COVID-19: IST Student FAQs

College of IST faculty and staff continue to be available to support and guide students during the remote learning period. Visit the college's coronavirus student information page to learn how to connect with IST academic advisers, career coaches, diversity and inclusion advocates, and other student services representatives.

Students and families should review frequently asked questions related to the college's response to coronavirus, which includes questions addressed during recent student town hall sessions. If you have questions about your IST experience that aren't answered below, please complete the online question form.

Additional information related to the University's plan for the fall semester can be found at

FAQ Sections: Return to Campus | Academics and Learning Support | Careers and Internships | Graduate Students and Research

Important Resources

Return to Campus

Penn State announced plans for a phased return to campus this fall. Learn more at Penn State's coronavirus website.

The University will provide two face coverings to each student, faculty, and staff member that must be worn when on campus. Hand sanitizer stations will be available across campus, classrooms and labs will be cleaned and disinfected regularly, and health and safety information will be posted prominently. Learn more about the steps the University is taking on Penn State's coronavirus website.

Yes, students can participate in their courses remotely if they choose or need to do so. The College of IST is following the University’s guidelines by reviewing the appropriate mode of instruction for each course given the course subject, available space, and faculty preference. While all classes over 250 people will be held remotely, options for all other courses range from fully in-person to fully asynchronous based on these factors.

Regardless of the format of the class, the college expects all faculty maintain the same level of quality and communication as always. Faculty are expected to be flexible and understanding of what students might be experiencing throughout the semester. Similarly, it is critical for students to review the syllabus of each of their courses to understand expectations.

On July 6, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) announced that it would no longer provide exemptions due to the coronavirus pandemic for international students taking a fully remote course load during the fall 2020 semester. Penn State is joining with the Association of American Universities, the American Council on Education, the Association of Public & Land-grant Universities and other institutions in higher education in calling for the immediate rescission of these troubling rules. Students are encouraged to review the FAQ created by Penn State Global Programs and the Penn State Law Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic, as well as the July 8 message from President Barron.

If you have questions or concerns, please reach out to your adviser, contact the Directorate of International Student and Scholar Advising at 814-865-6348, or submit your questions online.

Contact to connect with an IST representative who can assist you in finding potential funding sources.

Many non-classroom spaces in Westgate Building will be open, but they will likely be adjusted or limited to provide appropriate social distancing. We are also working to convert some spaces, such as conference rooms, into workspaces where students can connect to virtual classrooms.

IST student organizations continue to plan for a successful fall semester, including workshops, presentations, and other events, as well as welcoming new members. For a list of the college's student organizations and other engagement opportunities, visit

Summer commencement ceremony will be held virtually on Aug. 15. The University will continue to review public health guidelines and will announce any updates to fall commencement in the fall semester. Visit the University’s commencement website for the more information.

At this time, we anticipate that most will become virtual events given space limitations and health and safety guidelines. Watch the IST events calendar for the most up-to-date information.

Academics and Learning Support

The college is working with faculty to review appropriate teaching modes based on the course content and available space. We expect these modes will be updated on the student's schedule in LionPATH by July 15. Learn more about course modes on the University's Keep Learning website.

The college is committed to providing students a rich teaching and learning environment. As such, faculty will be able to decide the best mode of delivery for their courses.

For rooms at capacity, the University may change the class’ meeting location to accommodate enough students based on mode of teaching, faculty may segment students into groups to rotate when a portion of the class meets in person, or other options may be advised to ensure safe in-person instruction. The college understands how disruptive it can be for a class time to change, and we are working hard to avoid this unless absolutely necessary.

The University has guidelines about attendance that faculty incorporate into their syllabi. It is up to each faculty member to handle attendance as they determine appropriate, and while faculty are asked to be flexible and understanding with challenges, it is ultimately the student’s responsibility to understand expectations of each of their classes.

Review the University’s online guide and visit for tips on how you can build positive study habits in your new environment. We know you are likely dealing with new responsibilities and distractions away from campus. If you are feeling overwhelmed, confused, or just have questions, please reach out to a member of IST’s Academic Services team for support. We are here to help.

