Brian A. Davis honored with Rock Ethics Institute 2017 Stand Up Award

Davis is a junior majoring in African-American studies, Criminology, and Sociology.
Published: Apr 25, 2017
Brian A. Davis honored with Rock Ethics Institute 2017 Stand Up Award

Penn State student Brian Davis speaking at a campus rally he organized about the Orlando, Florida, nightclub shooting.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State students Brian Davis, Hayly Hoch and Alexis Scott are being honored respectively for their work in social justice and equity; fostering a culture of sustainability through student farming, education and community-supported agriculture; and for advocacy for queer and transgender students of color while creating a climate of acceptance and inclusion at Penn State.

The Penn State Rock Ethics Institute created the Stand Up Award 10 years ago to honor Penn State undergraduates who, as ethical leaders, have the courage and fortitude to take an ethical stand for a person, cause or belief.  

“Over the past decade, the Stand Up Award has been vital in recognizing ethical leadership within the undergraduate community at Penn State,” said Michael D. Burroughs, associate director of the Rock Ethics Institute. “Across a wide range of actions and areas of life, our awardees demonstrate both the many possibilities for and the great impact of ethical leadership at and beyond our campuses.” 

Brian Anthony Davis came to Penn State in 2014 excited about the future. He eagerly engaged in his first semester, but he struggled in college despite doing well academically in high school. Instead of giving up, he searched for learning resources at University Park that helped him succeed. At that point, most people would be satisfied. However, Davis didn’t want others to go through what he went through. He wanted to find a way to better prepare first-year students and those transferring to University Park.

At the beginning of the fall 2016 semester, Davis released “Penn State Treasure,” a booklet featuring a visual introduction to a variety of academic and other helpful resources at Penn State. The goal was to offer students a guide that outlined various resources and support networks available to help them succeed. Some of the most-used information in the booklet includes information about Counseling and Psychological Services, the LGBTQA Resource Center, and a section that shows a photo and contact information for each college’s multicultural director.

Davis’ desire to help others didn’t stop there. During the Flint, Michigan, water crisis Davis organized a trip from State College to Flint to deliver 5,000 bottles of water to families in need. He recruited fellow Penn State students to collect the water, load it in a U-Haul, and hand-delivered it to those in Flint.

“We have to hold ourselves accountable for the results that we want. In any instance of leadership, courage and strength are two important components that help one to take initiative,” said Davis. “Drawing upon these assets, after watching numerous videos of public outcry and disheartened residents, this was an exigent circumstance that called me to action. The ethical principle that guided my deliberation was a selfless desire to help others through altruism.”

Currently, there are plans for more trips to Flint. Penn State students from Philadelphia and Erie will be delivering bottles of water in the near future.

After a whirlwind of a year, Hayly Hoch, co-director of the Penn State Student Farm Club, looks back with a sense of accomplishment. Early in her collegiate career, Hoch had a passion to teach the community about sustainable farming practices. This passion led her to become involved with developing the Sustainable Food Systems Program at Penn State. This program has three separate components: the creation of a food systems minor, the student farm, and the student farm club.

Hoch’s main focus has been the student farm club, which she co-directs with Nick Michalisin. The mission of this club is to bring together anyone who is interested in food systems, including, but not limited to, food insecurity, food waste, agricultural production and culinary skills.

"In pursuing sustainable livelihoods, we embody a standard of behavior that pays mind to human lives around the world, other living organisms and the lives of generations yet to come. This is a powerful undertone that drives my moral compass in my daily life,” Hoch said. “By creating a program that inspires others to think about and ask questions of sustainability, we are enabling Penn State students to embody ethical leadership in their everyday lives.”

The Student Farm Club not only works with students, but they also educate and engage with the larger community about sustainable food programs through lectures, workshops, farm tours, arts events and volunteer opportunities.

Future plans for the Student Farm Club include searching for a permanent site for the student-run farm, a larger facility with a kitchen to host culinary classes, and creating a deeper partnership with the local community.

A true leader is someone who inspires others, understands their own strengths and weaknesses, and believes in others. Alexis Scott has led the revived Queer and Trans People of Color (QTPOC) student group at Penn State for over a year and fits this definition of a true leader. In a short time, she was able to bring together a group of individuals who felt like they didn’t have a place at Penn State. With her leadership in QTPOC, she successfully built a community that provided support and meaningful connections.

Early in her Penn State career Scott attended the Northeast LGBT Conference where she first learned about Queer People of Color student organizations. Hoping to find something like this at Penn State, she reached out to the LGBTQA Student Resource Center and the Paul Robeson Cultural Center to learn that a similar group did exist at Penn State until 2014. Believing in the sense of community and support that this group could provide, she decided to revive it and officially re-launched the organization during the fall 2016 semester.

“QTPOC has established itself as a reliable resource within the community and a source of activism and advocacy for marginalized groups,” said Scott. “In October, we held our first open discussion in collaboration with other multicultural organizations on campus that we ironically titled ‘No Homo: A Discussion on Homophobia in Communities of Color.' This discussion allowed people to speak freely about their opinions and identify where they stemmed from. This provided an opportunity for participants to learn from and connect with one another.”

Throughout her final year at Penn State, Scott will work to build stronger connections between QTPOC, other student organizations, and departments within Penn State. She hopes this work will help with fundraising for future QTPOC plans and partnerships that will help foster this supportive community.

“This is a banner year for the Stand Up Award, which has now brought visibility and recognition to 30 remarkable leaders who have stood up to make a difference at Penn State and far beyond,” said Ted Toadvine, the Nancy Tuana Director of the Rock Ethics Institute. “Alexis, Brian and Hayly exemplify the courage and fortitude that our world so needs today, and as we celebrate their impressive accomplishments, we also honor a decade of amazing individuals who are now bringing their passion and dedication to the service of just causes and communities in need around the globe. The Rock Ethics Institute is honored to count these exceptional leaders among our Stand Up Award recipients, and we look forward to the ways that they will shape our shared future for the better.”

More information about the honorees and the Stand Up Award can be found at www.StandUpPSU.com.

The Rock Ethics Institute was established through a $5 million gift in 2001 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, and in the public and professional sectors, through a three-fold emphasis on teaching, research and outreach. Recently, the Rocks endowed the Nancy Tuana Directorship of the Rock Ethics Institute with an additional $5 million gift, which was part of a larger commitment they made to the College during ‘For the Future: The Campaign for Penn State Students.’

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