Shaping the World Mission & Vision

At the Schreyer Honors College, we are recruiting and developing students who want to identify and solve problems, who want to make their communities and the world a better place. We are shaping people who shape the world.

History & Traditions
Schreyer Scholars Medal on a reflective surface

Founding Principles Our Mission

The mission of the Schreyer Honors College is to promote:

Schreyer Scholar Kriston Ramdass working on his thesis

Academic Excellence with Integrity

Schreyer Scholar Markea Dickinson on a cliff in Argentina

Building a Global Perspective

Scholars giving back as part of a Remote Area Medical team

Creating Opportunities for Leadership & Civic Engagement

Worldwide Impact Our Vision

Our vision is to educate people who will have an important and ethical influence in the world, affecting academic, professional, civic, social, and business outcomes.

We also aim to improve educational practice and to be recognized as a leading force in honors education nationwide.

Translating Words Into Actions Making the Mission & Vision Work for You

Rather than elaborating each clause, we have reformulated the mission plus vision into four areas:

Before we get into each of the areas, let’s consider what you should do with this content. Ideally, it should help you choose courses and other experiences, and help you set goals for what you get out of those courses and experiences. That second part is key: we believe that most any class or activity can help you fulfill our mission/vision if you approach them intentionally. We hope there is significant overlap between the mission/vision and your own personal goals, which is part of why we chose you and (we hope) part of why you chose us.

The mission/vision, even in the longer form you’re about to see, doesn’t cover everything that we consider important. For instance, it’s not directly about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), which is why we have separate content about that. But we hope that you will see that theme and many others as embedded in our mission/vision rather than standing entirely outside of them.

Schreyer Scholars will develop, engage in, and communicate scholarship in their field in order to examine and critically analyze selected topics, issues, or problems.

Why do we say Schreyer Scholar? A Scholar, for us, is someone who has sufficient understanding of their field that they're prepared to produce something new. This has always been implicit in our thesis requirement, but the statement conveys that the thesis isn't an isolated or final product, but part of a journey that will extend beyond graduation, whether you continue your formal studies or not.

That journey, at least the Penn State part of it, starts with choosing a major. For some of you that means going from undecided—within an academic college or between colleges—to decided, while for others it means scrutinizing your current decision to make sure it’s the right one. The next step, and here’s where your Scholar journey is distinctive, is to consider what aspects of your major (and the academic discipline or disciplines behind it) might be of particular interest to you. That will bring you to the honors thesis, certainly by your final year but in many majors it will be earlier.

The academic excellence part of our mission is typically associated with the classroom and thesis, while the other parts (global perspective and leadership/civic engagement) are associated with extracurricular involvements. We want to break down that distinction: ideally your courses (especially, but not just, honors courses) should help you develop other aspects of the mission besides scholarship, while at least some of your extracurriculars should contribute to your scholarly development.

Note the reference in our elaboration to communicating your scholarship. If you are unable to convey your work effectively, both to people in your field and to others, the impact of your accomplishment will be very limited. How to communicate to both audiences is as important as your actual research or creative activity.

Schreyer Scholars will embody ethical principles and moral agency in personal, academic, professional, and societal contexts.

We expect you to be reflective about ethical behavior, and intentional about including ethical considerations in your significant decisions. This will, we hope, have the practical effect of making you more (or at least more consistently) ethical, because you will take more ownership of your ethical perspective rather than seeing it as an external imposition. Let's look briefly at the four contexts mentioned.

Personal

There are many historical examples of people who stood for the right thing in wider contexts but were despicable in their relationships with those close to them, or people who weren’t especially bad to those close to them but did plenty of harm in the world. Our ideal is a seamless whole of good (ethical) behavior whether it is toward your roommate right now or the wider world as you move through it.

Academic

One obvious application of ethics in the academic context is academic integrity: don’t plagiarize, don’t cheat, etc. More broadly, scholarship doesn't take place in an ethical vacuum. As you consider your scholarly path and eventually a thesis topic, you should consider the potential of your work to make a positive impact in the world, and how to control any potential negative impact.

Professional

Some of you have mapped out your future more than others, but all of you will end up in one or more professional settings after graduation. That setting might follow directly from your choice of major and it might not. We want you to excel in that professional context, in whatever ways are important to you, but based always on a strong ethical perspective. This extends to how you get established and get ahead professionally, how you approach your work and how you choose that work, and how you interact with others.

