Wolgast named director of new Penn State COVID Operations Control Center

July 15, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — In preparation for a return to campus this fall, Kelly A. Wolgast, assistant dean for outreach and professional development and associate teaching professor in the College of Nursing, has been appointed director of Penn State’s new COVID-19 Operations Control Center, effective July 15. The control center will be activated in the fall as a central hub to manage and respond to key components — including data management and reporting, testing and contact tracing, supply chain and procurement, and more — for a return to on-campus learning, working and living across every Penn State campus.

Kelly Wolgast

Kelly A. Wolgast of the College of Nursing has been appointed director of Penn State’s COVID-19 Operations Control Center. 

IMAGE: Courtesy of Kelly Wolgast

As the center’s director, Wolgast, a retired U.S. Army colonel and nurse commander with extensive health care and higher education experience, will collaborate with University leadership and the 16 coronavirus task groups to oversee operations related to Penn State’s COVID response effort; serve as a connection point among groups, units and campuses; and manage and aggregate data to inform strategies for quickly addressing needs and developments.

“Kelly brings a wealth of knowledge and experience as a healthcare leader, nursing professional and military officer during this critical time,” said Penn State President Eric Barron. “We’re pleased to have her on board as we continue to put in place the necessary infrastructure and systems to support the health and well-being of our students, faculty and staff members leading up to a return to campus this fall.” 

During Wolgast’s 26-year active-duty military career in the U.S. Army, she earned the Bronze Star Medal for combat experience as deputy commander and chief nurse in Afghanistan; served as a hospital commander for relief operations following Hurricane Katrina during a deployment in New Orleans; and was the senior nurse executive of the U.S. Army Medical Command.

“I am confident Kelly will be able to seamlessly transition into this role as we prepare to welcome students and employees back to our campuses this fall,” Barron said. “Her medical and military experiences, coupled with her knowledge of our University and the size and complexity of our Commonwealth Campus structure, make her an ideal match to take on this critical work, collaborating closely with our key leaders, faculty and staff.”

Beginning this fall, the COVID-19 Operations Control Center will support the depth and breadth of needs specific to the coronavirus pandemic and will work closely with Penn State’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to maintain regular communication, align strategies and tactics, and share information. The COVID control center will focus on COVID-19 impacts, and potential impacts, on University operations across the campuses based on established data-reporting metrics, while the EOC will continue to manage the University’s overall emergency planning, preparedness, response and recovery efforts.

“As a member of the Penn State community, I am honored to serve in this role to help support the health and well-being of our students, faculty and staff during this challenging time,” Wolgast said. “I am ready to help direct the University’s Back to State priorities and to collaborate with the many dedicated individuals who have led this complex and extensive work over the past months.”

In her new role, Wolgast will oversee efforts to manage and communicate daily operational details to enable Penn State leaders to make informed, rapid decisions in line with the latest University data and public health and science information. She will lead a core team for data collection, assessment and reporting, and will collaborate with representatives across University operational units, including Student Affairs and Human Resources; the Commonwealth Campuses; and the Public Health and Science Assessment, Return to Work, Return to Campus and Community, and other coronavirus task groups.

In accordance with Gov. Tom Wolf’s requirements for higher education, Wolgast will lead the development of a report for the Pennsylvania Department of Education on the University’s plans and strategies related to in-person instruction, hygiene and sanitation practices, face mask and social distancing policies, attendance, travel policies, course delivery, schedules, and more. Looking ahead, the control center also will focus on coronavirus and related future operations beyond fall 2020.

Wolgast has many years of executive nursing and healthcare leadership experience and has a strong background in medical-surgical nursing. As an assistant dean in the College of Nursing, she led efforts to shape and grow the college’s online nursing programs and portfolio through Penn State World Campus and the Commonwealth Campuses.

Prior to arriving at Penn State in 2016, Wolgast was assistant professor and specialty director for the Healthcare Leadership Program at Vanderbilt University. She is a fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives and the American Academy of Nursing.

A graduate of the University’s Army ROTC program, Wolgast earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing from Penn State, a master’s degree of science in nursing (administration and education) from Vanderbilt University, a master’s degree in strategic studies from the U.S. Army War College, and a doctorate in nursing practice (executive nurse leadership) from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. 

Last Updated July 17, 2020