About Us

Penn State Outreach plays a strategic leadership role in advancing Penn State’s 21st century land-grant mission by connecting the University’s faculty and student expertise to communities across the Commonwealth, nation, and world.

Penn State Outreach resources are put to work in countless ways:

  • a broad portfolio of courses enrich educational development and lifelong learning
  • workshops, conferences, and contract programs support professional and personal growth
  • broadcast and multimedia programming foster creative thinking and dialogue
  • experiential learning programs connect students with artificial intelligence industry partners and technology to address real-world problems

Our aim is to broaden and inspire minds, strengthen communities, positively impact society, promote quality of life, and ultimately support the University’s mission.

History

History of OutreachPenn State’s tradition of serving the community goes back to the University’s earliest days, when it was founded as the Farmers’ High School. Agriculture was the focus of the original outreach efforts, with University president Evan Pugh conducting chemical analyses of commercial fertilizers and sharing the information with interested farmers.

Formal outreach programs can be traced back to 1877, when farmers from around the state began attending Farmers’ Institutes to learn about new practices that could help them with their crops and livestock. That was more than three decades before the Smith-Lever Act of 1914 provided funds for cooperative extension administration and state land-grant institutions — like Penn State. By that time Penn State already had 25 extension agents at work, delivering agricultural education throughout the Commonwealth.

The University launched distance education classes in 1892 (the forerunner of Penn State World Campus), and management education programs for business and industry followed in 1915. The roots of the University’s youngest outreach division, Penn State Public Broadcasting, stem from a 1952 meeting, where more than 100 leaders in education, broadcasting, and government laid the foundation for a noncommercial, educational television service for the United States.