University Court

Haley Staub

Haley Staub is a 2018 graduate of the Bellisario College of Communications and Schreyer Honors College. After graduating, Haley was fortunate to stay in Happy Valley where she started as the Assistant Director of Volunteer Programs within Penn State’s Division of Development and Alumni Relations. In this role, Haley works to educate and engage the University’s 800+ fundraising volunteers in campaign efforts, and leads the development, coordination, and meeting and event preparation for the University’s Volunteer Engagement Committee and Women’s Philanthropic Advisory Board. Haley recently received the 2021 Outstanding New Professional Award within the Division of Development & Alumni Relations.

In addition to her professional role, Haley serves as the Public Relations Director for the Dance Marathon Alumni Interest Group and volunteers her time as the advisor for Spring Grove Area School District Mini-THON. This December, Haley will become a two-time Penn State graduate and complete her Master of Education in Higher Education through Penn State World Campus. Why I love Penn State: Penn State is more than just a place. It is a home for students setting out on their own for the first time and a home for alumni to always feel connected to. Penn State is a sense of belonging to an inclusive and supportive network across the globe. Penn State is a passion for learning, for giving, and for excellence. Penn State is family connected through deep traditions. Penn State has shaped me into the leader, scholar, wife, friend, and colleague that I am today, and for that, I am forever grateful. What is your favorite ice cream flavor at the creamery? Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough & Monkey Business – too hard to pick just one.

Lee Ahern

Lee Ahern is associate professor of advertising and public relations in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications. He is director of the Science Communication Program and a senior research fellow at the Arthur W. Page Center for Integrity in Public Communication. He is past chair of the International Environmental Communication Association ( and past head of the Communication Science, Health, Environment and Risk Division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. He joined the faculty at Penn State in 2008 as an assistant professor. Ahern is also developer and coordinator of the Digital Media Trends and Analytics minor offered by the Bellisario College.

Ahern studies the science of science communication. Effective public policies relative to science and technology require public understanding of complex concepts. Over the past two decades, communications scholars have begun to identify the social and psychological factors that combine to make meaning about scientific issues in the minds of different audience segments. They are also beginning to understand why science communication campaigns so often fail to deliver the intended and desired results. These findings have made it clear that scientists must consider not just the science itself, but how audiences will react to and make meaning from science communications. Ahern promotes and participates in cross-disciplinary collaborations in a number of issue-areas, such as: health (vaccinations, obesity, stem-cell research, nanotechnology, fetal-alcohol syndrome, etc.), environmental concerns (pollution, species extinction, solid waste, recycling, etc.), and agriculture (genetically modified food, water for agriculture, bee colony collapse). These collaborations have resulted in a number of seed grants and federal funding, including participation in a $5 million, four-year Water for Agriculture grant from the Department of Agriculture. Ahern’s area of expertise, and primary contribution to grant-funded research, includes evaluation, measurement, analysis and interpretation of science communications campaigns. His work has been published in Social Science Quarterly, Public Understanding of Science, Science Communication, Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly and Health Communication. Ahern has close to 20 years of industry experience to complement his teaching and research. Most recently he was marketing manager for an international custom publishing company, where he also oversaw development and implementation of all new media products. After beginning his career as a financial writer in New York, he worked in various communications capacities on Wall Street for over a decade. For several years thereafter, Ahern and his wife (Colleen Connolly-Ahern) ran their own marketing communications company serving clients in financial services and advertising. Ahern teaches introduction to advertising, digital advertising, and search marketing, as well as graduate seminars on strategic communications measurement and the science of science communication. Why I love Penn State: I love Penn State because it creates a family that cares about those in need, with the knowledge and passion to find solutions to our biggest problems. What is your favorite ice cream flavor at the creamery? WPSU Coffee Break.

Maria Vinca, Ph.D.

