A University doctoral candidate will be honored Saturday with the President’s Award, a national accolade given annually to only four students for outstanding service to graduate students.
Chemistry student Penny Beuning will be the second University graduate student in three years to receive the presidential commendation.
The National Association of Graduate and Professional Students announced Beuning’s award earlier this month.
Association president Debbie Davis said she chose Beuning out of 15 nominees because of her advocacy on behalf of graduate students.
Beuning spent the past three years with the Council of Graduate Students and helped found a student group devoted to keeping women in science.
The award was aimed at Beuning’s work for the 1998-99 school year.
“It was clear to us that she was truly committed to making graduate students’ lives better,” Davis said. “She’s done so much for her program.”
Beuning found out about the award Nov. 3.
“I was really surprised,” she said. “My first thought was that I knew Barbara (Van Drasek) was behind it.”
She was right. Van Drasek, executive vice president of the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly, nominated Beuning last spring. Since Beuning planned to graduate in January, members wanted to reward her for all her past efforts.
“She has a long record of service,” Van Drasek said. “We try to look for a way to recognize that sort of thing.”
Besides establishing the organization, Beuning served as the University’s Women in Science and Engineering’s treasurer.
She worked to organize two 1998 conferences designed to help all science students — but especially women — find their way through graduate programs.
The conference “Survival Skills for a Successful Academic Career,” involved more than 100 students and featured two nationally recognized speakers.
“One of the wonderful things about Penny is that she does not accept the status quo,” said Wendy Crone, a former University doctoral student in engineering physics who worked on the graduate council with Beuning. “She is always looking to make improvements and create positive institutional change.”
For a graduate student to find time to volunteer in such a time-consuming student group takes serious commitment, Crone added.
Susan Page, assistant to the director of chemistry and former council member, said Beuning is an excellent chemist and has endless energy.
“She’s a star,” Page said. “She’s absolutely wonderful.”
Bryan Keogh covers graduate and professional schools and welcomes comments at [email protected] He can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3232.