Desiree Martin

Class of 2008
Human Development and Family Studies,
Penn State Fayette, the Eberly Campus
Nominated by Gina Jones

Most people think of Penn State students as 19- or 20-year-olds–not as mothers of college-aged students, like Desiree Martin. As a non-traditional student at Penn State Fayette, Desiree knows what it’s like to not fit the “traditional” mold, and this perspective, as well as her life experiences, drive her passion to help others to rethink “diversity” and our ethical responsibilities toward one another.

Desiree is an advocate for those whom society often overlooks, misunderstands, and even scorns. She’s motivated by the beliefs that people shouldn’t have to fear exclusion or violence just because they’re different, and that a little tolerance goes a long way. By starting conversations and raising awareness, Desiree seeks to expand her peers’ conception of diversity beyond a focus on cultural and racial differences to include attention to issues of sexuality and mental and physical disability. In helping students speak about and acknowledge their prejudices, she leads them one step closer to tolerance.

Desiree was selected by Fayette’s chancellor, Emmanuel Osagie, for the first, historic role of Diversity Affairs Chair, and her efforts culminated in a semester-long tribute to the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. She also mobilized campus clubs and organizations to sponsor Diversity Week. One of the activities she initiated was the “Wheelchair Challenge,” asking students to negotiate the campus in wheelchairs, so that they might understand, perhaps for the first time, something about the daily lives of their disabled peers. She has worked with the administration to assess campus accessibility for persons with disabilities, in order to improve the campus for current students and to recruit more students with disabilities.

For her advocacy efforts and her determination to help others become more human and ethical citizens of our world, Desiree Martin is an outstanding example of ethical leadership.

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