The Rock Ethics Institute


2008 Award Recipients

Elizabeth Francis

Elizabeth Francis 2008 Stand Up Poster

Class of 2008
Pre-Medicine and Spanish
Schreyer Honors Scholar
Penn State University Park

For initiating and overseeing the Penn State branch of the Global Medical Relief Program, whose goal is to mobilize students to address iniquities in global health care.

Read More About Elizabeth

It's a sad reality that not all people of the world enjoy the same access to health care that many of us enjoy. And the causes are complex, for even when there are free clinics, such as the free orthopedic surgery clinic in San Pedro Sula, many Honduran families can not take advantage of it for the heart-breaking reason that they simply could not afford the travel expenses to get to and from the clinic. Penn State student Liz Francis thought problems like this should have solutions, and she found a way to provide them. 

Liz initiated a Penn State Chapter of the Global Medical Relief Program, or GlobeMed, directing Penn State's part in this national organization of university students determined to address iniquities in global health care. GlobeMed connects students with world-wide grassroots organizations to design, implement, and support the kinds of projects that transform lives and communities. Under Liz's direction, Penn State GlobeMed developed Project Honduras, to help Honduran families access this free clinic, simply by funding their travel to and from the clinic. 

Liz's passion for addressing the inequalities in global health access has taken her into the field. Last summer she organized and led a team of Penn State students on a trip to Honduras. Liz and her fellow students visited clinics and schools, shadowed physicians, and observed the dire lack of resources as well as developing a better understanding of the cultural beliefs the Honduran people have about medicine. In order to better prepare future students for field work in Project Honduras, Liz researched and designed an independent study on Honduran culture.

Liz also organized Penn State's first annual Global Health Conference, an inaugural attempt to involve concerned students and professionals from all fields—including business, geography, and women's studies—to address iniquity in global health care. The conference's title, "Our Generation's Role in Global Health," attests to Liz's personal, ethical investment in this issue, as well as her work to provide ethical action opportunities for others. For her initiative, concern for others, and her vision for ethical action across disciplines, Liz Francis truly defines what it means to be an ethical leader.

Emily Helms

Emily Helms 2008 Stand Up Poster

Class of 2009
International Politics
Schreyer Honors Scholar
Penn State University Park

For leadership of Amnesty International and guiding lobbying and involvement efforts around issues of peace and violence against women.

Read More About Emily

Watch or listen to the news on any given day, and the onslaught of tragedy and injustice occurring around the world is often enough to overwhelm any one of us. With so much injustice, there's a real temptation to sit back and let others take care of it. Emily Helms is not someone who sits back. Emily speaks out in a voice that community leaders, legislators, and her peers can hear—and she inspires others to join her. 

It was a Contemporary World Issues class in high school that motivated Emily Helms to become an activist. "Once you find out what's going on in the world," she explains, "it's hard not to want to act." Since that class, Emily has worked passionately to address human rights and quality of life issues through political activism. Here at Penn State, Emily, now a junior, has organized lobbying efforts, speaking events, and peace rallies to promote Congressional funding for Darfur, and an end to torture and the death penalty. Recently she successfully lobbied Senator Arlen Spector to sign the International Violence Against Women Act. 

Emily's passion for these issues has found expression through her energetic involvement with Amnesty International. Having served as a student area coordinator and a regional planning group member, she was selected to attend Amnesty International's Leadership Summit in 2007. 

Emily has made global justice her academic pursuit as well. As an International Politics major she has turned her attention to Trade Liberalization policies and their effect on the developing world. Emily hopes to measure standards of living in least developed countries more comprehensively, and that means going beyond simple measures like GNP and life expectancy, to considering more fundamental issues like access to potable water, literacy, and the population of the malnourished. Emily's future plans are to work in the field with Amnesty International—perhaps in Africa, to address global poverty and human rights issues in an even more direct and hands-on fashion. 

For her undeterrable spirit and her profound belief that one person's voice can create change in our world, Emily Helms is a remarkable example of what it means to embody ethical leadership.

Desiree Martin

Desiree Martin 2008 Stand Up Poster

Class of 2008
Human Development and Family Studies 
Penn State Fayette, the Eberly Campus

For innovative leadership and program development of diversity and accessibility awareness at Penn State Fayette.

Read More About Desiree

Most people think of Penn State students as 19- or 20-year-olds—not as mothers of college aged students. But Desiree Martin is the latter. As a non-traditional student at Penn State Fayette, Desiree knows what it's like to not fit the "traditional" mold, and this perspective, as well as the experiences of her life, drive her passion to help others to rethink "diversity" and our ethical responsibilities toward one another. 

Desiree is an advocate for those whom society often overlooks, misunderstands, and even scorns; and she's motivated by the beliefs that people shouldn't have to fear exclusion or violence just because they're different, and that a little tolerance goes a long way. She wants to expand her peers' concept of diversity beyond cultural and racial differences to issues of sexuality and mental and physical disability, and she does so by starting conversations and raising awareness. In helping students speak about and acknowledge their prejudices, she leads them one step closer to tolerance.

