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Penn State’s ‘Unmasked’ App Provides Support By Students, For Students

Being a college student is hard, and sometimes, just being a person is tough, too. College, even before the stress of virtual learning, takes a huge toll on students across the nation.

Worrying about student loans, the pandemic, friendships, and grades makes a college student’s life more than stressful. Thankfully, an app was built to help relieve that stress and connect students through their worries.

Unmasked, founded at Dartmouth College in January 2020, was created as a way for students to “take their masks off” and feel supported through their struggles. The app allows users to post anonymously and chat with others in threads or privately.

Though it began at Dartmouth College, the app has very quickly made its way to colleges across the country, including Columbia, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, and Stony Brook, among others. The app was made to create an open space for college students across the country.

We sat down with two of the moderators for Penn State’s leg of the app to talk about how it made its way here and discuss their hopes for the future.

Molly Fair, the president of Penn State’s Unmasked, wants the app to give students a place to come to when they have no one to talk to. She also hopes to provide necessary resources for students in need.

Fair was inspired by Unmasked’s presence during quarantine at her twin sister’s college, the University of Pennsylvania.

“She explained what it was to me, and I’m thinking to myself, ‘Why doesn’t Penn State have that?’ Freshman and sophomore year, I struggled a lot with mental health and didn’t find any support or resources on campus,” Fair said.

She learned in one of her classes how different Penn State’s mental health resources are compared to other colleges in the United States. So, Fair decided to take the steps on her own.

“I reached out to the creators of Unmasked through email, set up a meeting, and it took off,” Fair said.

After their meetings, Molly began setting goals for Penn State’s leg and began the hard work. She reached out to different clubs on campus looking for interested students to apply for moderator positions through the app. They conducted interviews, had their moderator trainings, and were off.

Despite the hard work, Fair said she couldn’t be happier that she took the steps to bring it to Penn State.

“It’s a support system that not everyone has. There’s a stigma around getting help, but Unmasked is anonymous. If you have the opportunity to use technology to help people, why not?” Fair said of the impact.

Neeharika Chenna, an app moderator on Fair’s team and a Penn State student, said that even though college is difficult, getting help shouldn’t be.

“I think it’s important for us to create resources that cater very specifically to the students around us,” Chenna said. “Nobody has better insight into our situation than other students.”

Fair also said that she thinks the ability to interact with other students is the most premiere aspect of the app, as it allows users to feel validated in their feelings.

Their team said the app engagement has been great so far, but they want to take it even further. Fair’s biggest goal is getting the app out to students and spreading the word.

Her personal goal, meanwhile, is to help people avoid feeling the way she has in the past. She wants students to be comfortable speaking about their problems and getting help.

Chenna, a transfer student, thinks that it can be a great resource for students like her who come to Penn State after being used to different and smaller campuses.

“In every sense, transferring is terrifying,” Chenna said. “So, I think that it will be a great source of comfort for anyone to be able to download this app and have an entire community there.”

The app can be downloaded on the Apple and Android app stores. Campus and national mental health resources are also found within the app.

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About the Author

Caitlin Burns

Caitlin is a senior majoring in English. She watches Dance Moms from the beginning three times a year and thinks she's a barista because she can make one drink from Starbucks. She can usually be found taking a nap or being unreasonably angry at small inconveniences. You can contact her at [email protected]

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