In May 2023, Katherine Shr finished an academic marathon: completing two bachelor’s degrees—one in Civic Leadership and another in Psychology—plus an anthropology minor in Cultural Diversity.
But Katherine’s accomplishments extend well beyond academics, including significant involvement in Sigma Psi Zeta’s philanthropic efforts on the local and national levels during the past four years. That work focused on addressing gender-based violence and led Katherine to related efforts, such as joining IUPUI’s chapter of “It’s on Us” and the university’s Undergraduate Student Government.
Katherine also worked with the Multicultural Leadership Empowerment Program through IUPUI’s Multicultural Center teaching cultural competency workshops, led Alternative Break Programming with Student Affairs, and served as Advocacy chair for the Midwest Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Student Union (MAASU).
“I’ve always just tried to help out wherever and whenever I’m needed,” Katherine says.
The desire to help and serve caught the attention of university leadership. In addition to dual degrees, Katherine also was awarded IUPUI’s William M. Plater Civic Engagement Medallion—an honor that came as quite a surprise.
“I think I have a lot of imposter syndrome about the work I do,” Katherine admits. “It feels great to know the work I’m doing means something—and sometimes you just need that validation.”
Katherine was among 22 Plater Medallion recipients for the 2022–23 academic year. Each person in the group was chosen because they demonstrate a commitment to their communities through positive contributions while growing personally and intellectually during their time at IUPUI.
Having the chance to live out O’Neill’s mission of Majoring in Making a Difference now and in a future career is what drew Katherine to O’Neill in the first place.
Why did you choose to attend O’Neill?
“I knew that I wanted to learn more about making a change in the community and working directly with people. Government and advocacy can be or feel really inaccessible to people—including me—and I wanted to bridge people into advocacy. O’Neill also has connected me with others who want to make a conscious change in our communities.”
Why do you feel civic engagement is important?
“Advocacy and civic engagement can feel really lonely if you’re on your own. But not only is civic engagement important to support causes we care about it also builds communities around a cause. It gets people to feel more connected and less like the burden of an issue solely falls on any individual. You’re contributing and you’re also learning from those around you every time you get engaged!”
How has civic engagement impacted your education and future opportunities?
“In every way, honestly. All my opportunities and every project success has been because someone worked with me and said, ‘Hey, I think you would be good for this’ or ‘I’d love to support you on this next project.’ I’m really grateful for those who have believed in me. I think it’s also shaped my future opportunities because it’s gotten me connected in so many ways.”
How has O’Neill helped you engage in the community?
“I’ve learned where there’s a will, there’s a way. Sometimes you have to engage with a problem creatively especially with limited resources. I’ve also been inspired that so many people are willing to share their knowledge or just sit down and get coffee with you, even if you’ve never met.”
“I want to particularly give a shout-out to Professor Suzann Lupton who I had in my Leadership and Ethic course and my capstone this semester. She always gave great insight and encouraged me to think about topics further and seek out connections. She is someone who really cares about student success and helped shape my thinking on public affairs.”
Why should other students get involved in helping improve our community?
“Because it’s fun! I’ve met some of the coolest people and had some of the coolest experiences just because I said yes to something. I also think great work takes hard work and dedication to a cause. You have to start somewhere and be really bad at something to get good at something. With volunteering and getting involved, you’re there out of your own volition—so what if you’re bad at it?”