Research UnPlugged brings Richard Alley's global warming research to Schlow Centre Region Library

Dr. Richard Alley of the Penn State Department of Geosciences will be one of the speakers at State of State. 

Finding the “I am” in “We Are.” This inspirational grouping of words stands as the theme for this year’s State of State conference.

Just as the theme states, the conference will focus on ways students and the community can better themselves through the use of knowledge and resources.

On Feb. 14 in Alumni Hall, eight individuals will speak to the Penn State community about topics such as sexual assault, mental health, cultural diversity and resources at Penn State, according to the State of State website.

Monday, State of State’s announced the eight speakers on its website.

State of State Executive Director Claudia Kotchick said the list includes “diligent and great speakers.”

In choosing the event speakers, Kotchick (junior-labor studies and employment relations) said the goal was to feature individuals who represent a broad array of topics.

Kotchick said the speakers are “really cool people, with really cool ideas.” While each speaker has Penn State in common, they all have something different to bring to the table.

One speaker, Ben Locke, is the associate director for clinical services as well as the founder of the Center for Collegiate Mental Health. He works with Counseling and Psychological Services to provide students with a safe environment to talk about their problems, according to the State of State website.

Marcellus Taylor joins the list of speakers from Penn State Harrisburg and works as the coordinator of student activities. Along with his work at Penn State, Taylor is an empowerment coach and an author who finds his interest in writing to be aimed at the development of leadership skills of young people, according to the State of State website.

Another speaker, Barry Bram is the special assistant to the vice president for student affairs at Penn State. Bram has been a part of the Penn State Community for 20 years and has previously served in residence life, judicial affairs and student activities, according to the State of State website.

Khanjan Mehta is the founding director of the Humanitarian Engineering and Social Entrepreneurship Program and assistant professor of engineering design at Penn State and joins the list of speakers. He has given many speeches on technology innovation, social entrepreneurship and global sustainability in the past, which can used as a preview for what’s to come in February, Kotchick said.

Kotchick said that this year’s conference is especially exciting because in the two semesters following the conference projects will be implemented based on the discussions at the conference.

Kotchick said it is people like Mehta, who is very active in teaching his students, which are perfect for working on these projects.

Andrew Peck joins in the conference from serving the Penn State community as a professor of psychology and as the associate director of undergraduate studies for the department of psychology, according to the State of State website.

Katie Tenny is a counselor for Penn State in the CAPS office. Kotchick said “[Tenny] is obviously speaking about sexual assault, which is a big part of the conference this year specifically.”

Tenny specializes in sexual assault, domestic violence prevention and drinking problems among students, according to the State of State website.

Among the speakers is Jennifer Pencek, the programming coordinator of the Center for Women Students, who said she plans to inform the audience about the misconceptions made regarding sexual assault.

Pencek said she wishes to focus on the misperceptions regarding why those who are sexually assaulted do not report their attacks, as well as how they deal with assault differently.

Her goal is to “reach every person,” with her speech by highlighting the different events and services the center provides, she said.

Richard Alley, the final speaker listed, is noted for receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for his work on climate change and is a professor of environmental science for the university, according to the State of State website.

Alley said he wishes to express the “value of learning and teaching” to his conference audience. He said he believes “we are the first generation who can make a difference for the betterment of the earth because we are the first generation that knows what to do.”

Kotchick said, in gathering the speakers and the topics to be addressed at the conference, she aimed to “incorporate the underrepresented voices and address the needs of these individuals.”

Still to come, Kotchick said, is the list of faculty and student speakers. This first group released is the group of people who showed the most interest in the conference.

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Sam Ruland can be reached at or (814) 865-1828. Follow her on Twitter @sam_ruland.