New student organization helping female Scholars serve, lead, build communities

Jeff Rice
April 15, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A female-focused student group in the Schreyer Honors College is making a positive impact on local and global communities while providing a supportive network for its growing membership.

Schreyer for Women, which was created in 2017 and became a registered student organization earlier this semester, is modeled on four pillars — community engagement, career development, service, and special projects — that represent a wide range of activities and priorities and reflect the diversity of members’ interests.

“The network that you have within Schreyer for Women is like its own thing,” said Noelia Ortiz-Landazabal, Schreyer for Women’s 2019-20 director of service. “It kind of embodies everything.”

The organization counts more than three dozen Scholars among its general membership each semester, including a board of elected officers, and holds a full slate of events on and off campus. It also gives students the freedom to be as involved as they want to be, whether that means attending three meetings a week or three in a semester, and to focus on the events and initiatives of their choosing.

“We wanted to identify branches that everyone could apply to regardless of their background or identity,” said Siena Baker, 2019-20 president of Schreyer for Women. “As a broader community, those pillars help us focus on how we can help each other.” 

Recently, Schreyer for Women members have created sustainable feminine hygiene kits to send to young women in developing countries through a partnership with Days for Girls, an international nonprofit organization whose Penn State chapter, developed by Schreyer for Women members, also recently became a registered student organization. Through the same partnership, they recently sewed cloth onto medical face masks to help make them last longer during the coronavirus pandemic.

In early March, Schreyer for Women hosted an open mic event for International Women’s Day, where students from throughout the Penn State community shared poetry, comedy, and other messages that celebrated women. Though the coronavirus pandemic has kept students off campus for much of the spring, Schreyer for Women still found ways to make an impact, focusing on its pen pal program with Power Dada, an organization that strives to create safe communities for women and girls in Kisumu, Kenya, hosting a virtual panel for students at Tyrone Area High School, and connecting with female alumni and faculty via Zoom.

“They’re reaching out beyond their cluster to make that impact, to be an important part of the community,” said Schreyer Honors College Dean Peggy A. Johnson, “and I think that is absolutely fantastic.”

The roots of the organization were formed in the spring of 2017, when a group of graduating Scholars decided the Honors College should have a female-focused organization but realized they would not be around to help establish it. They shared their thoughts with a group of rising juniors and seniors, including Madison Taylor, who became the organization’s first president. More than 100 students showed up for the group’s first meeting in the Fall of 2017, and the organization has since continued to grow.

“It’s exciting to see that it’s been viable and that the message is long-standing and that it’s exciting to incoming classes,” said Taylor, who graduated with honors in biology from Penn State in May 2018.

In recent years, Schreyer for Women members have created and cultivated a database of organizations and career-development activities their members are involved in, to give future members the opportunity to reach out to students or alumni with similar interests. The organization is also continuing to network with the College’s Scholar Alumni Society Board and hosts Scholar alumni for special events, including a brunch prior to Connect, the Honors College’s annual career networking event, and regular organizational meetings in Atherton Hall. This year, the organization piloted a monthly Women’s Roundtable, inviting several women’s-focused organizations on campus to collaborate on best practices. 

Empowerment and connection are themes that run through each of Schreyer for Women’s pillars and through every meeting — creating opportunities for women in the Honors College to be part of a supportive and impactful community.

“I think one of the beautiful things about Penn State is that there’s such a willingness and availability to help younger members,” said Natasha Ferguson, the 2019-20 director of career development. “Within Schreyer for Women, you have this community of members who have been through it before. If you’re looking for somewhere you can get just general advice and guidance, Schreyer for Women is a great place to be.”

About the Schreyer Honors College 

The Schreyer Honors College promotes academic excellence with integrity, the building of a global perspective, and creation of opportunities for leadership and civic engagement. Schreyer Honors Scholars total approximately 2,000 students at University Park and 20 Commonwealth Campuses and represent 38 states and 28 countries. More than 14,000 scholars have graduated with honors from Penn State since 1980.

  • Schreyer for Women Executive Board members 2019-20
    IMAGE: Photo courtesy of Schreyer for Women
Last Updated April 15, 2021