UC Berkeley News


New award honors faculty who mentor graduate students
Despite pressure from some to focus on their own research, these teachers make an extra effort to guide students

| 28 April 2004

The annual Distinguished Teaching Awards (see page 8), nearly half a century old, have become a Berkeley tradition. By contrast, this year’s presentation of the Distinguished Faculty Mentors Award, on Monday, May 3, will mark the debut of this honor, designed specifically to highlight faculty members “who have shown an outstanding commitment to mentoring, developing, and supporting graduate student researchers,” the organizers say.

Nearly 200 grad students, postdocs, professors, and department chairs at Berkeley and other universities worldwide made nominations to the Graduate Assembly, whose Award Selection Task Force found it challenging to winnow down the initial list of 38 nominees to settle on four winners … so challenging that all 38 will be honored at next week’s ceremony (see below).

In addition to simply wishing to honor faculty members who have contributed so much to their own academic development, the members of the Graduate Assembly who served on the task force also hope the award will “help shape merit and tenure review processes,” according to Temina Madon, the Assembly’s vice president for academic affairs. “We think that research mentoring makes a vital contribution to academia,” she says, “by enabling and encouraging the intellectual contributions of the graduate student community.” Yet, she continues, there are indications that research advising is discounted in faculty performance reviews at Berkeley and elsewhere, with department chairs and others urging junior faculty in particular to avoid being “distracted” by advising from their primary responsibilities of research and teaching.

Next fall, says Madon, Professor Andrew Szeri, chair of the Graduate Council, will convene a task force on graduate research mentoring that will likely be “similar in spirit” to the Task Force on GSI Mentoring, chaired by graduate dean Mary Ann Mason, that has already completed its work. Szeri’s task force will take as one point of departure a compilation of personal anecdotes and quotes from the flood of nomination letters received in support of this year’s mentoring-award winners and nominees. By then, those quotes will have been incorporated into a “best practices” report for the Graduate Council, Madon says, which could be of use to the new task force if it identifies as one of its goals (as the Graduate Assembly’s Academic Affairs Committee has suggested it do) “identifying mentoring guidelines for all members of the faculty engaged in academic research with graduate students.”

The award ceremony and reception for all 38 Distinguished Faculty Mentor nominees will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, May 3, in the Seaborg Room of the Men’s Faculty Club. The events are free and open to all graduate students, faculty, and members of the campus community. For information, e-mail academics@ga.berkeley.edu.

Primae inter pares
These four faculty members will be honored as the first-ever recipients of the Distinguished Faculty Mentors Award when all 38 of this year’s nominees are recognized at next Monday’s awards ceremony.

Patricia Baquedano-Lopez
Assistant Professor, Language and Literacy, Society and Culture
Graduate School of Education

Sally Fairfax
Professor, Division of Society & Environment
Henry J. Vaux Distinguished Professor of Forest Policy
Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management

John Harte
Professor, Division of Ecosystem Sciences
ESPM, College of Natural Resources
Energy and Resources Group

Donald Moore
Assistant Professor, Social Cultural Anthropology
Department of Anthropology

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