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News & Announcements

New Orientation Program

The Office for Student Orientation & Transition Programs (SOTP), charged with providing a comprehensive transition experience for all new Penn State students, saw a successful inaugural New Student Orientation (NSO) season, welcoming over 8,000 first-year students and 9,000 parents and family members to University Park campus throughout the summer.

Penn State's expanded, two-day NSO launched in May 2013 and provided first-year students at University Park an opportunity to get acquainted with campus and other new students, while learning about the academic rigor of Penn State and registering for their courses. During their NSO visit, students stayed overnight in North Halls and had a chance to experience the campus dining commons. They also connected with other first-year students with the help of an Orientation Leader, who led small group discussions about the transition to the University, including living and learning in a diverse community and health, safety, and personal responsibility, and the importance of getting involved at Penn State. Parents and families of first-year students were invited to attend NSO, and participated in programming that helped them learn about support available to their sons and daughters during their time at Penn State.

Penn State ROTC Excels at Sandhurst

A Penn State Army ROTC team placed second in the prestigious international Sandhurst Military Training Competition at West Point this spring. The Sandhurst Competition, between 44 U.S. and 14 international teams, promotes military excellence by enhancing select soldier skills such as decision-making, marksmanship, navigation and first aid. A team from Britain, which has long dominated the event, was again named the overall winner. In twenty years of competition, Army ROTC teams have never posed a real threat to win the Sandhurst Competition. This year was different. Cadet Command programs collectively posted their strongest finish ever with three schools ranking in the top 10. Penn State led the way. The University of North Dakota came in sixth and Brigham Young University captured seventh.

Schreyer Institute Provides Online Help to Faculty

The Schreyer Institute has launched a series of online, self-paced modules that address a variety of topics. The intent is to make teaching and assessment skills and information more accessible to University faculty. Early data suggest that instructors are accessing these materials at their own convenience.

One of the modules, "Item Analysis," includes a diagnostic quiz for module users to test their new assessment knowledge. Nearly 60 instructors have voluntarily worked through the materials and taken the quiz. This number does not include visitors to the site who may have declined to submit quiz responses.

Additional modules will be rolled out this academic year.

New Pre-Law Advising Website

The Division of Undergraduate Studies (DUS) recently launched Penn State's new Pre-Law Advising website ( to meet the needs of students exploring and testing their interest in law school, learning about the application process, and preparing for the law school experience. The site points students toward the Law School Admission Council and the importance of establishing an account early and preparing for the Law School Admission Test; and it introduces the concept of specialties within the field of law, such as human rights, environmental, criminal, family, and business law, to name a few.

Special features of the site include a pre-law event calendar, the Pre-Law Self Assessment to help students reflect on their goals and motivations for going to law school, and the University's report on Penn State Students Studying Law, which provides data on majors that pre-law students tend to choose and the law schools these students typically attend. Penn State Pre-Law Advising is available to all undergraduate and graduate students, as well as alumni with interests and questions about the law school process.

New Math Placement Test Coming Soon

After many years of mathematics placement using an in-house system, the University recently signed a contract with McGraw Hill/ALEKS PPL for an online adaptive program that provides both placement testing and remediation ( ALEKS (Assessment and LEarning in Knowledge Spaces) uses an adaptive test designed to probe for students' areas of strength and weakness relative to the learning objectives of individual Penn State math courses. The adaptive placement test is individualized for each student, providing much finer grained results and more accurate placement into courses where success is most likely. Weaknesses in Math are revealed immediately, and students can use ALEKS online learning modules to improve and take the placement test again prior to New Student Orientation.

This change will enable students (particularly those whose majors require calculus) to pursue their required math courses in a more efficient manner, resulting in savings in both time and tuition. For example, a student who places into MATH 022 but needs MATH 110 will have the ability to master MATH 022 content, re-test, and place directly into MATH 110 prior to their first semester. Students will not be charged a separate fee for the placement test(s) and remediation–it is included in their tuition and fees. Implementation for ALEKS will begin November 1, 2013. Extensive advising web resources are being developed to help students understand their placement results and remediation pathways.

Key Administrative Appointments in Undergraduate Education

The start of the 2013-2014 academic year welcomes several new administrative appointments to Undergraduate Education. They are:

Jacqueline Edmondson: Associate Vice President and Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education

Robert Kubat: University Registrar

David R. Smith: Executive Director of the Division of Undergraduate Studies and Associate Dean for Advising