Van Saun receives 2013 Excellence in Academic Advising Award

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Robert Van Saun, professor of veterinary science in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, has been selected to receive the college's 2013 Excellence in Academic Advising Award.

Sponsored by the College of Agricultural Sciences Alumni Society, the award recognizes faculty members for overall effectiveness in student advising, individual student goal-setting and career planning, and personal counseling. Candidates are recommended for the honor by students, faculty, administrators and alumni.

An adviser for veterinary and biomedical sciences majors, during any given semester Van Saun advises as many as 25 undergraduates. This past year, he advised nine Schreyer Honors College students, overseeing their thesis studies. Van Saun, who has worked at the University for 13 years, also is the faculty co-adviser to the nationally recognized and award-winning Pre-Vet Club.

Known for his wise counsel, his candor and his commitment to his advisees, Van Saun has a unique gift of displaying genuine concern for the well-being of students, according to Ian Keiser, a senior who has been mentored by the award winner.

"His compassion has led me to become the student I am today," he said. "His demonstrated knowledge of the institution's policies, programs and courses is impressive and has benefitted me greatly through my years at Penn State and has proved critical to my success."

One of Van Saun's current advisees and a Schreyer Honors College student, junior Kira Hydock, explained how Van Saun's approach to advising has helped her become a better person.

"Soon after my freshman year, he dissipated all of my fears and cleared up all of my questions and concerns," she said. "He also has a way of knowing where a student's potential lies, and he has pushed me to achieve my potential -- even when I did not believe I could accomplish it.

"Dr. Van Saun has inspired me to not just be a well-rounded veterinarian, but to be a confident woman who is not afraid to strive toward all her goals."

The excellence in advising award winner's commitment to students is noticed and admired by his peers, noted Lester Griel, professor and coordinator of undergraduate major programs in the Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences.

"He rarely misses a meeting of the Penn State Pre-Vet club or a chance to help the students with their club goals," he said. "He also served as adviser for the American Pre-Veterinary Medical Association from 2009 to 2012, and he was honored in 2009 with the Center for Teaching Excellence Award from the College of Agricultural Sciences."

Mary Kennett, interim head of the Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, agreed, noting that the benefit from Van Saun's approach to advising is that his students come away from their Penn State experience being able to navigate more effectively through life, not just academics.

"His enthusiasm, hard work and expertise are used to help encourage each student he advises to think beyond the classroom or laboratory to make a better world," she said.

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Last Updated May 09, 2013