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Happy Birthday To Us: Onward State Turns 12

Bust out the party hats and fire up the music, folks. It’s our birthday!

Today, November 17, Onward State turns 12 years old. What began as three freshmen’s experiment in 43 Simmons quickly blossomed into something that would change Penn State and its community forever.

Onward State started with a simple 29-word blog post, aptly titled “Rumor Mill,” that speculated Girl Talk would perform at Penn State the next month. Spoiler alert: They were right on the money.

Since its founding, Onward State has published more than 29,000 original posts spanning the entire Penn State experience. We’ve also amassed a Twitter following of more than 156,000 fans and shared our mission with nearly 250 people who’ve worked on our staff and joined our family.

Although a lot’s changed since 2008, far more has stayed the same. Onward State continues boasting an all-student staff that works to generate honest conversation in the hopes of enriching the Penn State community and experience. And we’re still having plenty of fun doing it, too.

Even with the coronavirus pandemic raging on, we continue covering all aspects of student life at Penn State, whether that be Penn State football, THON, or even the Jonas Brothers.

However, there’ve been some bumps in the road. We’ve remained committed to telling the Penn State story through turbulent times, such as the Sandusky Scandal and Tim Piazza’s death during a fraternity hazing event.

If you’ve taken COMM 260, you’ve definitely heard about a few of our screwups. Whoops!

No matter what, we appreciate every single one of our readers, critics, and fans who’s helped make our work possible over the last 12 years. Thank you for letting us part of your story, too.

Despite the endless streams of angry comment sections, death-threat emails, and Twitter arguments, we truly wouldn’t be here without you, and for that, we’re eternally grateful. Here’s to many more years of success, Drunk-Sober-Highs, 10 Questions, 409 jokes, and Oxford comma usage.

In celebration of our 12th year, check out some highlights from the past 12 months before our little ol’ blog becomes an angsty teenager.

December 2019

10 Questions With The Nittany Lion Zach Sowa

At long last, Penn Staters finally got a glimpse under the mask when former Nittany Lion mascot Zach Sowa revealed his identity on Penn State football’s Senior Day. We sat down with Sowa, a cybersecurity analytics and operations major, to learn more about what it’s like becoming the Symbol of Our Best, his favorite Nittany Lion outfit, and his crazy history with Pitt’s former mascot, too.

January 2020

Penn State Desk Superlatives

Throughout your collegiate career, you’ll probably sit in dozens of desks in dozens of classrooms. And as any Penn State student will quickly learn, there’s quite a spectrum when it comes to desks. Just like Goldilocks found out, some are too small, while others are too hard. But a special few are juuuust right.

We sat down and compiled some of the most amazing and the most dismal desks on Penn State’s campus.

February 2020

‘AnTHONy’s’ Weirdest Tweets From THON 2020

Last February, Onward State staff writer Anthony Fiset, affectionately referred to as “anTHONy,” bravely stood in the Bryce Jordan Center’s stands for all of THON 2020’s 46 hours. Why, you ask? For content, baby.

Our No. 1 THON correspondent received the keys to @THONwardState and tweeted the weekend away while slowly losing his sanity (and feeling in his legs). Did we mention he ate 15 hot dogs, too?

March 2020

Goodbyes You Weren’t Ready For & Won’t Get To Say

After Penn State officially moved the spring 2020 semester online amid the coronavirus pandemic, former Onward State managing editor Anthony Colucci penned a moving retrospective on the senior year nobody was ready for.

“Moving on from college and entering the ‘real world’ is something that graduating seniors grapple with every year,” Colucci wrote. “Usually, it comes after weeks of existential crises, celebration, and monumental ‘lasts’ as they slowly peel off the BandAid that is college. That process normally leaves a scar that’s noticeable but has started to heal. Today, it feels like that Band-Aid has been torn off, leaving an open, exposed wound still vulnerable to the world outside of Happy Valley.”

April 2020

Creating A Penn State Wardrobe In Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Animal Crossing: New Horizon’s release might’ve been the only good thing to happen last spring while everyone was stuck inside due to the coronavirus pandemic. Sorely missing Happy Valley, its people, and its iconic style, our staff designed and editing an entire Penn State wardrobe for any Nittany Lion to wear.

May 2020

State College Community Rallies At ‘Justice For George Floyd’ Protest

Hundreds of State College community members took to the streets in May to protest police brutality and racial injustice following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, among others.

Protesters marched throughout the borough that afternoon, while notable Penn State student-athletes including Lamar Stevens and CJ Thorpe gave moving speeches calling for justice and reform.

June 2020

Your Best Vintage & Retro Penn State Memorabilia

Sorely missing Penn State football, we asked our readers to send in images and stories of their favorite throwback collectibles and memorabilia. Submissions dated back to as early as the 1930s and ranged from pieces of goalposts and Coke bottles to football-shaped music boxes and Joe Paterno records.

July 2020

Traveling The Glory: The Ultimate Penn State Road Trip

Over the summer, Onward State social media editor Alysa Rubin embarked on a 1,332-mile road trip to visit every Penn State campus. She and her boyfriend made sure to take a selfie at all 21 Lion Shrines, too.

August 2020

A Look Inside Penn State’s Socially Distanced Dining Halls

Just days into the fall semester, we finally got a glimpse of what life would be like on campus amid the coronavirus pandemic. Our staff was pleasantly surprised by the new dining hall operations but disappointed to see sustainability was thrown out the window for the time being.

September 2020

Dirty Sheets & Boxed Meals: My Penn State Quarantine Experience

A few weeks into September, one of our staffers became the first Onward Stater to experience an on-campus quarantine at Penn State. Her time in Eastview Terrace was less than ideal thanks to some dirty sheets and meals that didn’t accommodate her dietary restrictions.

October 2020

Pat Chambers Steps Down As Penn State Hoops Coach

Penn State men’s basketball coach Pat Chambers resigned following an internal investigation into alleged misconduct. He received criticism over the summer for allegedly telling former Penn State guard Rasir Bolton to “loosen the noose around [his] neck,” which led to his eventual transfer.

Chambers posted a 148-150 regular-season record during his nine years in Happy Valley. He led Penn State to an NIT Championship in 2018 after the team went 26-13 overall and will be succeeded by interim head coach Jim Ferry for the time being.

November 2020

A Look Back At Journey Brown’s Electric Penn State Career

Penn State running back Journey Brown announced his medical retirement from football after being diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a rare and potentially fatal heart condition. Fans were quick to send their prayers and well-wishes his way.

Despite starting for just one season, Brown put together a memorable Penn State career capped off with an unforgettable 202-yard, two-touchdown Cotton Bowl performance. Thanks for everything, No. 4.

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

By day, Matt is a senior majoring in journalism. By night, he's Onward State's managing editor. He's a huge Philadelphia sports fan, fantasy football lover, and washed-up drummer hailing from Collegeville, Pa. The quickest way to his heart is Margherita pizza and "Arrested Development" quotes. Follow him on Twitter @mattdisanto_ if you hate yourself or email Matt at [email protected] if you hate him.


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