Campus ready to help students as they return to classes, and the 'new normal'

group of staff and students pose for photo at mental health services info table

Dr. Katherine Stefanelli, Penn State Scranton coordinator of counseling and psychological services, second from left, poses for a photo with interns Jessica Wills and Serena Garnett, as well as Associate Director of Learning and Disability Services Eileen Giovagnoli, far right, during a recent information station focusing on campus mental health services and suicide prevention during National Suicide Prevention Week.  


Credit: Morgan Sewack

DUNMORE, Pa. — Now more than ever, students are facing anxieties of the “new normal,” as classes and activities begin to take place on campus again after two years of virtual learning and social distancing that happened as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the fall semester now underway, Penn State Scranton is doing what it can to help reduce the stress and concerns of students by providing them with a variety of mental health and academic services aimed at helping them transition back to a safe and fun in-person campus experience.

“In regard to usage and trends, there has been a steady increase since my appointment in 2018, with anxiety being the top concern, consistently,” said Katherine Stefanelli, Penn State Scranton’s coordinator of Counseling and Psychological Services.

There is a wide variety of mental health services that are available to students which include counseling, mental health screening, crisis services, and proactive programming. “We will offer screenings for concerns such as depression, programs to address navigating the transition to college, and fun events like Pet Therapy for stress relief,” said Stefanelli. Additional services and events for the upcoming semester include Love Your Body Day, Guess the Emotion Plushy Stuff, Sleep Hygiene Clinic, and Mandala and Rock Painting. Weekly yoga will also be offered for stress management and begin at 12 p.m. every Wednesday in the Dawson Building, Room 10.

Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) offers a great array of wellness self-help tools as well. Penn State Scranton also provides referrals to higher levels of care when needed, including psychiatric services and community resources. Faculty and staff have resources at their disposal to assist students including the “Red Folder” which helps them assist students in distress. Faculty can also fill out a CARE team referral form for students of concern.

Stefanelli’s counseling page on Penn State Scranton’s website talks about helping students in distress and provides the 24/7 Penn State Crisis Line number which all students can use, free of charge. Students can also email Stefanelli directly ([email protected]) to set up an intake appointment for their mental health concerns.

Academic assistance also available

Attending college can often be a challenging adjustment for new students who must develop new strategies for managing their time, taking college-level exams and using active reading and note-taking strategies for university success.

“New students this year may also worry that COVID has impacted their level of preparation for college courses,” said Eileen Giovagnoli, associate director of learning and disability services. “The Learning Center is here to offer support and assistance.”

Penn State Scranton’s Learning and Writing Center also aids in reducing the academic stress students encounter, while helping them make the adjustment to university life and succeed in their college career. “We assist students through study skills help and tutoring support for Penn State Scranton classes,” said Giovagnoli.

The Learning and Writing Center supports classes, including math, science, business, nursing and more, and offers writing assistance for students in any class and for professional writing needs such as personal essays for graduate and professional school. In addition, it provides support to the First-Year Seminar class by providing a "Time Management Toolkit" to all first-year students.

Students can take advantage of professional academic coaches to find ways to improve study strategies. Some typical strategies include developing a time management plan, looking at how to prepare for exams to achieve success, using strategies for making the most of class time to take notes on the most important information, and active strategies to get the most out of college textbooks and other reading materials.

“We also offer tutoring in specific subjects where we can individualize our support by focusing on the student’s needs,” said Giovagnoli. “This can be helpful for students who may feel they are a little rusty on certain concepts or are concerned about their level of skill going into the course.”

Penn State Scranton’s Learning and Writing Center has a full schedule of tutoring support by peers, faculty, and professional tutors. There are options to meet with tutors and writing consultants in person and online. “We have also expanded our tutoring hours by offering a virtual schedule during evenings and weekends,” said Giovagnoli. Asynchronous writing assistance is offered through the Blue and White OWL.  In addition to coaching and tutoring services, the Learning Center has new staff who can help to support students who want to make the most of their Penn State education.

Penn State Scranton's new staff includes Matt Smith, Disability and Learning Specialist, and Jaime Mosher, full-time Writing Center Coordinator. Students can request a tutor online through the new digital request form and can schedule appointments through an online scheduler. Additional information is available from the Penn State Scranton webpage.

This year, the Learning and Writing Center is attending the Club Fair from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 8, and Friday, Sept. 9, in the View Café, and is also sponsoring an information table from noon to 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 13, outside the View Café, to offer an opportunity for students to meet the Learning and Writing Center staff. Students can visit the table to learn more about their services, request a tutor, and sign up for a chance to win a gift card.