Who is Awaken State?

Awaken State, a multi-generational collective, seeks to help Penn State respond to the climate emergency.  We believe that students will be prepared for the future when they are prepared to navigate the consequences of climate change, and Penn State will be a leader when it meets or exceeds actions called for by the best science.

Keep reading to meet some of our members.

Why get involved?

Many people in the United States and around the world now experience the catastrophic impacts of climate change. We belong to the last generation that can address it. Insofar as Penn State is rich in human and material resources, and historically a leader in climate science, we are uniquely equipped to act.

How will anything change?

We seek to engage all members of the Penn State community–students, faculty and staff–to join us in collaborative learning and work. We will set priorities and launch projects such as curricular initiatives like Climate Crossover, strategic interventions, and radically inclusive conversations and demonstrations of our convictions.


Member Profiles

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Joshua Adams

Hello! I am a junior studying economics at Penn State. I’ve had jobs as a Guided Study Group leader for MATH 110 and as a leader for Aurora, Penn State’s outdoor orientation program.One of my major goals is to connect economic thought and climate action. The economy and the environment are often painted as forces in opposition, but I know that this doesn’t have to be the case. Economics can help us to write better climate policies, and climate action today can help to protect our economy tomorrow. (Did you know that the 2018 Nobel prize in economics went to an environmental economist for his work with climate change?)

I’m concerned about climate change because it presents a threat to the improvement of human life. I don’t believe that people can reach their full potential when they have to focus on battling for survival, and climate change threatens to push many more people into those dire circumstances. I’m concerned also for the people and places that I know and love. I feel scared, but I feel the least scared when I’m taking action.

Haley Stauffer

Hi, I am a graduate student at Penn State working in the Agricultural and Biological Engineering Department. My research involves logistical mapping of the switchgrass bioenergy supply chain in connection with the U.S. Department of Energy. Having done my undergraduate degree at PSU, I remain actively involved in environmental groups such as Eco Action, Crop Mobs, the University’s Waste Stream Task Force, as well as the Student Farm.  I have become increasingly concerned with the global impacts of the climate crisis, particularly from a social and political standpoint. My role in Awaken State seeks to address these fears by building a strong support system and robust network of change makers.”

Jim Eisenstein

I am a retired professor of political science and public policy who taught environmental politics at Penn State for 37 years. My warnings about a looming climate and general environmental crisis have, alas, come true, threatening humankind and its civilization, as well as my children and grandchildren.  Convinced that action is the antidote to despair, I participate actively in Awaken State to convince Penn State and its students to act urgently to avoid the disaster that inaction will certainly bring.

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Julia Spicher Kasdorf

Penn State Professor Julia Spicher Kasdorf was born in Lewistown, PA, and grew up in Westmoreland County, PA. She is the author of four books of poetry: Sleeping Preacher; Eve’s Striptease; Poetry in America; and Shale Play: Poems and Photographs from the Fracking Fields, created in collaboration with documentary photographer Steven Rubin.  The Shale Play project led her to reckon with the Commonwealth’s long history of fossil fuel extraction and its continuing contributions to the climate emergency, as described here.  

Her poetry awards include the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize, the Great Lakes College’s Association Award for New Writing, a Pushcart Prize, and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry. She has also published a collection of essays, The Body and the Book: Writing from a Mennonite Life, and the biographical study, Fixing Tradition: Joseph W. Yoder, Amish American. With Joshua R. Brown she edited new editions of Yoder’s regional classic Rosanna of the Amish, and Fred Lewis Pattee’s local color romance The House of the Black Ring. With Michael Tyrell, she co-edited Broken Land: Poems of Brooklyn. She is now working with Christopher Reed on a forthcoming book and exhibition for the Palmer Museum of Art titled Field Language: Paintings and Poetry by Warren and Jane Rohrer.  Learn more about her work at her website.

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Mark Sentesy

I co-created Penn State’s interdomain Climate Ethics course, and I work on ancient and modern concepts of nature, and on technology as a dynamic physical-economic-conceptual system. Before I came to the Philosophy Department at Penn State, I formed the energy policy team for 350 Massachusetts, and led trainings on government relations. I have three children, including identical twins and have been concerned about climate change since I was 7 or 8.

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James Endres Howell

I teach biochemistry, molecular biology, microbiology, and various general-education science courses at Penn State. I live in a state of terror that my kids face a bleak, brutal future. In the classroom, I work to blend reductionistic analyses (chemistry, thermodynamics, microbiology) with systems-level analyses (agriculture, ecology, climate) to inform and impel action from scientists and the public. My students are working to communicate effectively to both audiences. My wife, son, daughter, dog, cat, lizard and I live in Happy Valley.

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Christopher Uhl

I am an emeritus professor in Biology at Penn State. My research has centered on environmental conservation and sustainability. As a teacher, I have sought to develop pedagogies that emphasize questions rather than answers, risk-taking rather than conformity, and direct rather than mediated experience. As a recent retiree, I live in the midst of despair and heartbreak, ashamed that my generation is leaving an environmentally shattered and morally bankrupt world for future generations and it is this despair that compels me to stand, to speak and to act in solidarity with you.