If you’re a Liberal Arts student at Penn State, you will inevitably run into the question: “Do you want to aspire to become a Paterno Fellow?”
When I say inevitably, I mean it quite literally – before your first semester on campus, a Liberal Arts advisor will ask you if you want to pursue this path. If you’re the type of student who wants to maximize your opportunities (and rigor of schedule), the Paterno Fellows Program is the path for you.
The program was created in 2008 as a gateway from the College of the Liberal Arts into the Schreyer Honors College. Named after Joe and Sue Paterno, who donated heavily into the College of the Liberal Arts as well as the University Libraries, it mirrors the path of a typical Schreyer Scholar with a few liberal arts twists.
It includes a minimum number of honors credits, a substantial volunteer or leadership requirement, and the completion of an internship or study abroad experience. There are a few additional requirements, but the three I just mentioned will require the most attention.
The Paterno Fellows Program, at its core, has the same academic requirements as the honors college. These requirements can all be found on the Paterno Fellows website, but essentially, you’ll have to take 21 honors credits in the first two years and 14 honors credits in final two years of your four-year stay in Happy Valley. Aspiring Paterno Fellows must maintain a GPA that does not fall below 3.4 for more than one semester.
During your freshman year, you must also complete the Rhetoric and Civic Life sequence — a year-long, two part course focused on improving written and spoken communication skills. The RCL sequence provides the perfect way for Liberal Arts students to dip their toes into the honors waters. Seeing that the Paterno Fellows Program is in no way binding, students have the option to cease their path through the program.
The Paterno Fellows Program also requires certain academic and professional experiences to buttress your résumé. One of these Paterno Fellow-specific requirements is a leadership or volunteer experience of 50-75 hours to be completed throughout your Penn State career. The study abroad/internship requirement essentially fulfills itself as any student taking an honors course load will naturally be interested in at least one of those two options.
Oh yeah, and you have to complete a senior thesis. But that’s a long way off.
That all may sound intimidating, but – like a lot of things – hard work and a passion for your major will be enough to meet these challenges with a whole lot of success.
If you’re are hardworking and focused with a love for whatever academic path you are on, you will have no problem completing your coursework as a Paterno Fellow. The preferential treatment, the gateway into the Schreyer Honors College, and the numerous exclusive events and classes make the experience well worth it.
Penn State offers one of the most enriching liberal arts programs around – a program specifically for liberal arts students – and if you’re up for the challenge, you’d be missing out if you didn’t give it a shot.