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The Paterno Liberal Arts Undergraduate Fellows Program



The Paterno Fellows Program (PFP) is an innovative program offered jointly by the College of the Liberal Arts and the Schreyer Honors College (SHC) that encourages students to challenge themselves academically. The Paterno Fellows experience offers "an education for leadership" in the best tradition of the liberal arts. It molds well-rounded students who are ready for the world and prepares them for citizenship, for lifetime learning, and for the satisfaction derived from an exemplary education.

The program challenges students to perform to their full potential and offers them the support they need to do so.

Students aspiring to become Fellows are challenged to perform to their full potential and offered the support they need to achieve their academic goals. Paterno Fellows distinguish themselves in areas traditionally associated with the liberal arts: ethics, service, and leadership; excellence in communication; and international and intercultural awareness. Students aspiring to the PFP have two years to become Fellows and earn their way into the SHC by meeting specific requirements that are outlined in the Student Handbook. Other students choose to become Paterno Fellows after they have been admitted to the SHC.

Paterno Fellows will graduate with strong academic credentials in at least two fields; develop ethical reasoning and leadership abilities; gain the ability to think critically, do independent research, and communicate effectively; and demonstrate global and intercultural sophistication. While all Liberal Arts students gain such an appreciation at Penn State, Fellows pursue an education of exceptional ambition, depth, and distinction.

Benefits of the Fellows Program

The most significant benefit to Paterno Fellows is the challenge it puts before students to undertake a rigorous and stimulating academic experience.
  • Financial Support for Enrichment Activities
    Paterno Fellows receive financial support from the College of the Liberal Arts toward meeting their research, study abroad, and internship goals to build an impressive portfolio of experiences. These are the types of experiences that prepare students for leadership, and that students and alumni describe as the most defining and unforgettable moments in their college careers. Students who are ready to apply for these funds should fill out the Liberal Arts Enrichment Funds application. (First-year students entering Schreyer Honors College from high school will receive an Academic Excellence Scholarship of $4,000 per year; however, students who enter SHC by way of the Paterno Fellows Program or the Gateway do not receive this scholarship.)
  • Participation in a Distinguished Academic Community
    Every academic year offers a variety of events open to all Fellows and Aspirants, such as weekly lunch meetings, film screenings, artistic performances, meetings with visiting scholars, off-campus trips, and social events. Each fall, students have the opportunity to meet with the Institute for the Arts and Humanities medalists. Previous medalists include such world-renowned musicians and artists as Patti Smith, Yo-Yo Ma, Toni Morrison, and Daniel Libeskind. Informal events take place throughout the academic year in the Liberal Arts Paterno Fellows Special Living Option in Sproul Hall and elsewhere.
  • Advising
    All PFP students are assigned an academic adviser who will ensure that students are meeting expectations in a timely way and help identify departments, institutes, and other University programs that provide academic and co-curricular opportunities for students. Once a student has chosen a major and has been accepted as a Paterno Fellow, a faculty honors adviser will be assigned as well. All Fellows work with a faculty honors adviser to develop a thesis topic, conduct research, and complete the thesis project. Fellows have the opportunity to participate in the College of the Liberal Arts Alumni Mentor Program, which provides one-on-one alumni guidance.

Requirements for Graduation as a Paterno Fellow

  • Maintain a Minimum 3.4 GPA Every Semester
    A student's GPA may NOT fall below 3.4 for two consecutive semesters. This will lead to automatic dismissal.
  • Complete a Specified Number of Honors Courses Each Year
    • 21 honors credits in the first two years (normally four courses in the first year and three in the second, which includes the Rhetoric an Civic Life honors sequence ENGL/CAS 137H/138T).
    • At least 14 honors credits in the final two years.
    • Honors courses include advanced 400-level courses taken in the first and second years, or graduate-level courses.
  • Complete a Second Major or and Enhanced Minor
    Only one of the majors needs to be in the College of the Liberal Arts. If a particular field does not offer a major, an enhanced 24-credit minor will count as a second area of expertise. An 18-credit minor is enhanced by adding six additional credits from the approved course list for the minor.
  • Complete an e-Portfolio
    Students create an e-Portfolio in their first year of honors coursework and continue to demonstrate their ability to communicate in a variety of genres (persuasive, argumentative, reflective, and so on) and in a variety of media (verbal, video, audio, and the like) throughout their years at Penn State. A student's e-Portfolio should be submitted for approval by the end of the third year. (This new requirement takes effect with the 2014-15 freshman class. Previously aspiring or admitted Fellows are encouraged to complete an e-Portfolio, which may be used as a third alternative to the Global Awareness requirements.)
  • Complete 3 Credits of Study in Ethics
    Students may choose from a variety of ethics courses in liberal arts disciplines. Students who wish to propose another course for consideration should write to the Director.
  • Complete a Study Abroad Experience or a 3-Credit Internship
    Study abroad experiences must be at least five weeks in-country. Internships typically involve at least 150 hours of internship work. To document a non-credit internship experience, download the Non-Credit Internship Documentation Form; complete and submit it using the contact information on the form.
  • Complete a Substantial Leadership or Service Commitment
    Fellows are expected to take on a leadership role or offer services to a community of their choice totaling at least 50-75 hours during their college career. Participants in the Presidential Leadership Academy automatically meet this requirement. To document a leadership or service experience, download the Leadership or Service Documentation Form; complete and submit it using the contact information on the form.
  • Demonstrate Global Awareness through one of two options:
    • Complete two additional courses beyond the 12th-credit-level proficiency in one foreign language, or meet 12th-credit-level proficiency in two foreign languages. (Students majoring or minoring in a foreign language, native speakers of a language other than English, and students studying abroad where the courses are taught in a language other than English will automatically meet this requirement.)
    • Take 9 credits in International Cultures (IL) courses beyond the general education requirement.
  • Complete a Senior Thesis Research Project
    Fellows must demonstrate strong research and critical thinking skills within an "Area of Honors," usually the student's primary major.


Fellows aspirants who have completed 30 or more credits will be welcomed into the Schreyer Honors College if they have a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or above, meet department requirements, and are ready to declare a major. Those with a cumulative GPA below 3.5 after the first year will be welcomed when they complete 60 credits with a cumulative GPA of 3.4 and meet department requirements. Aspirants may not have two consecutive semesters below 3.4 regardless of their cumulative GPA, and the fourth semester GPA must be above 3.4.

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