Assistant Teaching Professor

Licensed Psychologist I teach undergraduate psychology courses as well as treat clients in private practice for psychotherapy. I am the faculty advisor to a new student organization called L;ons Project aimed at preventing suicide. Additionally, I make it a point to help students get connected to mental health services in town when they need them. It can be very hard and daunting to find for students to find services and I try to make that step a touch easier. I love balancing my time between the classroom and my clinical office. I get to use different facets of my skill set going from the one-on-one atmosphere of clinical work to being more interactive and playful with a classroom full of students, many of whom would like to become mental health clinicians someday. The rest of my joy comes from my husband and three children as well as a community of soul sister friends. Why I love Penn State: My favorite part of Penn State is the relationships I have with students and colleagues. To me, relationships are the key to my own well-being and to feeling part of something larger than myself. I went to Penn State for my undergraduate education and then later came back for my Ph.D. here. Being a faculty member now allows me to give back to an institution that is largely responsible for my training in a profession that to me always felt more like a calling and a mission more than merely a job. What is your favorite ice cream flavor at the creamery? Grilled Stickies ice cream from The Creamery is my favorite.

Dr. Stephanie Danette Preston

Dr. Stephanie Danette Preston is the Associate Dean for Graduate Educational Equity and the Graduate School Chief Diversity Officer in the Office of the Vice Provost for Graduate Education and Dean of the Graduate School.  Previously, Dr. Preston was the Senior Director of the Office of Graduate Educational Equity Programs where she spearheaded the Graduate School’s efforts to increase diversity within the graduate student community across the University.

Dr. Preston has administered, coordinated, and evaluated comprehensive recruitment programs and retention activities which enhance the professional development of underrepresented graduate students. As Senior Director, and in her current role, Preston leads the Big Ten Academic Alliance Summer Research Opportunities Program and the Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program. She has represented Penn State as a participant in programs such as the National Science Foundation’s Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate, designed to broaden participation in science technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines. Additionally, she has coordinated the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Scholars Program. Preston completed her bachelor’s degree in biology and master’s degree in curriculum & instruction (science education) from Xavier University of Louisiana.  She completed her Ph.D. at Penn State in curriculum & instruction in science education. Her graduate research focused on the underrepresentation of ethnic minorities and women in STEM fields. Dr. Preston is a former high school teacher and taught biology, chemistry, and human anatomy & physiology in New Orleans. Dr. Preston is the current advisor to the Black Graduate Student Association and Co-Advisor for Parmi Nous Honor Society. Why I love Penn State: Penn state has been my home away from home. What is your favorite ice cream flavor at the creamery? Death by Chocolate.

For more information check out the University Court handbook.

University Court Handbook

About University Court

As a Penn State faculty and staff member, you dedicate your time to not only the University, but to the students that you influence on a daily basis. Why not have the opportunity to be recognized for that great commitment? Penn State Homecoming University Court is made up of 4 individuals whose devotion to the Nittany Lion family goes above and beyond the call of duty. These individuals are advisors, professors, staff and researchers, who are nominated by the students who admire them. The experience of a University Court member is unique, and one that allows for a faculty and staff member to be fully immersed in Homecoming from a point of view that very few get the opportunity to have. We look forward to having you a part of this great tradition!

University Court Timeline

Similar to the process of Student Court, any student is allowed to nominate a faculty or staff member as an individual a part of University Court. These nominations will occur during the early part of the fall semester. After fall nominations close, a panel made up of Penn State student leaders, will select the final 4 members of the University Court, based on those individuals commitment to the success and growth of Penn State and its students. These student leaders within the selected panel, come from various academic and involvement backgrounds, as to ensure that we are able to have the most inclusive process for selection as possible.

Spring Nominations

Nomination tables will be set up in the HUB on April 27th (Legacy Celebration). Nominations will close on August 31st at 5:00 p.m. and no late submissions will be accepted. All submissions must be completed online. Only one nomination is needed to receive an application.

University Court Student Panel

A panel made up of Penn State student leaders will come together in order to select the final 4 members of the University Court. These students come from a diverse range of majors and school experiences, in order to provide the best point-of-views for the University Court selections.

Court Workshop

Location is HUB 134 on October 3rd from 6-8:30 pm. All Homecoming Courts (Graduate, University, and Student) will receive their schedule of events and any important information needed for Homecoming Week. Food, fun, and games will also be provided.

Homecoming Week

October 16th – October 22nd
All members of the University Court are required to be present at as many Homecoming Week events as possible. An official schedule of events and dates will be provided in advanced.