Awaly Diallo selected as Liberal Arts college marshal

Michaela Harpster
April 10, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — As part of Penn State’s 2020 spring commencement activities, Awaly Diallo will represent the College of the Liberal Arts as college marshal.

In response to the growing coronavirus pandemic, orders from the state government and recommendations from global public health organizations, Penn State will hold its spring 2020 commencement ceremony via livestream on May 9. The virtual ceremony will recognize all Penn State undergraduate students and all graduate students in the Penn State Graduate School.

Diallo, a Paterno Fellow and Schreyer Scholar, will graduate with bachelor of arts degrees in sociology and African American studies. Her faculty marshal is Molly Martin, associate professor of sociology and demography.

During her time at Penn State, Diallo has made a substantial impact. As the executive director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Student Committee, she was passionate about inspiring social justice across the University Park campus. Awaly noted the importance of having a strong support network. She said, “With everything that I do in my life, I am surrounded by encouraging and empowering black women and girls. From my family, to my sorority sisters, to my professors, to the planning committee, I am surrounded by caring, encouraging and empowering black women.”

Diallo’s passion for social justice doesn’t end there. Early in her Penn State career, she served as the student chair for the Black Women’s Initiative, where she helped organize discussions and worked towards retention of Black female students. She was also vice president of Penn State’s Writers Organized to Represent Diverse Stories (W.O.R.D.S) student organization. The group’s mission is to create a safe place for members to share their stories with identity politics and spread self love.

Continuing with the theme of social justice, Diallo was a legal intern at the Northeastern School of Law's Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project (CCRJ) and the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia. The CRRJ investigates cold cases involving racially motivated homicides that occurred between 1930 and 1970. The project works to uncover what happened to the victims, tell their stories, and try to provide closure to the affected families and communities through restorative justice.

“Their experiences were not only full of determination to bring justice to the families of the victims but to utilize the research in the CRRJ for contemporary issues," said Diallo. "The parallels captivated my interest for my current research but also for my future goals.”

Because of her role as executive director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Student Committee, as well as her internships, Diallo was recognized as a Liberal Arts Change Maker. As a Change Maker, her goal is to “inspire students to seek justice by any means necessary and to change the world.” 

Diallo was also recognized as a Rock Ethics Institute Stand Up Award winner, which is awarded to students who demonstrate ethical leadership by standing up for a cause, idea, or belief. Unsurprisingly, Diallo was recognized for standing up for social justice and reconciliation.

Topping off Diallo’s impressive list of activities is her study abroad experience in Curaçao, where she had the unique opportunity to explore the similarities and differences between structures of race, crime, and justice in Curaçao and the United States. She also learned about the Atlantic slave trade and European influences of Curaçao’s socio-political symptoms.

Reflecting on her time as a Penn State student, Diallo attributes her confidence in her future to her liberal arts education. “My liberal arts education gave me a keen understanding of how to see society through a world perspective. I have the necessary tools to tackle social problems and make an impact on people all over the world,” she said.

After graduation, Diallo plans to work and volunteer with various human rights organizations before attending law school to become a civil rights lawyer. One of her professional goals is to “utilize legal research to produce equitable public policy for marginalized groups of people.”

To first-year Liberal Arts students, Diallo offered the following advice. “Immerse yourself in everything the College of the Liberal Arts has to offer because there are so many opportunities to explore your purpose and create your own journey. It is okay to need help or guidance, and there are a multitude of resources that can lead you in the right path.”

This is the second in a series of stories on the 24 student marshals representing the College of the Liberal Arts during the spring 2020 commencement activities.

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Last Updated April 10, 2020