Posted: March 5, 2019

The college honors Dianne Petrunak with the Excellence in Academic Advising Award.

Dianne Petrunak

Dianne Petrunak

Dianne Petrunak, academic adviser for the Department of Plant Science, has received the Excellence in Academic Advising Award from the College of Agricultural Sciences for 2018.

Sponsored by the College of Agricultural Sciences Alumni Society, the award recognizes faculty and staff members for overall effectiveness in student advising, individual student goal setting and career planning, and personal counseling. Faculty members, students, administrators, and alumni recommend candidates.

Petrunak currently coordinates and advises about 90 students in the turfgrass science major. She also coordinates and advises 400 students enrolled in five turfgrass programs offered through Penn State's World Campus. These include students seeking basic and advanced turfgrass management certificates, associate's degrees in turfgrass science and management, bachelor's degrees in turfgrass science, and master of professional studies degrees in turfgrass science.

Andrew McNitt, turfgrass science program coordinator and professor of soil science, described Petrunak as a champion of turfgrass science students, saying, "Dianne demonstrates an exceptional gift in ascertaining students' situations and abilities, and has been extremely effective in guiding students in their academic and professional career paths."

Petrunak's duties also include outreach and advising support to all turfgrass students at Penn State campuses around the state. She regularly visits those campuses to meet with students and to keep local advisers informed of turfgrass science news. Similarly, Petrunak coordinates and participates in various student recruitment events and then works with prospective students and their families. She also conducts new-student orientation for turfgrass science students and is involved in the annual student internship and job fair.

"Ms. Petrunak has been a tremendous part of the success of a countless number of students over the years and continues to be a valuable mentor," said Christopher Marra, an alumnus of the program. Another former advisee, Jordan P. Barr, said, "Dianne will go the extra mile to ensure a student's success."

Peter J. Landschoot, professor of turfgrass science and director of graduate studies in agronomy, described Petrunak as "the heart and soul of the turfgrass program" and praised her for being a great source of information to both faculty members and students within the major and even the college. "No matter where she is, or the time of day, Dianne responds immediately to requests for information," he said. "She has in-depth knowledge of the University's undergraduate procedures."

A 2016 recipient of the Community of Advising Excellence Award from the college, Petrunak has published 14 peer-reviewed scientific documents. She teaches several classes and labs, including Botany 902A, Turf 434, Turf 921A, and INTAG 499J. She holds a bachelor's degree in plant science and a master's degree in plant pathology from Penn State.

--Kelly Jedrzejewski