Graduating seniors Jai Punjwani and Jack Demm honored faculty members who have influenced them the most. Those inspirational professors were Diane Della Croce, Ph.D., and Salvatore Giunta.

Adelphi prides itself on the personalized attention its students receive. In turn, the University offers graduating seniors with a cumulative GPA of 3.85 or above the opportunity to honor the faculty members who have influenced them the most. For two of those students, Jai Punjwani and Jack Demm, those inspirational professors were Diane Della Croce, Ph.D., and Salvatore Giunta, respectively. The two were among the seven faculty members awarded a Dean’s Student Circle Outstanding Mentor Award.

Jai Punjwani and Mentor Diane Della Croce, Ph.D.

Jai Punjwani (right) and Mentor Diane Della Croce, Ph.D.

Punjwani first met Dr. Della Croce, who is associate dean of the Honors College, almost four years ago. Since then, Dr. Della Croce has not only taught Punjwani—a computer science and math major—in her English literature class, but has been his mentor throughout his time at the University.

“She has helped me in so many ways,” said Punjwani. “Without her support, I don’t think I’d be where I am today.”

For Dr. Della Croce, who earned her Bachelor of Arts in English with honors from Adelphi and has spent 25 years at the University, developing relationships with students like Punjwani is the most important part of her work.

“Teaching is not a job,” she said. “It’s a vocation. I love what I teach and I love to communicate that passion, but I also want my students to know that I’m here for them to talk about anything and everything. Our relationship extends outside the classroom. That’s what makes my work so worthwhile.”

She was especially gratified to work with Punjwani. “Jai redefines the image of a computer scientist,” she said. “He’s very accomplished in his major, but he’s equally curious about literature. We had many lively discussions about poetry, and he even sees it as something with its own special code, just like computers. He’s been an inspiration to me, and I’ve learned so much from him.”

Like Dr. Della Croce, Salvatore Giunta, who is also an Adelphi alumnus, sees advising and mentoring his students as an important part of his role as a faculty member in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science.

“When I was a student here, I always had professors who went the extra mile for me, and now most of them are my colleagues,” said Giunta. “Now I’m trying to pay it forward. My office door is always open to all students who might need help, even if it’s just to find a quiet place to study.”

Giunta remarked that in today’s educational setting, teachers wear many different hats. “Our students come into our classrooms from all different circumstances, and it is our job as educators to offer them a safe and encouraging learning environment. I feel it is partly my responsibility to give students guidance throughout life, even telling them some of the mistakes I have made so that, hopefully, they will not make the same ones themselves.”

What impresses Giunta most about Adelphi students is their ability to manage a full personal, academic and professional schedule.

“And yet our students always find time to take on additional work,” he said. “Throughout the entire campus, professors are working with students on research projects that are not part of a student’s normal workload.”

One such student is Jack Demm, whom Giunta first met on Accepted Student Day in 2014 and subsequently taught in several math classes. Giunta was so impressed with Demm that he invited him to become a teaching assistant for his video game programming class and participate in a research project.

“Jack always wanted to go the extra mile,” said Giunta. “He wanted to take advantage of the time he had here at Adelphi, and I was lucky enough to share in his experience.

“Our academic partnership may end with Jack’s graduation, but we hope that our friendship will continue long after he leaves Adelphi,” Giunta said.

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