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Biology major recognized for ethical leadership by Rock Ethics Institute

12 April 2022
three winners wearing black

Jake Snyder, a third-year student majoring in biology at Penn State, is one of three undergraduate students to be recognized with the  2022 Stand Up Award from the The Rock Ethics Institute. This year's winners also include Celeste Good, a fourth-year student majoring in women’s, gender and sexuality studies, 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. Anyone interested in attending the ceremony should register beforehand.

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.”

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.