Societal

What you want for the wider community, up to and including the whole world, and how you work to achieve it, should be an expression of your ethical principles. The relationship between ethical principles and ideological or policy preferences in the world is complicated, although it is tempting to claim it’s not—for instance, by dismissing contrary preferences as simply “unethical” and therefore unworthy of consideration. Our goal for you, as an ethical member of society, is to apply your ethical principles critically and intentionally (consciously) in forming and acting upon your preferences, and in determining how to engage constructively with the preferences of others. That includes determining when those preferences of others might be unethical and something to be called out, as opposed to the usual differences that characterize an open society.

Schreyer Scholars will demonstrate respect for human differences, understanding of global interdependency, and engagement in civic life.

Respect for Human Differences

Our mission says “building a global perspective” but it doesn’t mention what is within our U.S. borders and right around us. There are unique aspects to global as opposed to national, local, and interpersonal understanding, but the intellectual and ethical bases for these different levels of understanding are the same, which we summarize as “respect for human differences.” That starts with the overlapping Schreyer Honors College and Penn State communities.

Understanding Global Interdependency

You might support or oppose a more “globalized” world, but that view should be grounded in an understanding of our current reality and how we got here. Actual experience in other countries can be an important part of developing that understanding, and since its creation the Schreyer Honors College has emphasized study abroad, via significant funding and special Schreyer programs.

We recognize that not all students will have an international experience during their time at Penn State, and we also recognize that some students are having a significant international experience just by being at Penn State. There are many opportunities to develop an understanding of the wider world right here on campus, between courses and activities, and we encourage you to take advantage of those opportunities.

Engagement in Civic Life

This is how respect and understanding are practically demonstrated, using the tools you develop in fulfillment of the rest of the mission; the information-gathering and analytical skills developed from scholarship, the reflective application of your ethical framework and, as we will discuss next, how you work productively with other people. In other words, it is great to respect human differences and understand global interdependency, but without engagement in civic life, it is like scholarship that you’re not able to communicate effectively: the impact will be very limited.

Schreyer Scholars will collaborate with others and demonstrate leadership by exploring opportunities or implementing initiatives.

Your selection into the Schreyer Honors College is in part a recognition of your work with other people, in a wide range of settings. But just as the first three statements ask you to develop something you have already learned into something more—academic achievement into scholarship, for example—this final aspect asks you to develop your enthusiasm and your “people skills” so that you can more effectively achieve important goals in complex settings. There are several aspects to this:

Being Strategic in Your Involvements

Schreyer Scholars are known for being involved in many things, sometimes to the point where something’s got to give and that could be academics, one or more activities, or their overall physical, mental, and/or emotional health. Having fewer but more sustained involvements is generally preferable, and we are developing a new online tool to help you reflect on what your involvements are doing to advance your overall personal development goals, your achievement of the Schreyer mission, and the success of the activities in which you participate.

Collaboration and Leadership Skills

Working with others is challenging, since everyone comes with their own characteristics, opinions, and interests. If you aspire to take a leading role in a group, whether formally with a title or informally by advancing your ideas from the ranks, the challenge is even greater. Collaboration and leadership, like other skills, can be developed through practice accompanied by reflection and feedback. The Schreyer Honors College, through its Career Development office, offers many opportunities for you to develop these skills.

Project Management Skills

Turning an agreed-upon plan into the desired results requires a skill set of a different kind, and as plans and desired results get more ambitious, you need higher-level skills to guarantee their implementation. Some majors are more intentional about developing these skills than others, but regardless of your major and professional goals, developing these skills is essential to success.

What we haven’t mentioned here is what goals you should seek to promote when working with others. That, of course, is up to you, but that is where the rest of the mission comes into play: your goals should be the result of rigorous thinking, consistent with and derived from your ethical framework, and respectful of other people who are impacted by those goals and the process of developing and implementing them.

A University Commitment Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Our world is a big and diverse place, full of people with different political views, social experiences, religious convictions, and personal backgrounds. In order to make lasting change, we need to be full and complete citizens of our global community. In practice, this means many things, including developing and fostering a diverse community, making available to our students transformational experiences, and teaching critical thinking skills that are coupled to a strong moral compass. We hope that you will join us in building this community and having a lasting and ethical impact on our world.

Our Diverse Community
A diverse group of Schreyer Scholars having a discussion
Schreyer Scholar Tara Golthi

The honors women's studies class I'm taking right now is phenomenal. Every day I go to the class is really eye-opening. I don't know if I would have gotten that experience without being in Schreyer.

Tara Golthi ' 20 Media Studies

Shaping the World Mission & Vision

History & Traditions