Class of 2008
Human Development and Family Studies
Penn State Fayette, the Eberly Campus
Desiree received this award for her innovative leadership and program development of diversity and accessibility awareness at Penn State Fayette.
Most people think of Penn State students as 19- or 20-year-olds—not as mothers of college aged students. But Desiree Martin is the latter. 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 the experiences of her life, 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; and 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. She wants to expand her peers’ concept of diversity beyond cultural and racial differences to issues of sexuality and mental and physical disability, and she does so by starting conversations and raising awareness. 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 have culminated this spring in a semester-long tribute to the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. In February, Desiree mobilized campus clubs and organizations to sponsor Diversity Week. One of the activities she initiated was the very successful “Wheelchair Challenge,” which asked students to negotiate the campus in wheelchairs, to understand, perhaps for the first time, the daily lives of their disabled peers. Currently, she is working 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.
After graduating in May, Desiree will pursue a graduate degree in social work and hopes to begin her own counseling agency. 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.
Watch & learn about her ethical leadership
Do you know a Penn State undergraduate student who stands up for a belief, a cause, or an idea?