Ruth Canagarajah


Class of 2012
International Politics, and Sociology
Schreyer Honors Scholar
Paterno Liberal Arts Undergraduate Fellow
Penn State University Park
Nominated by Jack Selzer

Ruth received this award for reminding us that ethical leadership requires that we be just as willing to listen and to help others hear, as we are to make our own voices heard.

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The Penn State Rock Ethics Institute is proud to recognize the ethical leadership Ruth has demonstrated in standing up for social justice and collaborative empowerment by helping some to find a voice through which to express themselves and others to find the ears through which to hear and listen. A native Sri Lankan whose family left its homeland during the height of recent religious and ethnic struggles, Ruth has dedicated herself to helping the youth in post-war Sri Lanka cope and express themselves in creative and constructive ways through playwriting.

The Paalam Project, which she named after the Tamil word for “bridge,” is intended to help span the considerable divides that exist among Sri Lankans as well as those that exist between the situation in Sri Lanka and our awareness of it in the United States. By encouraging Sri Lankan youth to take up playwriting, and then translating their plays into English, and working with Penn State students to produce them, Ruth has provided unique opportunities for cross-cultural exchange and understanding.

Whether working with Sri Lankan youth, tutoring other students in English, or counseling at the Women’s Resource Center, Ruth exhibits a consistent commitment to empowering others through collaborative exchanges where all parties are recognized for the particular experiences and perspectives they bring to the process. She recognizes that ethical leadership requires that we be just as willing to listen and to help others hear as we are to make our own voices heard. This makes Ruth Canagarajah the kind of leader that we judge to be especially deserving of our recognition, admiration, and emulation.

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.