New Kensington health and human development faculty awarded full professorship

September 02, 2015

UPPER BURRELL, Pa. -- Penn State New Kensington’s Jyotsna “Josi” Kalavar is the first female faculty member promoted to full professor. Kalavar was elevated in June to professor of human development and family studies.

Kalavar joins K. Robert Bridges, professor of psychology, and Michael McGinnis, professor of business administration, as full professors on the campus faculty. Full professor is the highest rank attained by senior faculty members. It is a prestigious landmark in the life of the professorate and means recognition by peers for exceptional contributions within their discipline.

"Josi is a fine example of academic excellence, and her commitment to her research program enhances the knowledge that she brings to her students," said Andrea Adolph, director of academic affairs. "Attaining the rank of professor is evidence of her recognition as an internationally-known scholar, a devoted teacher, and a superb University citizen. We are proud of this accomplishment and look forward to her continued success."

A native of India, Kalavar joined the campus community in 2001. She teaches classes on infant, child and adolescent development, adult development and aging, health psychology, and industrial-organizational psychology.

Kalavar earned her bachelor’s degree from Bombay University in India and a master’s degree from the State University of New York. She completed doctoral studies at the University of Maryland and took part in a National Institute on Aging postdoctoral program at the University of Michigan.

Research and awards
Kalavar's primary research interests are the diverse experiences of aging (homebound seniors, immigrant seniors, experiencing ageism, adult day care, seniors residing in institutions, aging among the Maasai elderly) and intergenerational relationships. Her work focuses on the care of the elderly in a changing society. She has studied home-bound seniors, immigrant seniors, and those in long-term care institutions. Kalavar has received funding to support her research from the National Institute on Aging. She has presented her work internationally in China, Japan, South Korea, India, England, New Zealand and Finland.

In 2005, Kalavar became the campus’ first Fulbright scholar. She traveled to India to study changes in that country’s elder care. Four years ago, Kalavar was awarded fellowship status by the Gerontology Society of America. Fellowship — the highest class of membership within the society — is an acknowledgment of her outstanding work in the field of gerontology, a branch of science that studies aging. It is separate from geriatrics, which is the branch of medicine that focuses on late-life medical issues.

She is also the recipient of numerous campus and University awards, including the John Romano Faculty/Staff Diversity Recognition Award in 2012; Excellence in Teaching Award in 2013; and Arlene E. Hall Service Award in 2014.

Kalavar was interviewed in May by BBC World Radio for the program “The Forum.” Hosted by Bridget Kendall, the podcast presents ideas and research of some of the world's most eminent minds. Kalavar discussed the revival of Sanskrit in India and the United States.

Global initiatives
Kalavar was instrumental in instituting the annual Country of Focus on the campus to promote greater awareness and understanding of world issues, international trends, and global policy debates. Beginning with China in 2007, the campus’ international presentations have included Ecuador, India, Spain, Kenya, Tanzania, Ireland, the United Kingdom and Turkey. This year, the focus is on Cuba.

The adoption of an international region or country to inspire teaching and scholarship is a part of the campus’ Global Programs initiative that provides students with opportunities to study in foreign lands for varying periods of time — week, summer, semester or full year. The objective is to offer Penn State students a broader education than can be obtained in the classroom.

Students who want to study abroad may soon have a very different option.

Earlier this summer, Kalavar and a group of commonwealth campus professors joined Neil Brown, assistant professor of geography at Penn State University Park, on a trip to Jamaica to share his model of intensive embedded international teaching and to gauge their interest in adopting the model for courses at their own campuses.

Under Brown’s model, learning is constant, and every waking moment of the trip is designed to maximize one or more of the learning outcomes. The trip in June was designed to show faculty the ins and outs of working an intensely focused, international experience into their own curricula. Kalavar called the program “training for the trainers.”

“We watched Neil Brown handle a diverse group of people and learned skills with program planning, versatility and adaptability, as well as the talent needed to provide students with various lenses to experience their stay in a new culture,” Kalavar said.

Embedded programs are growing in popularity as a way of giving more students the opportunity to study abroad. Penn State New Kensington is at the forefront of the movement.

In May, eight students, accompanied by three faculty members, spent two weeks in the Kingdom of Thailand in Southeast Asia. The student contingent was an eclectic blend from three campuses (New Kensington, Beaver, University Park) and five academic programs (business, engineering, global studies, information sciences and technology, psychology). The summer excursion was the capstone of a global marketing and international studies classes taught by Rujirutana “Dr. A” Mandhachitara, associate professor of business administration at the campus.

The trip was a mixture of learning opportunities and leisure activities designed to provide an overall educational experience. Students attended presentations on how Thai companies attract foreign customers and the differences between Thailand and the United States on cultural norms and values, educational systems, and social structures. 

Since 2004, more than 160 campus students have traveled to Spain, France, Italy, China, Greece, Peru, Galapagos Islands, Ireland and Thailand.

Additional information is available on the Penn State New Kensington Global Programs website

In addition to her teaching load, Kalavar is active on the campus. She is a member of Gang Green, a campus Green Paws team. Sponsored by the Penn State Sustainability Institute, Green Paws are groups of faculty and staff volunteering to take specific actions to help their offices or departments operate in a more efficient, innovative, and healthy ways. The groups work in conjunction with the institute’s Green Paws program to earn certificates of achievement.

Green Paws is a four-step program for resource efficiency in the office. Each level comprises nine sustainability categories: energy, recycling, waste reduction, purchasing, outreach and production, events and meetings, transportation, kitchens and break rooms, and publications. Each category has a checklist of certain criteria to meet, and each level makes the office "greener." Certification is bestowed upon those who complete the checklist at each level.

Kevin Snider, campus chancellor, is a big proponent of the program. He encouraged the campus community to learn about sustainability and put it into practice. Since April 1, campus teams have been reducing waste and saving energy. New Kensington is the only Penn State campus with 100 percent participation by its faculty and staff. For more on sustainability at the campus, visit

For more about Kalavar, visit

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Bill Woodard

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Last Updated September 10, 2015