Education student honored with Stand Up, Adult Student awards

June 29, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Divine Lipscomb, an undergraduate student majoring in rehabilitation and human services and special projects coordinator for the Restorative Justice Initiative, is one of four students University-wide to be honored with the 2020 Stand Up Award from the Rock Ethics Institute. He also was honored with the Outstanding Adult Learners Award.

"These awards mean a great deal to me. I had to really sit with myself and ask 'have I done anything to be rewarded for?' For about a week the response was the same, 'No,'" Lipscomb said.

"I do what I do because everyone deserves this level of access to education, because education grants the opportunity for upward mobility. With upward mobility we break generational curses. It was in these thoughts that I was able to accept the magnitude of these awards. I am humbled and I will continue to push the wheel until individuals that share my identities stand proud because of all they had to overcome and not falter in what someone believes are redeemable qualities," he said.

Efraín Marimón, instructor of education in the College of Education and director of the Restorative Justice Initiative (RJI), said he first met Lipscomb several years ago through the RJI. "I cannot, in all honesty, imagine a more fitting candidate for the Stand Up Award," Marimón said.

"Divine approached me about ways to get involved. He shared that it was his first semester at Penn State and had a strong affinity to this work," he said.

Lipscomb already had dedicated his life to working with people impacted by incarceration and had established his own re-entry-focused organization called Corrective Gentlemen, which provides support and mentoring for formerly incarcerated individuals.

"Divine is driven by his passion for social justice and racial equity and has served a critical role in Penn State’s efforts to provide higher education opportunities to individuals incarcerated in Pennsylvania," Marimón said. "Divine is a champion of educational equity in its purest form, viewing access to education as a fundamental human right. From the moment he set foot on our campus, he has worked relentlessly to push Penn State to alter the far-reaching impacts of incarceration and use its size, scope and reach to address ethical challenges in responding to issues of injustice."

Lipscomb sees his personal experience with incarceration as an important part of his identity and he has found healing in serving as an advocate for individuals that have experienced or are experiencing incarceration, especially Black men like himself.

"Divine Lipscomb embodies the characteristics sought after in a Stand Up Award recipient. His presence on campus not only brings a diversity to Penn State that makes it a more vibrant place for all therein, but he also takes intentional strides to make contributions that advance the cause of restorative justice."

-- Ashley Patterson, assistant professor, Penn State College of Education

"When you think of ethical leadership it is quite easy to dismiss advocacy efforts based on current and formerly incarcerated people. I believe I was nominated because I feel the total opposite," Lipscomb said. "The work that I have committed my life to and the guiding principles I live my life by are the same fundamental values that make us all Penn Staters."

Ashley Patterson, assistant professor in the College of Education, got to know Lipscomb through encounters in the Office of Education and Social Equity, and then had him as a student in one of her classes. She said his passion for restorative justice was clear. His matter-of-fact self-introduction as a formerly incarcerated individual set the stage for honest, evidence-based conversations in the class.

"Another way in which Mr. Lipscomb exemplified ethical leadership in our classroom was his willing exposure of his vulnerabilities," Patterson said. "Ethical leaders do not make attempts to present themselves as infallible or evolved beyond the need for continued growth. Regularly throughout the semester, Divine shared both challenges and celebrations he encountered on his self-development journey."

Patterson said that not only did Lipscomb’s sharing provide insights into his own personal growth trajectory, his candid self-exposure also served as a learning opportunity for others in the class, providing a roadmap for personal development.

"Divine Lipscomb embodies the characteristics sought after in a Stand Up Award recipient. His presence on campus not only brings a diversity to Penn State that makes it a more vibrant place for all therein, but he also takes intentional strides to make contributions that advance the cause of restorative justice," Patterson said.

Leslie Laing, director for Adult Learner Programs and Services, praised Lipscomb while announcing him as the winner of the Outstanding Adult Learner Award, that unit’s highest honor.

"Divine, you have faced many personal challenges, academic challenges, and overcome some of life's most difficult obstacles,” Laing said. “You generously spend your time representing the incarcerated and those in recovery, as well as our faculty, our staff and your fellow students in the Penn State community. You are using your life to make a difference for so many others, and that makes us Penn State proud."

In her nomination letter for the Outstanding Adult Learner Award, Deirdre O'Sullivan, associate professor and professor in charge of the Rehabilitation and Human Services program, wrote, "Divine Lipscomb is an outstanding adult student learner for many reasons." She said many faculty members, staff and students were "immediately excited and enthusiastic to nominate Divine, a clear indicator that he has made a strong and positive impression on many people."

O'Sullivan wrote, "He embodies the dispositions we hold dear in our major: those of advocacy, responsibility, empathy, ethical conduct and helping others. He does all this while also consistently connecting to the work asked of him in classes. In his coursework and studies, I know him to be an engaged student, a creative thinker, a reliable and dedicated learner, a strong writer, and a curious, emerging scholar in the field of rehabilitation and re-entry."

Patterson, Marimón and Maria Schmidt, assistant dean for education and social equity in the college, co-wrote a letter of support to accompany O'Sullivan's nomination. "Collectively, we celebrate Mr. Lipscomb’s academic achievements in the face of challenging circumstances; his ability to balance with seeming ease a multitude of responsibilities; and the contributions he makes to the University and community by way of his service and the shining human being that he is," they wrote.

"The list of specific contributions Mr. Lipscomb has made as an adult learner to the Penn State community are so numerous that space does not allow here, though we would welcome the opportunity to gush more about his many accomplishments," they said.

The Rock Ethics Institute created the Stand Up Award in 2008 to honor undergraduate students who demonstrate the courage to stand behind a cause, idea, or belief as they exhibit ethical leadership on campus and in the community. Watch the interview with Lipscomb here.

The Outstanding Adult Student Award recognizes an exceptional adult learner or student veteran at University Park who has overcome obstacles while furthering his or her education. Nominees should balance multiple roles, serve as a role model for other students and achieve academically. Watch the recognition ceremony here.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated June 29, 2020