No. The university has a camera-optional practice for teaching through Zoom. Faculty are aware that some students may have special circumstances that preclude the use of a webcam. Whenever possible, students should use their webcam during the classes conducted via Zoom, and they should use the other features such as chat and raise hand to participate and engage in the class.

Yes, faculty are expected to hold regular office hours, though it is at the faculty member’s discretion if they want to hold them virtually or in-person.

With many students likely to take a mix of in-person and virtual courses this fall, IST faculty have been guided by two principles: understand that many students are facing additional anxiety and offer flexibility where appropriate. If you are facing extenuating circumstances that are interfering with your coursework, please discuss with your instructor.

Peer tutoring will be virtual during the fall semester during normally scheduled hours (Wednesdays and Thursdays from 7-10 p.m.), and tutors are planning additional workshops to best assist students. Teaching and Learning Assistants will continue to provide support and work with their assigned faculty member to determine if virtual or in-person support is most appropriate. Visit the college’s learning support site for more information.

Careers and Internships

Yes, Pro Expo will be held virtually on Monday, September 14, from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. The college is preparing the virtual platform in concert with the University and coordinating materials to ready students to connect 1:1 with recruiters in virtual rooms.

The situation continues to evolve, but there are no plans to have in-person recruiting in the building. Watch your emails for updates from the Office of Career Solutions and Corporate Engagement for information on virtual sessions.

The internship is an important aspect of the college’s curriculum, and we want to honor that as best we can. As such, the college is not waiving the undergraduate internship requirement. However, we have developed alternative options that you can pursue to fulfill this requirement if needed. We don't want these unforeseen circumstances to be a barrier for graduation. Details about these options are available at The deadline to register your internship for summer 2020 was June 15.

IST's Careers team is developing workshops to help students prepare for the virtual Pro Expo career fair and to connect with employers throughout the fall. Students are encouraged to begin pursuing internships as early as possible and to watch their emails for new virtual opportunities identified by the Careers team.

Contact an IST Career coach to explore your options based on your specific circumstances. While most companies are upholding their offers, others are shifting to provide remote experiences. Companies still have opportunities available, and you should explore all available options.

You should continue to pursue internships, and we will work with you to find new opportunities or select the best alternative option to fulfill the college’s internship requirement. Watch your Penn State email on Sunday nights for a weekly message from IST’s Careers Solutions team with information on available internships, virtual career events, and search resources.

The Careers Solutions team continues to support students individually and through shared resources at every stage of their career journey. The college is exploring additional programming to help you build critical skills for remote opportunities. Visit to get additional information and set up a meeting with a career coach to get guidance based on your specific situation.

Graduate Students and Research

On-campus research activities have resumed using a phased approach, but graduate students and other researchers should continue to work remotely until otherwise advised. When labs reopen, social distancing guidelines and mask requirements will be in place. Contact your adviser and visit Penn State’s coronavirus website for more information.

The college is following the Graduate School’s policies on these matters. Currently, we anticipate that any requirements can be completed remotely if needed, but visit the Graduate School’s COVID-19 page. for the most up-to-date information.


It's likely that international students will have difficulty arriving for the fall semester. The University is exploring options to offer remote instruction to graduate students, but this involves complex legal and international policy issues. This is a fluid situation. Students should contact the Office of Global Programs and their primary University contact for additional guidance.

New international students can defer enrollment in the College of IST from fall 2020 to spring 2021. However, the ability to defer financial support depends on the source of support and whether the funding will be available in the spring. Each student should connect with your faculty adviser to discuss your specific circumstances and options for enrollment. Students who were already scheduled to be Teaching Assistants should contact Dr. Mary Beth Rosson and Dr. Dave Fusco to determine if the associated funding would still be available if admission is deferred to spring 2021.

Undergraduate students who are doing research for credit may not continue to work in labs and other areas on campus to complete their work until further notice is provided by the University. Faculty have been asked to identify alternative ways of achieving the learning outcomes for the experience. If you are completing a research thesis, faculty will work to navigate best practices for completing the thesis. Additional information for researchers can be found on the COVID-19 site for Penn State researchers.