A Penn State World Campus graduate student has been selected as the inaugural recipient of the Amy Dietz Student Advocacy Award, which recognizes online learners studying in one of the programs offered by the Penn State School of Labor and Employment Relations.

Miriam Pallard, who lives in Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories of Canada, is pursuing a Master of Professional Studies in Human Resources and Employment Relations online. 

The Amy Dietz Student Advocacy Award recognizes a World Campus student enrolled in any of the school’s online programs who is actively engaged in advocacy on behalf of an issue, cause, or group.

The award honors the memory of Dietz, a beloved member of the school who died in 2018. Dietz was part of the school’s staff, then earned a degree in labor and employment relations and a master’s in HRER. She went on to become an academic adviser and faculty member. She is remembered as an advocate for her students.

Nominees must be enrolled in at least one online course at the time of their nomination and all school students are eligible for consideration, regardless of academic standing or program. There are eight degree and certificate programs in human resources, labor, and employment relations offered online.

“We selected Miriam because she best epitomizes the spirit of the award,” said Kim Trahan, a member of the award selection committee and assistant teaching professor of organizational leadership. “With her tireless work to help people achieve homeownership through Habitat for Humanity in the Northwest Territories of Canada, she’s a fitting first recipient of the award. Her efforts have changed the lives of others and her personal experience has been truly inspirational.”

The roots of her advocacy

Pallard began volunteering to get to know more people in the community, but her own experience with homelessness also fueled her passion for helping others achieve homeownership with Habitat for Humanity.

“I was a single mom and things started to get hard between having a newborn and paying rent,” Pallard said. “I moved in with a cousin for a year, but their family was growing as well, and they needed their space. I found another apartment, but the area was not great. There was a lot of police activity and drugs in the building, so I ended up on a friend’s couch. I knew I had to change things.”

Pallard said that before she started her studies at Penn State, she completed a certificate in human resource management.

“I did well and enjoyed the work,” she said. “I applied as a recruiter for the government and got the position.”

Her next step was applying for housing support from Northwest Territories Housing Corporation. She was accepted into the program, and after completing it, she received the money for a deposit on her condo.

Pallard added, “The feeling I had owning my own home, a safe and stable environment to raise my son, meant the world to me.”

With things starting to look up in her life, Pallard decided to continue her education and give back to her community and volunteer as a coordinator for Habitat for Humanity Northwest Territories in 2016. The organization had just completed its duplex a few years earlier.

Pallard oversaw organizing local volunteers and volunteers who traveled to there to help build. She also worked with the build chairperson to ensure the volunteers knew when, where, and what needed to be done when they arrived at the site.

“I enjoyed watching the homes be built from scratch and when families got to see their homes for the first time,” Pallard added. “I eventually started volunteering on the board of directors for Habitat for Humanity and learned more about the organization and how they wanted to grow.”

Currently, Pallard is serving as the chairperson of the family services committee. She is responsible for finding families that would be a good fit for the program.

Making a difference

Early in her academic journey, Pallard was one of Dietz’s advisees. That connection made receiving this award even more special.

“I sent Amy many emails and had many phone conversations with Amy when I started at Penn State,” Pallard recalled. “I never got to meet her in person, but knowing who she was and what she did for others made being the first recipient of the award the best feeling.”

Pallard added that being recognized for her work with Habitat for Humanity strengthens her commitment to the organization.

“I believe my part in volunteering with Habitat does make a difference in people’s lives,” she said. “I’m married with three children now. I’ve been blessed with a safe and decent place to live. When I get to inform families that they’ll get to have a home, too, it’s priceless.”

Learn more about the human resources, labor, and employment relations degrees and certificates offered online through Penn State World Campus.