Brian Arnall came to Oklahoma State University in 2000 as a student and has called it home ever since. Arnall is a professor and Extension precision nutrient management specialist in the OSU Department of Plant and Soil Sciences where he teaches students at both the graduate and undergraduate level in addition to his Extension appointment.
Arnall enjoys his time spent working with undergraduate student workers and first-year graduate students. Getting to see them grow in their love for science, research and agriculture is his favorite part.
“The best thing about working with students is the opportunity to get to see that lightbulb pop on,” Arnall said. “It’s getting to see them develop over time, especially the graduate students.”
Arnall’s passion for teaching and mentoring students earned him the 2020 Ferguson College of Agriculture Excellence in Graduate Student Advising and Mentoring Award. The award recognizes a faculty member each year who is known for their exceptional advising and mentoring at the graduate level.
Receiving the award means the world to Arnall, as students took time out of their busy schedules to nominate him, he said.
“This award means a lot,” Arnall said. “It means I’m impacting students, which is the whole point of having an academic career.”
Arnall prides himself on his open-door policy with students and welcomes each and every one of them to stop by on a regular basis.
“If I am in the office, my door is open,” Arnall said. “I let all students know this as soon as possible. I also inform them that I hope and expect to see each and every one of them in my doorway on a regular basis. This goes for all graduate students, not just mine.”
For Arnall, teaching is not just about lecturing in a classroom; it’s about developing students who will change the world once they graduate from OSU.
“For me, the most important thing an academic can do is build people,” Arnall said. “They’re the ones helping and changing the world. It’s important to me to put as much effort as possible into building people and make sure they are successful and happy and impacting society positively.”
Cynda Clary, associate dean of academic programs for the Ferguson College of Agriculture, said she is inspired by Arnall and thankful for the time he dedicates to his students.
“Dr. Arnall helps students make the connection between the research they are doing and the impact it has beyond the university. He teaches his students not only how to conduct research, but why it matters,” Clary said. “Dr. Arnall provides students the opportunity to see the full range of the land-grant mission of teaching, research and extension.”
Jeff Edwards, professor and head of the OSU Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, said Arnall is truly dedicated to his students and their success, and he is very deserving of this award.
“Dr. Arnall is a successful faculty mentor in all aspects of his appointment,” Edwards said. “He is especially dedicated to the development and success of graduate students. In his 11 years as a faculty member, Dr. Arnall has served or is serving as committee chair for 25 graduate degrees, and he has served on 52 graduate committees.”
Arnall is committed to ensuring graduate students are workplace ready, Edwards said. He actively works in the lab to ensure students understand what they are doing and why they are doing it.
“Dr. Arnall’s student mentoring does not end at graduation,” Edwards said. “He stays connected with students and consults with them regularly regarding agronomic challenges they are facing. More importantly, Dr. Arnall is available to graduates to help them navigate their career opportunities.”
Joao Luis Bigatao Souza, Ph.D. student and research assistant, has worked with Arnall since February 2016.
“Even though his other responsibilities and schedule are demanding, he is always willing to find time and help us as an advisor, which demonstrates his dedication to his students,” Souza said. “An aspect of Dr. Arnall that always comes up when talking to my graduate colleagues is his gift to see people’s potential.”
It is easy to see he values people and their interactions with him, Souza said. He is extremely supportive of students’ ideas and always enjoys a science or career discussion.
“The ability to work with Dr. Arnall was the most influential factor in my decision to stay at OSU [for graduate school],” Souza said. “I could have gone back to my home country and applied to other universities, but because he was going to be my advisor, I decided to stay.”