Smeal Update: October 23, 2020

Tech TAs available to faculty who need assistance with Zoom

As Penn State continues to adjust to this period of remote teaching, new information is continually uncovered regarding how to best support faculty. To assist with this need, a new service called Tech TAs has been unveiled. Tech TAs will enable faculty to focus exclusively on delivering their lessons and teaching their courses via Zoom, and not the technology itself. This Penn State News story details the new service. Faculty can apply for a Tech TA online.

Mister Rogers Calls: Won’t you be my neighbor?

In an effort to increase a sense of community during these remote times, we are inviting you to participate in Mister Rogers Calls. By clicking this link, you will be asked to select your affiliation within Smeal. You will then be randomly matched with another member of the Smeal Community and you both will receive a notification via email. Team members will then schedule a Zoom call for sometime within the following week. The only guideline for the Zoom call is that it should last about 30 minutes, and it is suggested you do not talk about work (other than a brief introduction). After your first meeting, you may meet as often as you like, or participate in then next round of calls, in an effort to connect with additional members of our community. Please respond by Tuesday to participate in our first round of calls.

Alumni Insights with Greg Reed '91 CEO, HomeServe UK

Join us for a virtual discussion between Dean Charles H. Whiteman and Greg Reed from noon to 1 p.m. Tuesday. Dean Whiteman will share some of the latest college highlights and then interview Greg about his career experiences, industry trends, and perspectives on leadership. Please register online.

Save the Date: Executive Insights with Siemens USA CEO

Barbara Humpton, president and CEO of Siemens USA, will join Dean Whiteman for Executive Insights from 11:15 a.m. to 12:05 p.m. Friday, Oct. 30 in a moderated Zoom session. Please register and plan to attend.

Smeal Spirit of Giving enters 19th year

Each year, the Smeal community comes together to make the holidays a little brighter for local boys and girls through the Spirit of Giving. The names and needs of underprivileged children come from a local non-profit and the gifts are turned over to them for distribution. This year, there will be no drop-off location in the Business Building, and the project needs to be finished by Nov. 18. There are three options for donating:

  • Make a cash donation and Melissa Forsha, Professional Graduate Programs budget manager, will purchase needed items.
  • View a list of children with specific needs on this 2020 Spirit of Giving Sign Up Sheet and choose one or more items to purchase. Those gifts would need to be mailed unwrapped to Melissa.
  • Purchase any kind of toy, game, book, or puzzle for a wide range of ages. Mail those unwrapped to Melissa.

Email Melissa at for further information, or if you would like to help.

Centre County Toys for Tots campaign under way

The annual Toys for Tots campaign, run by the local Marine Corps Reserve, has started and will end four weeks early, on Nov. 13, due to the pandemic. The need this year is expected to be greater than ever. Donations of toys, money and food are needed. A list of collection points is available at Donations by check, made payable to Toys for Tots, can be mailed to: Toys for Tots c/o Allstate Insurance, 1380 N. Atherton St., State College, PA 16803.  

Penn State benefits open enrollment period planned for November

The University’s 2021 Benefits Open Enrollment will be begin on Nov. 2 and run through Nov. 20. Several resources are available to help faculty and staff make informed decisions. Information about those resources are found in this Penn State News story.

Do you know someone who rocks? Nominate them!

Each month the Smeal Staff Advisory Committee names a You Rock! For October, the recipient is the Smeal financial office: Robin Bailey, Wes Bumbarger, Jesse Carl, Jeri Carver, Kathleen Rickley, and Amy Seachrist. You can nominate a co-worker for the You Rock! Award online.

The Smeal Community Weekly Poll

The Staff Advisory Committee, in an effort to engage the Smeal community, is conducting a weekly poll. This week's survey addresses varying degrees of pumpkin spice. Click this link to participate. Results will be shared during next week's Smeal Community Zoom.

Frequently-asked question from faculty

If a student or employee with COVID-19 symptoms is selected for surveillance testing, do they still need to complete the surveillance testing process?

Symptomatic individuals selected for surveillance testing should indicate their symptoms via the questionnaire on the COVID-19 surveillance registration website. Students and employees who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 will be excluded from random asymptomatic surveillance testing.

Due to the fact that surveillance test samples are analyzed in pools, or groups, for efficiency, and in the interest of personal and community health, symptomatic students should instead stay home and schedule an appointment with University Health Services or their campus health center for individual evaluation and testing. Employees with COVID-19 symptoms should stay home, call their primary care provider, and contact Penn State Occupational Medicine at 814-863-8492 or

As part of Penn State’s multi-layered COVID-19 testing program, the University is conducting randomized daily testing of at least 1% of the campus population to identify asymptomatic carriers of the virus. Those excluded from testing due to COVID-19 symptoms may be added back into the testing pool and selected again at a later date.