Emily Helms


Class of 2009
International Politics
Schreyer Honors Scholar
Penn State University Park

Emily received this award for her leadership of Amnesty International and guiding lobbying and involvement efforts around issues of peace and violence against women.

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Watch or listen to the news on any given day, and the onslaught of tragedy and injustice occurring around the world is often enough to overwhelm any one of us. With so much injustice, there’s a real temptation to sit back and let others take care of it. Emily Helms is not someone who sits back. Emily speaks out in a voice that community leaders, legislators, and her peers can hear—and she inspires others to join her.

It was a Contemporary World Issues class in high school that motivated Emily Helms to become an activist. “Once you find out what’s going on in the world,” she explains, “it’s hard not to want to act.” Since that class, Emily has worked passionately to address human rights and quality of life issues through political activism. Here at Penn State, Emily, now a junior, has organized lobbying efforts, speaking events, and peace rallies to promote Congressional funding for Darfur, and an end to torture and the death penalty. Recently she successfully lobbied Senator Arlen Spector to sign the International Violence Against Women Act.

Emily’s passion for these issues has found expression through her energetic involvement with Amnesty International. Having served as a student area coordinator and a regional planning group member, she was selected to attend Amnesty International’s Leadership Summit in 2007.

Emily has made global justice her academic pursuit as well. As an International Politics major she has turned her attention to Trade Liberalization policies and their effect on the developing world. Emily hopes to measure standards of living in least developed countries more comprehensively, and that means going beyond simple measures like GNP and life expectancy, to considering more fundamental issues like access to potable water, literacy, and the population of the malnourished. Emily’s future plans are to work in the field with Amnesty International—perhaps in Africa, to address global poverty and human rights issues in an even more direct and hands-on fashion.

For her undeterrable spirit and her profound belief that one person’s voice can create change in our world, Emily Helms is a remarkable example of what it means to embody 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?

The Rock Ethics Institute inaugurated the Stand Up Award to honor Penn State undergraduate students who have demonstrated courage, fortitude, and ethical leadership by taking a stand for a person, a cause, or a belief. This award and the individuals it honors should remind the entire Penn State community of how often the extraordinary act is possible in ordinary circumstances.