Penn State In The News: January 2016

February 03, 2016

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State appears in the news hundreds of times every day. Monthly, the University’s Office of Strategic Communications features national and international news coverage of the work and expertise of Penn State’s faculty, students and staff.

January's highlights:

-- The Zika virus became major news late in January when the World Health Organization declared it a public health emergency. The mosquito-born virus was spreading throughout South and Central America. Doctors believe it is causing babies to be born with abnormally small heads (microcephaly). Yahoo Health wanted to know how this would affect the Summer Olympics, which are being held this summer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, so they turned to the Penn State Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics and Jason Rasgon. Rasgon studies how insects transmit diseases. He gave a grim warning: “I think it’s going to be extremely difficult to contain Zika and there’ll definitely be people going to Brazil for the games who will get the disease.”

-- Climate scientist Michael Mann dominated several news days in January after releasing findings that said the recent record heat was “almost certainly” caused by humans. "Climate change is real, human-caused and no longer subtle — we're seeing it play out before our eyes." His research was picked up in Reuters, Bloomberg, The New York Times, USA Today and Time Magazine. He said that 13 of the 15 warmest years on record occurred between 1998 and 2014, adding that the odds of that happening without human influence were somewhere between 1 in 5,000 and 1 in 170,000. “Natural climate variability causes temperatures to wax and wane over a period of several years, rather than varying erratically from one year to the next,” said Mann.

-- Penn State’s School of Hospitality Management released a massive study of Airbnb in January. Airbnb allows people to list extra space in their home for others to rent out on a short-term basis. The Penn State study said that nearly 30 percent of Airbnb’s revenue came from “full-time operators” who rented space 360 days a year. The study was picked up in Bloomberg, TimesFortune and hundreds of other places.

-- Huffington Post reported the results of the Center for Collegiate Mental Health at Penn State’s annual report, which looked at data from 139 college and university counseling centers. It found that more students than ever are seeking help for mental health issues. Executive Director Ben Locke is also concerned that counseling centers are understaffed, leading to long wait times for people seeking help. He says counseling centers' budgets are usually based on the number of students enrolled and previous numbers of students visiting the centers. "This is the reason we hear those stories that 'I called my counseling center to get help and they said it'll be a three- or four-week wait,'" Locke said. 

-- Every year U.S. News & World Report ranks the best online programs for degrees. This year they named Penn State’s World Campus the top school in the country for bachelor’s degrees and specifically bachelor’s for veterans, for the second year in a row. They cited Penn State’s “wide range of bachelor’s degrees designed to equip learners with the knowledge and skills needed for career success.”

These are just a few of the highlights. For more of Penn State’s experts’ appearances in the media, visit

Last Updated July 28, 2017