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Professor, Former Dean Mary Ann Danowitz Receives Outstanding Political Science Alumni Award for Outstanding Public Service from Penn State University

Mary Ann Danowitz in cap and gown

Mary Ann Danowitz, a professor of higher education and former dean of NC State’s College of Education, has been awarded the Outstanding Political Science Alumni Award from the Department of Political Science at Penn State University for Outstanding Public Service. 

Danowitz is a two-time graduate of Penn State, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and a Doctor of Education in higher education. In October, she also received the Penn State College of Education Alumni Society’s 2021 Alumni Excellence Award, the highest honor the college bestows on alumni. 

“My Penn State political science and liberal arts education have been profoundly powerful forces personally and professionally, for which I am immensely grateful,” she said.

While accepting the award, Danowitz shared how, during her junior year as an undergraduate student at Penn State, she changed her mind about applying to law school and ultimately decided to pursue a career in higher education to improve student life at universities.

Despite her decision to pursue a different career path, Danowitz said that several lessons that she learned during her time as a political science major have stayed with her throughout her career. These include the importance of being a knowledgeable and engaged citizen, critically analyzing ideas and thoughtfully using logic, and understanding the nature of political action. 

“I built upon political science, incorporating public administration into my doctorate and, as a scholar, I have examined questions of power and equality in universities and applied

a political lens to understand leadership in the public sector,” she said. “As a dean, this understanding has guided my interactions with state legislators and members of Congress.”

Danowitz joined NC State’s College of Education in 2012 as head of the Department of Educational Leadership, Policy, and Human Development. She became interim dean in 2015 before serving as dean from April 1, 2016, through Oct. 4, 2021, when she stepped aside to return to the faculty.
During Danowitz’s five-and-a-half years as dean, NC State’s College of Education experienced unprecedented growth, including increases in student enrollment, national rankings and philanthropic investments. The college also intensified its research enterprise and efforts to advance diversity, equity and inclusion and prepare culturally responsive educators.