Desiree was selected by Fayette's chancellor, Emmanuel Osagie, for the first, historic role of Diversity Affairs Chair, and her efforts have culminated this spring in a semester-long tribute to the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. In February, Desiree mobilized campus clubs and organizations to sponsor Diversity Week. One of the activities she initiated was the very successful "Wheelchair Challenge," which asked students to negotiate the campus in wheelchairs, to understand, perhaps for the first time, the daily lives of their disabled peers. Currently, she is working with the administration to assess campus accessibility for persons with disabilities, in order to improve the campus for current students and to recruit more students with disabilities. 

After graduating in May, Desiree will pursue a graduate degree in social work and hopes to begin her own counseling agency. For her advocacy efforts and her determination to help others become more human and ethical citizens of our world, Desiree Martin is an outstanding example of ethical leadership.

Mallorie McCue

Mallorie McCue 2008 Stand Up Poster

Class of 2008
Advertising and Public Relations, and Women’s Studies
Penn State University Park

For organizing a large-scale protest against the cancellation of a sexual assault awareness program, and for collaboratively producing an on-line sexual assault awareness tool.

Read More About Mallorie

When Mallorie McCue learned that the University was dramatically reducing a sexual assault program in Penn State's freshman orientation program, FTCAP, she did something about it. Concerned that a lack of information on this critical issue would leave incoming students vulnerable and at risk, she rallied hundreds of fellow students to write letters and speak in classrooms, raising awareness about sexual assault as a problem that must be dealt with proactively. Though Mallorie's petition—signed by over 900 students, faculty, and staff—didn't reinstate the 40-minute program, it did prompt a compromise: Mallorie is now working with the administration to develop an online video module which will give incoming students access to both information about the risks of sexual assault, as well as crucial resources.

In her time as a Public Relations and Women's Studies double-major at Penn State, Mallorie has put her impressive public relations skills and social justice conscience to work for the overall improvement of the Penn State and State College communities. In her first year as a Penn State student she attended the 2005 Standards of Beauty Symposium, a comprehensive program for men, women, and young people dealing with body-image issues. Greatly inspired by the event, Mallorie knew she had to get involved, and by the very next year, she was the Symposium's Event Coordinator. As Coordinator of the 2006 symposium, Mallorie recruited speakers, prepared the agenda, and directed all public relations efforts.

After Mallorie graduates in May, she plans to work in non-profit public relations, focusing on women's issues. Her long-term plans are to attend law school and to work to fight gender inequality, discrimination, and harassment in the workplace. We can feel assured she'll meet with success, as those who know her will testify to the mature, selfless, and ethically-driven spirit of Mallorie's work and service at Penn State. Her energetic willingness to stand up for critical issues affecting the Penn state community will affect students well into the future, and her efforts have created a foundation for future ethical leaders to build upon.

Jeremy Weisblatt

Jeremy Weisblatt 2008 Stand Up Poster

Class of 2008
Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies
Jewish Studies and International Politics
Schreyer Honors Scholar
Penn State University Park

For facilitating the introduction of kosher and halal food options to students through Penn State Food Services.

Read More About Jeremy

Four years ago, as a first-year, observant Jewish student attempting to keep Kosher while living on campus, Jeremy Weisblatt found himself with precious few options. Economic constraints and basic logistical difficulties made it seemingly impossible for Penn State's Food Services to provide Jewish students with kosher products. As Jeremy began to research possible solutions to this dilemma, he soon discovered that Muslim students interested in keeping their own religious dietary traditions were in a similar predicament. In a remarkable act of unity across faiths, Jeremy joined with two students from the Muslim Student Association, and together they approached Food Services to discuss the possibility of integrating both kosher and halal foods into the dining options at Penn State. After much work and creative cooperation between the students and Food Services, the Penn State Muslim and Jewish communities now both have unprecedented access to foods that will help them in their desire to live out their faith. 

Beginning in January of this year, Muslim students have been provided with halal-certified food on the University Park campus. And thanks to Jeremy's efforts, last December, a new kosher foods section opened at The Mix convenience store in Pollock Commons. And this month, for the first time, kosher-for-Passover meals will be available at Waring Dining Commons. Food Services was so impressed with Jeremy's commitment and his attention to detail, they hired him as official Student Kosher Food Coordinator. Jeremy also undertook extensive training under a rabbi so that he can now act as resident Mashgiah, insuring that all foods designated kosher and served at Penn State have met the strict requirements of Jewish Law.  

After he graduates in May, Jeremy will attend the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City. Ultimately, Jeremy plans to be ordained and to serve as a congregational Rabbi for a growing, Conservative Jewish community. He also hopes to work as a community activist for interfaith cooperation and dialogue.

Awards Ceremony and Reception