College of Agricultural Sciences stays connected with alumni during pandemic

Jack Ouligian
May 01, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences is staying connected to alumni during the COVID-19 pandemic by moving its monthly Alumni Society board meetings and other alumni activities online.

“Now more than ever, it’s important that we stay connected as a Penn State family, and for my office that means keeping our alumni engaged and informed,” said Alan Schaffranek, director of alumni relations for the college. “Thanks to technology, we can do that while following the social distancing guidelines that are so important in stopping the spread of this horrible virus.”

For starters, the Alumni Society board’s spring meeting took place April 18, which would have been Blue and White Weekend. With the game cancelled due to COVID-19, Schaffranek came up with another way to celebrate — a virtual tailgate lunch held after the meeting.

During this tailgate, the alumni socialized, sang the Alma Mater and enjoyed a trumpet rendition of the Penn State fight song played by member Susan McNulty-Atwater, a 1999 graduate of the college. Members also recorded video messages of congratulations to share with graduating seniors.

In addition, the college created a virtual alumni lounge, which can be found at The site features networking events, webinars, professional development and various kinds of programming.

For example, Schaffranek said, the Alumni Society is hosting a virtual celebration of the International Agriculture minor’s 35th anniversary within the virtual alumni lounge. This celebration will bring together alumni and current students of the program as they explore the past and present and look toward the future. The webinar will be held at noon May 27 at

“Our goal is to use this virtual space to connect all those who love Penn State and to foster friendship during this time,” said Lisa Kirby, president of the Alumni Society. “We see this as another way to engage, connect and serve alumni and friends.”

Schaffranek also serves as the adviser for the Agricultural Student Council, a group of elected representatives from student-run clubs and organizations in the college. He worked with the council’s leaders and with the Ag Advocates, a group of undergraduate students who support the college’s recruiting efforts, to brainstorm ideas for students to connect with alumni.

The result is a Zoom gathering called, “We are United: The Story of Two Ag Student Groups,” scheduled from noon to 1 p.m. May 6. “The students will present information on how their college experience has changed as a result of shifting to remote learning, and then they will answer questions from alumni,” Schaffranek said.

Alumni interested in joining the “We are United” event can register at

Schaffranek said he sees a lot of potential for different online activities in the future, from breakout panels and work sessions to new webinars linking students to professionals in a wide range of industries.

“In a way, it’s a whole new community,” he said. “We are launching something that will bring people together from all around the world, not just from Pennsylvania.”

Schaffranek reminds alumni of a special promotion offered by the Penn State Alumni Association in which nonmembers can receive three free months of membership. Members can extend their memberships for three months for free as well.

Benefits of society membership include access to career-related resources, members-only communications and unlimited storage on Google Drive. More information is available at


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Last Updated May 03, 2020