Engage, empower, and inspire global learners. Every day. Everywhere.


Penn State Outreach and Online Education will reimagine and redefine learning to enact positive change and improve society.


  • Excellence — We focus our efforts on areas of greatest strength and opportunity.
  • Integrity — We hold ourselves to the highest ethical standards.
  • Accountability — We tenaciously take ownership of our work, our actions, and our organization.
  • Innovation — We embrace creativity and disciplined risk-taking.
  • Inclusiveness — We create an inviting environment for all people to be heard.


Penn State’s tradition of reaching out to the community goes back to the University’s earliest days. Since the University was founded as the Farmers’ High School, it’s no surprise that agriculture was the focus of the original outreach efforts. Evan Pugh, president from 1859 to 1864, conducted chemical analyses of commercial fertilizers so that farmers would know what they were really buying.

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 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture 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 today’s 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, lie in a 1952 meeting at The Nittany Lion Inn, where more than 100 leaders in education, broadcasting, and government laid the foundation for a noncommercial, educational television service for the United States.

Today, Penn State Outreach and Online Education offers the largest and most diversified outreach portfolio in the country. Its major units — World Campus, Continuing Education, Professional and Community Education, and Public Media — are recognized leaders in delivering programs with widespread impact.

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