'We Are Project' integrated into Shenango's freshman seminar course

Penn State Shenango freshman, Larry Ransom from Youngstown, Ohio, speaks to his classmates about the "We Are Project" during a PSU-8 Freshman Seminar course.

Penn State Shenango freshman Larry Ransom, of Youngstown, Ohio, speaks to his classmates about the "We Are Project" during a PSU-8 Freshman Seminar course.

Credit: Brooke Doerfler

SHARON, Pa. — Striving to create a positive and welcoming environment for its students, the Penn State Shenango Advising Office continues to look for ideas that support its mission of inclusion. This past summer, a colorful Instagram post shared by Student Orientation and Transition Programs at the University Park campus caught the attention of staff in the Advising Office and sparked their interest to pursue another new initiative.

“In order to stay up-to-date with what’s going on at other Penn State campuses and departments and to get new concepts which we can use to spur our students' interest, I check out their social media accounts,” said Advising Office Staff Assistant Taylor Cole. “When I saw the photo posted by the University’s Student Orientation Office, which displayed the colorful 'I Am' sheets, it immediately drew me in, and I wanted to find out more about the project.”

Cole reached out to Senior Associate Director of New Student Orientation Katie Motycki at the University Park campus to learn about the “I Am” wall and “We Are Project.” Following a meeting via Zoom to discuss the venture, Shenango’s team, who included Cole and Penn State Shenango Advising Manager and DUS Coordinator Amy Petrucci-Effinite, learned that the “We Are Project” was designed and added into the University’s New Student Orientation (NSO) to help students understand and appreciate diversity and inclusion in a campus community.

“As soon as we heard more about the ‘We Are Project,’ we knew it would be a great addition to our PSU 8-Freshman Seminar course,” said Petrucci-Effinite. “So we planned one of our PSU-8 classes around this theme. During the class, we asked our students to explain in approximately 10 words why they chose to attend Penn State. We also highlighted Penn State’s commitment to our community and shared the story behind the ‘We Are’ cheer; discussed instances that may occur that could challenge their ideas and perspectives on certain issues; and discussed the University’s ‘All in Campaign,’ which promotes inclusion, encourages civil discourse, and challenges all perspectives.”

After watching two short videos on diversity and inclusion, which were provided by the University Park campus, the class was reminded by the instructors that when they committed to Penn State, they committed to being a member of the Penn State community. The students were also reminded that across the globe people hear “We Are,” but “We Are” is made up of each person's “I Am.”

“’We Are’ is accepting diversity and the willingness and commitment to be a community,” said Petrucci-Effinite. “The ‘I Am' is a personal commitment. The two concepts need to work together. At the end of the class, we asked the students to write one word or phrase that described what they bring to our community on an 'I Am' sheet. It was wonderful to see the variety of responses from the class, including such phrases as ‘I Am responsible,’ ‘I Am inspired,’ I Am motivated.’"

Before the students left the class that day, they were given one final thought, to consider Penn State President Eric Barron’s quote on diversity: “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.”

Please visit the Penn State Shenango “We Are Project” to read each individual “I Am” sheet from this year’s first-year students in Sharon Hall room 201. For more information, call 724-983-2860.