Penn State Outreach: Amplifying the Land-Grant Mission

At the core of Penn State Outreach’s mission is a dedicated effort to positively impact society by engaging diverse audiences through compelling content and evidence-based programs. This mission is deeply entrenched in Penn State’s distinctive role as the sole land-grant institution in Pennsylvania.

Penn State’s journey as a land-grant institution commenced in 1863 with President Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the Morrill Land-Grant Act. This groundbreaking legislation allocated federal lands to states, facilitating the establishment of universities with a three-fold mission: teaching, research, and service. The land-grant designation, emphasizing accessibility in higher education, ensures that a four-year degree is within reach for individuals from all backgrounds.

The profound impact of Penn State’s land-grant mission is accentuated by the fact that more than 95% of Pennsylvania residents live within 30 miles of one of its campuses. Notably, every Penn State campus offers the opportunity to attain a four-year degree. This accessibility underscores the mission’s significance, with the potential to positively influence over 12.3 million Pennsylvanians.

Penn State Outreach: Amplifying the Mission in Action

Penn State Outreach’s commitment to embodying and amplifying the University’s unique land-grant mission comes to life through transformative programs. These initiatives enrich lives, empower communities, and align seamlessly with education’s broader vision as a force capable of uplifting people from all walks of life. By engaging diverse audiences, Outreach strives to foster resilient, healthy, sustainable, and innovative communities within the Commonwealth and beyond.

A Tapestry of Programs

Outreach’s commitment is evident in its diverse programs, such as the Franco Harris Pittsburgh Center at Penn State, which actively addresses Pittsburgh communities’ unique needs, offering internships, research projects, and service-learning experiences. Its success stories, primarily through the City Semester Pittsbugh program, showcase positive community development. Simultaneously, the Center plays a crucial regional role as the National Green Infrastructure Certification Program provider, aligning with the broader mission of fostering sustainable practices.

Franco Harris Pittsburgh Center CITY Semester students on a field trip

In public service, the Justice and Safety Institute (JASI) annually reaches thousands of criminal justice professionals with comprehensive training programs, showcasing Outreach’s commitment to impactful education. At the same time, the K-12 Engagement Network engages Pennsylvania administrators, educators, and students, actively supporting the land-grant mission.

In technology and education, the Nittany AI Alliance leverages AI to unite the Penn State community and prepare students for an AI–driven world. Initiatives like the Nittany AI Challenge underscore the powerful connection between technology and education, reinforcing the University’s commitment to transformative learning experiences.

Students from the Nittany AI Challenge on stage with winning checks

Lifelong Learning and Community Enrichment

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) underscores the belief that education knows no age limits. OLLI provides individuals who are age 50 or better a welcoming environment for lifelong learning, free from exams and grades. OLLI fosters intellectual growth through courses, presentations, trips, and special interest groups, with Penn State students actively bridging generational gaps through shared experiences. The Penn State Center Philadelphia embodies the University’s engagement with urban communities by listening to the needs of Philadelphia residents, leveraging Penn State resources, and creating sustainable solutions. The faculty academy program, internships, and community-based projects testify to the positive impact that collaborative initiatives can have on the University and the community it serves.

Two female OLLI members holding holiday ornament crafts they made in class

Innovative Pathways to Success

The Readiness Institute at Penn State, focusing on learner-centered approaches, prepares individuals for the future irrespective of their background. By creating personalized pathways to success, the Readiness Institute exemplifies how education, innovation, and community engagement converge to develop meaningful, lasting change.

Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center and The Arboretum at Penn State connect Pennsylvanians to nature and foster environmental stewardship. Shaver’s Creek serves as a living laboratory, actively involving the Penn State community in hands-on experiences through engaged scholarship opportunities such as internships, outdoor school programs, and the SEED Semester. These initiatives contribute to ecological understanding and community well-being.

Similarly, The Arboretum at Penn State is a green oasis and an educational hub promoting plant education. The Arboretum actively involves Penn State students in research projects, interpretive tours, and workshops, cultivating a sense of environmental responsibility.

A mirror image of blue skies and puffy white clouds reflected in the still water of Lake Perez.

Connecting through Media

WPSU, as a next-generation PBS and NPR media station, plays a vital role in connecting communities through traditional and digital content. By focusing on local concerns and creating narratives representing local culture, history, and places, WPSU sparks discovery, enriches learning, and strengthens community bonds.

Illuminating the Path Forward

In the vibrant tapestry of Penn State Outreach’s extensive program portfolio, we witness the land-grant mission — an unwavering commitment to education, service, and research that transcends barriers and enriches lives. From the diverse community engagement initiatives to groundbreaking AI projects, lifelong learning opportunities, and environmental stewardship, Outreach has crafted a narrative that resonates with the transformative power of the land-grant mission.

The Pennsylvania State University campuses are located on the original homelands of the Erie, Haudenosaunee (Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Mohawk, and Tuscarora), Lenape (Delaware Nation, Delaware Tribe, Stockbridge-Munsee), Monongahela, Shawnee (Absentee, Eastern, and Oklahoma), Susquehannock, and Wahzhazhe (Osage) Nations.

We acknowledge and honor the traditional caretakers of these lands and strive to understand and model their responsible stewardship. We also acknowledge the longer history of these lands and our place in that history.