Penn State creates resource to enhance campus safety

September 30, 2008

New Web-based approach helps faculty and staff identify troubled students and get them help

University Park, Pa. — Virginia Tech. Northern Illinois University. Deadly shootings at these and other schools are leading to new and innovative ways to identify students in distress and offer help in times of need. Penn State Public Broadcasting has helped create a new tool for faculty and staff to assist such students.

" 'Worrisome Student Behaviors: Minimizing Risk' is the latest release in our efforts to equip Penn State faculty and staff with the essential tools for addressing students at risk," said Dennis Heitzmann, senior director of Penn State's Center for Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). "'Worrisome Student Behaviors' showcases training videos to include themes of potential violence that may be encountered in the classroom and other venues. In order to keep our campuses safe, faculty and staff must share the responsibility for identifying students at risk and securing treatment interventions."

 Mary Anne Knapp, clinical social worker with CAPS, added, "Incidents like Virginia Tech (when 32 students and faculty were murdered by a fellow student on April 16, 2007) have led some faculty and staff to fear the worst about potential student behaviors and feel paralyzed about interacting with students. The goal of this project is to encourage faculty and staff to think about and discuss the nuances in student behavior and ways to intervene in potentially uncomfortable and difficult situations."

 The "Worrisome Student Behaviors: Minimizing Risks" project is a Web-based tool that includes a series of video vignettes illustrating the most common situations faculty and staff face, along with information and resources that are available to help students, and intervention guidelines. Supported by Penn State President Graham Spanier's Future Fund, the project is a collaborative effort involving Penn State Public Broadcasting (PSPB), the Office of the President, the College of Education and the Counseling and Psychological Services division of Student Affairs.

 David H. Monk, dean of the College of Education, initiated this effort in response to questions from college faculty and staff about how best to respond to instances of worrisome student behavior. "The goal was to draw upon the counseling expertise within CAPS and the ability of WPSU to produce high-quality videos that would provoke thought and provide valuable information about how to function effectively as a caring and respectful community," Monk said.

 "This project draws upon the expertise of our faculty and staff to address a critical need at Penn State, as well as at other colleges and universities,” said President Graham Spanier. "Along with the PSUTXT text-messaging alert system and other emergency preparedness initiatives, the new video project will help us to continue to provide a safe environment for all students and staff."

 As Ted Krichels, associate vice president for Public Engagement and general manager of PSPB, pointed out, "Faculty and staff deal with troubled students in difficult situations every day, on every college campus. Angry and agitated students can often be troubling, but when is such behavior a real threat? There are presently few tools to help."

 Each vignette is several minutes in length and is followed by a discussion with Penn State psychologists and counselors. A guide to using campus resources also is included. This tool will be available to all faculty and staff University-wide. PSPB also plans to develop a TV program using the vignettes and offer it to the Big Ten Network, Krichels said.

View the online video project at For more information about "Worrisome Student Behaviors," call the Center for Counseling and Psychological Services at (814) 863-0395.



  • The online video series 'Worrisome Student Behaviors: Minimizing Risk' presents four scenarios faculty may face, followed by advice from a panel of counselors as well as links to additional resources. Click on the image above to go to the video site.

    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated September 23, 2020