UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Sophia A. McClennen, professor of international affairs and comparative literature in the School of International Affairs, and Ruth Pflueger, director of the Learning Resource Center at Penn State Erie, are recipients of the 2016 W. LaMarr Kopp International Achievement Award.
Established in 1995, the award recognizes faculty and staff members who have contributed significantly to the advancement of the international mission of the University. It is named for the late deputy vice president for international programs.
McClennen was chosen for her “distinguished record of contributions to the advancement of the international mission” of the University, said one nominator.
As founding director of the Center for Global Studies, associate director of the School for International Affairs, a professor and affiliate faculty with the departments of Spanish and women’s studies, McClennen has plenty of options to promote that mission.
At the Center for Global Studies, McClennen oversaw Penn State’s first and only National Resource Center, which focuses on teaching modern foreign languages, internationalizing professional programs, center-related research and curricular and instructional materials for K-16 educators. Under her tenure, two major Department of Education grants brought in more than $3 million to support teaching, research and outreach in global studies.
Research themes at the Center for Global Studies include social injustice, ethical leadership, sustainability and global connections.
Since joining the School of International Affairs, McClennen has been a part of a team that’s doubled the class size and improved student diversity. With more than half its students hailing from outside the U.S., the student body at the School of International Affairs is one of the most internationally diverse on campus.
As director of graduate studies in comparative literature, McClennen developed numerous courses including a graduate minor in Latin American studies and a dual degree between comparative literature and African studies. There, her efforts netted a 2015 Comparative Literature Faculty Teaching Award.
As a teacher, McClennen was praised for helping “to connect students to the rapidly changing global environment by focusing on critical international dimensions such as culture, dispute resolution, media and communications.” The nominator said McClennen uses a host of current issues, including international adoption, Google in China, immigration law and cultural trade policy and asks her students to consider the ethical response to the issues.
“In her Penn State service and administrative efforts, scholarship, teaching and outreach, (McClennen) has consistently contributed positively to Penn State’s global engagement,” said a nominator. “She’s an outstanding community member who has had a major impact on Penn State’s internationalization.”
A former student said McClennen “challenged me to think critically about where I am in the world” and to empathize with people who face human rights violations every day. “The class was incredibly eye-opening and extremely relevant. I originally didn’t see how literature really had anything to do with human rights, but after the class, I realize that it had everything to do with human rights.”
Studying abroad is an invaluable learning tool for many Penn State students, and Pflueger is an invaluable resource in making that process go smoothly.
As campus representative for Global Programs, Pflueger encourages students to study abroad through presentations, weekly sessions, personal advising and print and digital media. She supports faculty to create embedded courses and helps craft international collaborations that expand opportunities for both Penn State and international students.
Pflueger also helped develop the Toolkit, which for nearly a decade has been used to add an international presence to current course offerings at five Penn State campuses.
“Under her coordination,” a nominator said, “education abroad has elaborated to a point at which the nature and meaning of the experience has gained currency among both faculty and students.”
Students applying for prestigious international scholarships and fellowships also greatly benefit from Pflueger’s services.
One student, who landed several international study scholarships including the elite Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, said Pflueger quickly set him at ease during the process, saying, "We’ll make it happen.”
The student credits Pflueger with being a driving force in being able to continue his education, earning his master’s degree in Shanghai, China.
“Regarding my own education, Ruth proved to me that borders are a state of mind, and have no place in a Penn State education. Ruth truly did help me ‘make it happen.’ Life happened — and the direction and successes of this life — and of so many others — is not in small part due to the remarkable talents and attentiveness of this exceptional woman,” said the student.