PennWest Clarion Student Senate recognized individuals and organizations for their contributions to equity during its annual 29th annual Equity Dinner and Awards Ceremony Nov. 7 at Gemmell Student Center. The theme was “Timeless Wisdom: From Boomers to Zoomers.” Nominees from PennWest’s California, Clarion and Edinboro campuses were eligible for the awards.

In her keynote address, PennWest economics professor Dr. Sandra Trejos stressed the value of people’s differences and said that appreciating these differences equates to love.

“Productivity is great; it takes us places. It takes nations farther,” she said. “However, values of tolerance, civility, respect, support, understanding and inclusion are what actually touches lives.”

Trejos said we are alive not because we do things, but because we “are.” She addressed Generation Z.

“Robots and artificial intelligence can be efficient in finding and getting information, they can assist and respond to questions and searches, but only human beings can love. I can hear minds saying, ‘Seriously, Dr. Trejos, you are talking about love at a non-Valentine celebration?’ Yes, dear friends, love defines us,” she said.

Trejos said that leadership – as our (student)senators and student leaders live it – is about caring for others, working hard to make a difference in the lives of others and always starting at home.

“Acts of servant leaders are consistent with acts of love,” she said. “People who serve others, realizing the value and dignity in everyone, live the principles of diversity, equity and inclusion.”

Trejos, who was born in Costa Rica and has dual citizenship there and in the United States, used her own experience to emphasize the value of differences.

“I am the Latina professor of economics who speaks with an accent because English is her third language, and learned it later in life. I am a minority in the economics profession because Latinos and women are underrepresented in the field. Given these, I have been able to contribute to PennWest for two decades now because of people like you, who appreciate me for who I am, and that is equitable,” she said. “I have been touched by the opportunity to become a mentor in the economics profession with the Social Equity Center at Duke University, the American Society of Hispanic Economists and the Association for Inclusion and Mentoring in Economics. Through this service, I have realized that being myself, just as I am, is what makes me an asset for others, and the same should apply to you with your own selves.” 

Trejos said we are all here for a reason. and we need everyone’s individual role.

“We are great as an institution, as a community, and as a country, not because we are all the same, but because we are all different.There is no other Sandra Trejos, as there is no other you,” she said. 

It is wise to enrich our lives with everyone whose uniqueness touches our lives, teaches us something new, pushes us out of our comfort zone and opens our horizons in ways we would have never experienced. 

In closing, she urged the audience to try new things, meet new people and reach out to someone who looks and sounds different.

“You will be pushing your own self to that frontier that will bring you the most life satisfaction, the happiest state of life, the life in which we can be kind to everyone because they are our brothers and sisters,” she said. “So today, I would like you to take away the following point: Equity is love, and love prevails in all ages.”

Following the keynote address, the following were presented with equity awards:

Special Equity Award: Dr. Brandon Packard, PennWest computerscience faculty – Nominated by multiple students and colleagues, he creates awelcoming environment where all can thrive and feel safe. Outside theclassroom, he supports his students at events such as Lavender Graduation andMinority Student Awards.

Outstanding Community Award: Jackie Griebel – Griebel steppedin this year to chair the Clarion Autumn Leaf Festival and worked to expandinvolvement between the university and the community. She started the ClarionKindness Project, which helps university students and community members inneed.  

Outstanding Employee: Dr. Nripendra Singh, PennWest businessfaculty – Described by multiple of his students as a positive and influentialmentor, he goes above and beyond to help his students gain real worldexperience. He organized a conference on Global Diversity and Inclusion inHigher Education.

Outstanding Student: Lavinsky Collins – After twosemesters with a low GPA, Collins enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps, earningthe rank of sergeant. After returning to Clarion in 2020, the early childhoodeducation major and Golden Eagles wrestler has maintained a GPA of at least a3.0.

Presidential Award: Laney Urban – Urban has dedicated hercollege career to serving others and advocating for diversity. As Tri Sigma president,she has organized events focused on women's issues and empowerment. She isinvolved in the Building Bridges program and is known as a natural leader whomher peers look up to and respect.

Outstanding Supporter: PennWest TRIO (Clarion campus) –This group helps students navigate college and beyond by equipping them withvarious skills and resources such as tutoring, financial literacy informationand course selection. TRIO assists students of many needs and backgrounds in awarm and welcoming environment.

Special Group: University Activities Board – UAB bringsstudents together through events such as the fashion show, Miss Clarion, openmic nights, crafting events and bingo. UAB is supportive of other campus organizations,often collaborating with them and donating to their events.