Penn State students honored for 'standing up' as ethical leaders

April 28, 2009

For one student, taking a stand meant helping unwanted newborn babies and their parents. Another student successfully tackled academic cheating in his college, while others forcefully advocated for respect of the rights and lifestyles of their fellow students. 

Five Penn State students are this year's recipients of the Stand Up Awards for showing courage and fortitude to take an ethical stand for a person, a cause or belief, and demonstrating ethical leadership through personal example. The awards are sponsored by the Rock Ethics Institute in the College of the Liberal Arts at Penn State.
This year's honorees are: Koann Eicher, a letters, arts, and sciences major at Penn State Shenango; Shane George, a finance major in the Smeal College of Business; Andie Graham, a letters, arts, and sciences major at Penn State DuBois; Hilary Griffith, a letters, arts, and sciences major at Penn State Fayette; and Miatta Massaley, an economics major in the College of the Liberal Arts.
"We know that in the face of difficult challenges and social pressures, it takes courage and conviction to stand up for the beliefs that we hold dear, and we believe that it is important to acknowledge the efforts of those who have answered this call for ethical leadership and tell their stories so that they serve as moral exemplars who inspire us all," says Nancy Tuana, director of the Institute and DuPont/Class of 1949 Professor of Philosophy.
This is the second year for the Stand Up Awards, and nominations were sought widely from all campuses and academic colleges at the University. Each recipient receives a $1,000 cash award and a certificate, and will be featured in posters across the University campuses.
Following are summaries of the honorees' achievements:
--Koann Eicher found that few people in the community knew about or understood the Pennsylvania Safe Haven Law, which permits parents to give their newborn child to any hospital staff member when they are unable to care for the child. Child and youth agencies will work to find the child a suitable and loving home. Herself the mother of a teenager, Koann has developed informational resources and met with education and social services officials about the law. She plans to travel around Pennsylvania to spread awareness.
--Shane George was honored for tackling several ethical issues. First, as a freshman, he noticed cheating in his classes and worked with faculty to form an Honor Code for the College and to develop workshops to promote critical thinking for business students. He himself has made presentations to business courses to garner support for and participation in the reporting of cheating. In addition, George has promoted a safe environment for students on his residential hall floor, where he serves as a resident assistant. When some students discriminated against an openly gay dorm resident, Shane talked to all the residents to stress his requirement for an environment of respect for all lifestyles.
--Andie Graham struggled against a gauntlet of peer criticism to advocate for changes in a student fundraiser, a pudding wrestling match that was resulting in sexist remarks and actions and creating an uncomfortable environment for other students. She forcefully advocated for a change so the event could continue in a way that did not demean women.
--Hilary Griffith proposed a charity drag show involving a friend who is a professional drag queen to raise money for THON. The initial resistance to the "drag show theme" led her to speak out for respecting diversity and to raise awareness about the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. She plans to create a task force on her campus and encourage faculty who teach freshman seminars to incorporate curriculum that examines bias and prejudice.
--Miatta Massaley designed and procured funding for a pilot landlord tenant mediation center, in partnership with other members of the Legal Affairs division of the University Park Undergraduate Affairs office. With hundreds of student renters and landlords in the community facing issues, she realized the need for an alternative to expensive legal proceedings. The center serves as a model for affordable and speedy resolution of landlord-tenant disputes and illustrates the power of mediation. She also has advocated to retain the Diversity and Student Life Committee, and helped organize events for leaders of student minority and women’s groups, discussing eating disorders, body image, and sexual harassment.
More information and photos and videos about each student are available at the Web site:
The Stand Up Awards is one of many programs organized by the Rock Ethics Institute, which promotes the integration of ethics across the Penn State curriculum and supports innovative interdisciplinary ethical research, teaching and outreach. The REI supports curriculum development for new courses or to add ethical dimensions to existing courses; organizes faculty resources and seminars on ethics education; and sponsors conferences, lecture series and research projects, particularly on key themes of bioethics, ethics education, leadership and climate change. More information about the REI is at:


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Last Updated May 19, 2016