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The Paterno Liberal Arts Undergraduate Fellows Program



The College of the Liberal Arts and the Schreyer Honors College (SHC) have formed an innovative, landmark partnership that will invigorate undergraduate education in Liberal Arts for hundreds of students. This partnership—the Paterno Fellows Program—is a unique melding of the values of a liberal arts education and the Schreyer reputation for academic achievement. Designed to bring out the best in undergraduates, the program challenges students to perform to their full potential and offers them the support they need to do so.

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

Transformative academic development in the liberal arts tradition is the hallmark benefit of the program: Fellows will graduate with in-depth academic credentials in at least two fields; develop ethical principles and leadership ability; and gain the ability to think critically, do independent research, communicate effectively, and demonstrate global and intellectual sophistication. While all Liberal Arts students gain such an education at Penn State, Fellows achieve an education of special ambition, depth, and distinction.

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 students for citizenship, for lifetime learning, and for the pleasures associated with the educated person. Fellows will typically be admitted to the Schreyer Honors College after the freshman or sophomore year, their accomplishment will be acknowledged at graduation, and their achievements will be valuable features of their post-graduate résumés and application materials.

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.
  • Paterno Fellows are admitted to the Schreyer Honors College after they prove themselves in their first and second year. When they graduate, they will be acknowledged as Honors and Fellows graduates.

All Liberal Arts students are eligible to perform their way into the SHC by virtue of their accomplishments inside and outside the classroom. Those who meet the challenge are admitted to the prestigious Schreyer Honors College after the freshman or sophomore year, depending on when they qualify.

  • Financial support for enrichment activities

Paterno Fellows can receive financial support from the College of the Liberal Arts toward meeting their research, study abroad, and internship aspirations 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.)

  • Special advising

Under the guidance of a small advisory board, Liberal Arts will provide academic advising to Paterno Fellows; ensure that students are meeting expectations in a timely way; administer applications for enrichment funds; and work with departments, Centers, and other university agencies to locate and create academic and co-curricular opportunities for students. When it is appropriate, Fellows can participate in the College mentor program, which provides one-on-one alumni guidance.

  • Participation in a special academic community

Fellows will have opportunities to participate in honors seminars and presentations by visiting lecturers, arts activities, off-campus expeditions, and social events that promote a sense of esprit de corps.

The Specific Responsibilities of Fellows

  • Maintain at least a 3.4 GPA: This expected GPA, in keeping with guidelines for the Schreyer Honors College, reflects the consistent academic excellence to which Fellows must aspire. 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.
  • Complete a specified number of Liberal Arts honors courses (or certified honors equivalents) each year: Fellows should complete at least 21 honors credits in the first two years (normally four courses in the first year and three in the second, which includes the Rhetoric and Civic Life honors sequence ENGL/CAS 137H/138T), and at least 14 honors credits in the final two years. Fellows may satisfy honors credit requirements through honors courses, advanced courses (defined as 400-level courses taken in the first and second years) or graduate-level courses, and international study or research. (Honors options and Honors independent study do not count toward the number of honors courses required for Aspirants.)
  • Satisfy any requirements for entrance into the Paterno Fellows program, including any additional requirements that are stipulated in the intended major.
  • Complete a second major, in addition to the primary Liberal Arts major; OR complete a minor with at least 24 credits: Fellows are expected to make the best use of elective and general education credits so that their achievements include substantial expertise in a second academic area. For minors which permit fewer than 24 credits, Fellows must complete additional credits toward this requirement. The second major or the minor need not be in the College of the Liberal Arts.
  • Complete a study abroad experience (brief study abroad experiences embedded in a Penn State course do not qualify) OR a credit-bearing internship (for at least 3 credits): Suitable non-credit internships can be substituted with permission. 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 3 credits in ethics: Fellows are expected to develop strong ethical principles. A list of suitable ethics courses is maintained by the Paterno Fellows Program. The Director may approve another suitable ethics course upon a student's request.
  • Complete a suitable and substantial leadership or service commitment: Fellows are expected to give back to their community, whether this is in the Penn State/State College community, or the hometown community, or elsewhere. Fellows are expected to take a leadership role or offer services totaling at least 50-75 hours during their college career, typically through an unpaid experience. (Participants in the Presidential Leadership Academy automatically meet the leadership 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.
  • Achieve the Liberal Arts Excellence in Communication Certificate.
  • Demonstrate Global Awareness through one of two options:
    • Complete two additional courses beyond the 12th-credit-level proficiency in one foreign language OR achieve 12th credit proficiency in two foreign languages. Those students majoring or minoring in a foreign language would automatically meet this requirement. This requirement may also be satisfied by an approved study abroad experience in a non-English speaking country, if the courses are taught in the language of the country rather than English.
    • Take three courses with International Cultures (IL) content beyond the general education requirement.
  • Complete the Honors Thesis with an area of honors in a College of the Liberal Arts major or minor, or a non-Liberal Arts area of honors approved by the Director of the Program.


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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