Amy Mook, a senior in biology, has been named one of three winners of the Rock Ethics Institute 2021 Stand Up Awards. First established in 2008, these annual awards recognize undergraduate students at Penn State who have demonstrated ethical leadership by standing up for a cause, idea or belief. Through honoring their courageous examples, the awards aim to inspire others to become ethical leaders.
Also honored this year are Timothy Benally, a senior in psychology, and Nyla Holland, a senior in African American studies and political science. The winners were honored at a virtual ceremony on April 22.
“Amy, Nyla and Tim embody traits that we have seen in so many Penn State students during this difficult year — resilience and dedication to service,” said Ben Jones, assistant director of the Rock Ethics Institute. “In the face of tremendous hardships, each has persevered and shown incredible leadership in advancing justice and equity within their communities.”
Mook has been a passionate advocate for students with disabilities. She felt compelled to take action after her own experiences at Penn State: "My experiences prompted me to bring attention to the challenges that many students with disabilities face on a daily basis. If there are ways to ensure that these barriers are broken down, I will do everything I can to advance such efforts," she said.
While in high school, Mook lost her father to pancreatic cancer. This loss shaped her journey into advocacy and led her to become president of Penn State’s chapter of Sideline Cancer. In this work, she said, she gained experience that made her a more effective advocate in other areas, in particular disability rights. She has promoted and helped achieve greater accessibility on campus through representing students with disabilities before the Penn State Board of Trustees, being an active member of the Penn State Access Club and serving as a student representative on the University’s Diversability Committee. She also is a program assistant for Stand for State, providing peer education on issues such as bias and discrimination.
For Sarita Greer, project coordinator and lab manager of the Shriver Laboratory at Penn State, Mook’s achievements are nothing short of remarkable: “Amy has identified inequities that those with disability face on campus and spoken up for them, resulting in new awareness among both her peers and those in positions of power. She has done all this while being an exemplary STEM student, dealing with the recent loss of her father, and being a disabled person herself. She has been a shining example of ethical leadership.”
The Rock Ethics Institute, which sponsors the Stand Up awards, was established in 2001 through a $5 million gift 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. Read about this year's other winners here.