Red Folder initiative expands with launch of website

July 23, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State Student Affairs has launched a website that takes the Red Folder initiative online for Penn State’s Commonwealth Campuses and World Campus.

In October 2018, Student Affairs — in partnership with the University Park Undergraduate Association — introduced the Red Folder initiative at University Park, the first step in a three-phase rollout. This initiative started with a physical, oversized red folder that serves as a guide to help faculty and staff more effectively recognize and respond to the needs of distressed students and knowledgeably refer them to helpful resources.

The red folder provides information on common indicators of student distress in four domains — academic, physical, psychological and safety risk; offers in-the-moment process tips on how to best help a student in distress; and provides a decision tree and detailed list of campus resources, tiered by level of urgency.

“The welfare of our students is a concern all of us at Penn State must share, and the Red Folder initiative has armed a growing number of faculty, staff and others with the insight necessary to help students in need,” said Damon Sims, vice president for Student Affairs. “I am pleased that mental and emotional health concerns are viewed more and more as parallel to physical health concerns, and that when our students seek support for their mental and emotional needs, the Penn State community, throughout the commonwealth, is now poised to respond better than ever, largely because of the Red Folder effort.”

Phase 1 of the Red Folder initiative culminated in the distribution of 12,500 physical red folders to University Park faculty and staff. Phase 2, in spring 2018, involved the distribution of red folders to Penn State's Commonwealth Campuses and World Campus. Each campus folder includes campus-specific resources to facilitate the referral process. Staff from Counseling and Psychological Services, a unit of Student Affairs, and counseling staff across the commonwealth held in-person trainings to provide more context around the folders throughout the 2018-19 academic year. 

The launch of the Red Folder website completes Phase 3 of the initiative. The website retains the engaging graphics and important information of the physical folder. It also has dedicated navigation for identifying resources specific to each campus. Future elements to the website will include expanded content plus wellness resources in the form of helpful videos, brief articles and resources categorized by campus. Visit to learn more about the Red Folder initiative.

  • Red Folder initiative

    The red folder, now available online at, serves as a guide to help faculty and staff recognize and respond to the needs of distressed students and knowledgeably refer them to helpful resources.

    IMAGE: Penn State
Last Updated August 12, 2019