Students receive 2018 Rock Ethics Institute Stand Up Awards

Bernicker, Condé, Greider honored for their leadership and advocacy

2018 Penn State Stand Up student awardees, from left to right, Brendan Bernicker, Fanta Condé, and Alice Greider   Credit: Heidi Lynne PhotographyAll Rights Reserved.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State students Brendan Bernicker, Fanta Condé, and Alice Greider are being honored for leadership and advocacy as recipients of the Rock Ethics Institute’s 2018 Stand Up Award.

The Penn State Rock Ethics Institute created the Stand Up Award in 2008 to honor undergraduate students who demonstrate the courage to stand behind a cause, idea or belief as they exhibit ethical leadership on campus and in the community.

Brendan Bernicker’s strong sense of justice has helped guide him since he was a small child. A junior majoring in philosophy and political science, he works as an investigator in the public defender’s office locally and has worked as an intern in the public defender’s office in Washington, D.C. 

As an investigator, Bernicker works to build a full story about his clients with the goal to help the court see clients as humans instead of case numbers. His experience in the public defender’s office encouraged Bernicker to consider ways in which he can make broader policy changes and greater impact. He has set a research agenda to work on policy reform and recidivism for his master’s essay and for his upcoming term in Oxford at the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies.

“The place I see the most potential for change and the most meaningful way for reducing human suffering is in the criminal justice system,” said Bernicker. “To me, an ethical leader is one who stands for the interests of the oppressed and marginalized. In doing this, he or she helps others to see themselves as potential agents of change and ethical leaders in their own right.”

Learn more about each honoree and their extraordinary experiences in the 2018 Stand Up video.  Credit: Whitney Chirdon, producer/director

Fanta Condé, a senior majoring in philosophy and political science, credits the 2017 federal travel ban issued against eight countries as the event that inspired her activism.

“I felt wounded, like my heart had been punctured by the person I grew to trust most deeply, my America,” Condé shared. “My best friend suggested, that we do something, perhaps start a protest. I have learned through this protest, and through this activism that informing your neighbors of the plights of their neighbors is always a good place to start. Leadership in my view is standing up at a time when hopelessness is stealing hearts.”

Condé works to mobilize her peers around issues of justice and inclusion. She organized a critical response to the University Park Undergraduate Association’s initial statement on the 2017 executive order, a resolution in support of international students at Penn State. Condé requested that the UPUA articulate a statement in support of these students and ask that the University support these students with housing during semester breaks. Condé also led peaceful protests on campus and student visits to U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson’s office.

Alice Greider, a senior majoring in international politics and global and international studies who is also pursuing her masters of international affairs, was studying in Berlin during the Syrian refugee crisis as Germany was taking in nearly 1 million refugees. She has always been passionate about humanitarian issues but being a firsthand witness during a period of international crisis sustained her commitment to global engagement.

Greider’s experience abroad motivated her to start a chapter of UN Advocates at Penn State. Through UN Advocates, she and the organization’s members educate others about global issues and show fellow students that they can make a difference on the world stage.

“As a student, my response to something I’m passionate about has always been to take a class on it, to write a research paper, or even simply to Google it,” Greider said. “But academic inquiry has also led me to discover issues that require something more than passively writing a paper. Injustices flourish in a world where a lack of human empathy has allowed people to exploit, ignore and remain ignorant of one another.

“As students with our own personal stresses and insular lives, it can be easy to forget about the world outside our Happy Valley. I wanted to show my peers that only an ocean (or less) away there are people our age who are displaced from homes, forced to fight for rebel groups, raising children who are malnourished and unable to get vaccines, and forced to undergo inhumane practices such as torture and female genital mutilation.”

"Penn State students excel in the classroom,” said Ben Jones, assistant director of the Rock Ethics Institute. “But they also excel in their communities, providing direct service to those in need and speaking out against injustice. The Stand Up Awards highlight some of the many students at Penn State who are ethical leaders on campus and beyond. Alice, Brendan and Fanta are exceptional students who — through their commitments to human rights, criminal justice reform, and fighting racism and prejudice — embody the values that the Stand Up Award represents."

You can learn more about this year’s Stand Up honorees by watching the Stand Up Award video story and online at

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."

Last Updated April 26, 2018