Rock Ethics Institute recognizes three undergraduates for ethical leadership

Rock Ethics Institute recognizes three undergraduates for ethical leadership

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The Rock Ethics Institute is proud to announce the winners of its 2022 Stand Up Awards: Celeste Good, a fourth-year student majoring in women’s, gender and sexuality studies; Jake Snyder, a third-year student majoring in biology; and Nora Van Horn, a fourth-year student majoring in philosophy, Chinese and global and international studies.

Established in 2008, the Stand Up Awards recognize undergraduate students at Penn State who have demonstrated ethical leadership by standing up for a cause, idea or belief. Through honoring their courageous examples, the awards aim to inspire others to become ethical leaders.

“During their time at Penn State, Celeste’s, Jake’s and Nora’s leadership has left a deep impression on students, faculty, staff and the broader community,” said Ben Jones, assistant director of the Rock Ethics Institute. “Their persistent work to advance equity and build community, even while encountering numerous obstacles, has resulted in more inclusive environments for those who are too often marginalized.”

A ceremony to celebrate this year’s winners will take place at 3:30 p.m. on Monday, April 11, in the Hintz Family Alumni Center. The ceremony also will be livestreamed through the Rock Ethics Institute’s website for those unable to join in person.

Celeste Good

At Penn State, Good has served as the president of the organization Queer and Trans People of Color. In this role they have worked to create safe and supportive spaces on campus for students at the intersection of different identities who face bias, hate and violence. When Good learned that a speaker known for homophobic rhetoric would be coming to Penn State in fall 2021, Good worked closely with Penn State’s Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity to organize an alternative event for students emphasizing love rather than hate. Nearly 2,000 students attended the event “Love is Louder” to show their support for Penn State’s LGBTQIA+ community

Organizing such large-scale action and navigating the complexities of building coalitions helped Good recognize humility’s role in leadership. “Ethical leadership encompasses reflection and learning from the mistakes you make along the way,” Good noted. “Leaders need to have open minds because this world is constantly changing, and you won’t always be right.”

For Gabeba Baderoon, associate professor of women’s, gender and sexuality studies and African studies, Good always stood out as a student: “Celeste carries a profound commitment to justice into every class and every student group they are a part of and that is evident in the remarkable achievement that earned them this award. In my 15 years of teaching at Penn State, I have rarely felt more moved or inspired than by Celeste’s transformative work as an undergraduate at the University.”

Jake Snyder

As part of the Schreyer Honors College, Snyder saw the need for more resources and structures within the college to support LGBTQIA+ students. With that goal in mind, he founded and served as the president of Gender and Sexual Diversity in Schreyer (GSDS). GSDS has worked with faculty and staff in the Schreyer Honors College to create a more inclusive community. GSDS has implemented gender-sensitive language training as part of the college’s orientation, advanced conversations to bring about the addition of LGBTQIA+ statistics to the college’s annual report, and challenged the classification of honors students according to a gender binary. GSDS currently is working with Residence Life at Penn State to explore establishing dedicated housing for LGBTQIA+ students in the Schreyer Honors College.

Snyder explained what motivated him to launch GSDS: “I founded GSDS to create a safe space, gain college- and campus-wide representation, disseminate LGBTQIA+ resources and foster cultural competency through collaborative outreach. Every student has the right to live and learn in an environment that promotes their authenticity and holistic health. Since the founding of GSDS, staff in the Schreyer Honors College can guarantee LGBTQIA+ scholars an accepting space to express themselves and network with others.”

Lynette Yarger, assistant dean for equity and inclusion of the Schreyer Honors College, and Donna Meyer, director of student programs of the Schreyer Honors College, nominated Snyder for this year’s Stand Up Award. They described him as “an authentic leader who has earned the utmost respect of his peers and our staff. He has become a role model for staying true to your identities and brought attention to the need for increased efforts to empower underrepresented students in the Schreyer Honors College and across Penn State.”

Nora Van Horn

Throughout her time at Penn State, Van Horn has challenged the idea that sexual violence is a problem whose responsibility lies solely with individual perpetrators. “We must reimagine sexual violence as a manifestation of structural inequities,” she stressed. “We absolve institutions and decision-makers of their responsibility to build more just communities when we allow them to blame the persistence of sexual violence on the idea that there will always be ‘bad people.’”

This commitment to transforming structures to advance equity has pushed Van Horn to speak about the problem of sexual violence on campus in numerous public forums and, most importantly, build coalitions dedicated to achieving lasting change. Her efforts have included organizing an open letter to release Penn State’s 2018 Sexual Misconduct Survey, a response to the survey detailing key steps that the University needed to take to combat sexual violence and a capstone project that provides a guide to students on how to effectively navigate institutions when organizing for justice.

The innovative steps that Van Horn has taken to change how Penn State addresses sexual violence have left her mentors in awe. “She is a brilliant learner, a gifted teacher, a courageous leader, a skilled organizer and generous mentor to students, faculty and staff who work with her as colleagues,” said Jill Wood, teaching professor of women’s, gender and sexuality studies, and Rosa Eberly, associate professor of rhetoric. “Quite simply, Nora is the type of student who fills us with hope for the future.”

About the Rock Ethics Institute

The Rock Ethics Institute, which sponsors the Stand Up Awards, was established in 2001 through a $5 million gift from Doug and Julie Rock to the College of the Liberal Arts. The Institute’s mission is to promote ethical awareness and inquiry across the University.

Topic(s): Fellowships and Awards
Stand Up poster showing the three winners