MOUNT OLIVE – Dr. Patricia Prunty, associate professor of psychology, is the 2012 recipient of the University of Mount Olive Professor of the Year Award. The award is given in appreciation to a full time faculty member who exemplifies devotion above and beyond the classroom. Students nominate faculty members. The nominations are then considered by a caulty committee which makes the final selection.
Prunty, a Pikeville resident, received her bachelor of science degree in psychology from the University of Missouri at St. Louis, her master of applied psychology degree from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and her Ph.D. in neuroscience and behavior from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. This is not the first time she has been acknowledged for her exceptional abilities as a professor. Prunty was the recipient of the 2010 Teacher of the Year award for the School of Professional Studies.
Surprisingly, Prunty didn’t always want to be a professor. “When I entered graduate school, I had no intentions of teaching; I was determined to become a comparative research psychologist.” Her experience teaching her masters mentor’s Introductory Psychology class completely changed her mind. “I agonized for weeks and the day finally arrived that my two chapters began. I had everything painstakingly written out, as I had a terrible fear of speaking in public. The first lecture was horrible. By the end of two chapters, I felt at home. I was surprised to learn that I connected with the students. That moment was when I realized my career path was going to take a drastic turn. I wanted to be a professor!”
Prunty has been involved with over 15 different student-led research projects at University of Mount Olive. “I am proud of my involvement in development of our Research Internship program. My first semester here, I took on mentoring our first research intern and it was a very rewarding experience,” she said. Prunty believes students are truly engaged when they are in control of their own research. “Having this program allows students to explore research in an area that is of interest to them, rather than being slave to the interests of the research advisor. The program prepares them from graduate level research and also allows for the opportunity to be a research assistant. I love that we have created this level of opportunity for our students.”
Prunty has an excitement for her field that she hopes to transfer over to her students. “My greatest strengths are my enthusiasm for the subject matter and my organization. I have always felt that it was my responsibility to make the material come to life as much as possible,” she said. “And if I can be clear in my expectations the students do not have to worry about misunderstandings regarding assignments or due dates. Instead of wondering if they are on track, they can focus on really learning the material. After all, that’s the most important piece of the puzzle.”
Prunty offers sound advice for new educators, “Love what you do. If you put yourself into your classes, you will never dread a day that you have to come into the classroom. Your love of the material will also pass on to the students and it will become a more enjoyable experience for the group.”
Prunty has been married to her husband John Prunty for 8 years. The couple currently has two children, Emma, 4, and Joey, 2. They are expecting another child at the end of October 2012.
University of Mount Olive is a private institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition with defining Christian values. The College, sponsored by the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists, has locations in Mount Olive, New Bern, Wilmington, Goldsboro, Research Triangle Park, Washington and Jacksonville. For more information, visit www.moc.edu