financial need and whose race, ethnicity, gender, culture, and/or national origin would diversify the student population in the college. These two initiatives are additional examples of my commitment to resist racial injustice and dismantle systemic oppression.

The current visibility of racial injustice occurs in tandem with the coronavirus pandemic. We must be attentive to both life-threatening circumstances. I trust you will keep yourselves and others safe as we make our way through the summer.

25 June 2020

25 June 2020

As I write this, in late June, we at Penn State are addressing issues we never could have imagined just a few months ago. Even as the COVID-19 pandemic began to grip the world in March, we could not have anticipated the confluence of issues we are facing currently as we prepare for the University’s planned return to campus in late August. Like the rest of the University, the College of Arts and Architecture is still working out details, asking questions, and piecing together answers on everything ranging from how students and faculty can safely return to studios and classrooms, to how we as a college can address the mounting racial tensions across the country.

On June 15, Penn State announced its plans to resume on-campus work and instruction in the fall. The announcement, “Back to State,” outlines guidance to date for resuming “on-campus, in-person classes and other activities this fall in a limited fashion,” with a “highly flexible mix of in-person, remote, and online instruction throughout the semester.” This guidance is evolving on a daily basis as we ask more questions and make informed decisions accordingly.

From the onset of the remote teaching/remote working mandate, I have maintained a position that privileges the health and safety of faculty, staff, and students, and a commitment to not endanger the lives of the college community when we can do otherwise. Our faculty and academic unit heads have been working diligently to determine the delivery mode of courses for the fall, based on pedagogical and instructional needs, as well as the current safety protocols and guidance on keeping themselves and students as safe as possible.

Like other universities across the country that are making purchases of hand sanitizer, masks, and plexiglass, we are also reacting – along with the rest of the world – to the ongoing protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death and other incidents of racial bias. As you may be aware, Penn State unfortunately found itself in the national news for several alleged incidents of hate speech on the part of students. In response, President Barron has established a Student Code of Conduct Task Force and Select Penn State Presidential Commission on Racism, Bias, and Community Safety to work together to provide concrete, actionable proposals to the University on how to address issues related to racism, bias, and religious intolerance on campus. The Board of Trustees has appointed an oversight group to hear regular updates from the select commission.

In addition, the University has launched a roundtable series, “Toward Racial Equity at Penn State: Social Difference, Social Equity, and Social Change.” I am proud to be a panelist for the first conversation, “Race, Our Campus Climate, and Workplace,” on Tuesday, June 30, 3–5 p.m., which can be watched live at I encourage you to tune in if your schedule permits. Furthermore, in recent meetings with members of the Philanthropic Council and the Arts and Architecture Alumni Society Board, I discussed our progress on revisions to the strategic plan, as well as a set of actionable items our college will pursue to promote student success, to advance research, creative practice, exhibitions, and performances, and to confront racial bias and systemic oppression.

As I mark my first six months as dean of this fantastic college, I anxiously look forward to when I can meet more of our alumni and friends in person. In the meantime, please check out the first installment in our new series, “Movers Shakers Designers Makers,” where I chat with alumni from across the college. It was great to reconnect (via Zoom!) with School of Theatre alumnus and social media entrepreneur Mike Karns.

I hope you and your families are staying safe and healthy, and finding creative ways to live and learn in the midst of uncertainty in so many aspects of our lives. Thanks, as always, for your support.