2012 Mentor Awards
Byron A. Alexander Outstanding Graduate Mentor Award
Eve Levin - History
Left to right: Eve Levin; Danny Anderson, Dean For the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
The students who nominated Eve Levin explained that one “can look at Dr. Levin’s CV and see her accomplishments as a noted researcher, editor, and professor, but her CV does not give you a full description of her generosity and kindness, nor does it show how dedicated she is to her students.” Levin’s students can always count on her to be a source of support and encouragement. When they doubt their strengths as students and researchers, she always stresses the importance in every scholar having different strengths to contribute the field. When one student began to question whether pursuing a career in academia was the right path, Levin was quick to let the student know that it is wise to take account of one’s own interests and skills in relation to career goals. She not only provided this much needed assurance that it is okay to look outside of academia, but she also took the time to help the student discover a wide range of job opportunities to which a PhD in History could lead. Levin took the initiative to introduce the student to individuals in a variety of professions who had earned PhDs in History. Levin’s enthusiastic support of her student’s curiosity about possible career options introduced the student to a new, broader understanding of the value of this degree and of the versatility of skills gained in the program. She also serves as an exemplary instructor, challenging her students to grow as scholars and professionals and learn “what it mean[s] to be a good teacher from [their] observations of her own teaching style.” Overall, Levin’s “compassion, confidence, kindness, patience, tolerance and professionalism” as well as her understanding that “graduate school is not just an academic learning experience; it is also a time for personal growth” helps her students not only “to be better students, but also to be better individuals.”
John M. Janzen - Anthropology
Left to right: John M. Janzen; Jim Mielke, Associate Dean for the Social and Behavioral Sciences.
The students who nominated John M. Janzen for this award expressed their great appreciation for his expert guidance and abundant support, stating that “He has the ability to sense great possibility when students cannot. Using this skill, he always manages to find a greatness of purpose in our research, even when we ourselves feel uncertain.” This unwavering belief in his students’ abilities and value to the field provides Janzen’s students with a source of support that challenges them to see their own value and identities as scholars. He also creates an academic environment in which students are encouraged to provide this support for one another as well. In this, he is able “to bring his students together and foster discursive relationships with and among his graduate students. He enables us to bond as a group dedicated to a common academic discipline.” One manner in which he facilitates these close relationships is by inviting his graduate seminar classes into his home for regular engagement in “rigorous debate and intense scholarly communication.” Janzen also makes sure that his students make connections to scholars outside of their program by regularly introducing students to other scholars with similar research interests. The appreciation that students have for Janzen’s work and mentorship prompted one graduate student to create a Wikipedia page that make his contributions to the field accessible to the wider public. This student stated that “Despite all of his own accomplishments as a foundational figure in the world of medical anthropology, and after all of his own contributions to the production of graduate students who have gone on to have incredibly productive careers of their own, Dr. Janzen remains a humble, approachable, and kind person.” Through his work as a scholar and mentor as well as his integrity, sincerity, and belief in his students’ abilities, Janzen serves as an invaluable resource to his students.
John C. Wright Outstanding Graduate Mentor Award
Randal M. Jelks - American Studies
Left to right: Jeffrey Vitter, Provost; Marsha Haufler, Associate Dean for International and Interdisciplinary Studies; Randall Jelks; Kristine Latta, Director of COGA
As a mentor, Randal M. Jelks’ students note that he is “an impressively accessible one, especially when one considers his myriad obligations as a senior faculty member, American Studies journal editor, and undergraduate director for our department.” But it is not only his accessibility that makes Jelks an exceptional mentor, it is also the manner in which he guides his mentees. As one student states, “He does not try to make his students into replicas of himself; he takes sincere interest in us as scholars and as people, listens to our goals, and gives us frequent concrete guidance for how to achieve them.” Many of the students who nominated Jelks for this award echoed this sentiment and also noted his encouragement to not let others dictate their paths while pushing them to discover what they want out of their education and careers. To accomplish this, Jelks achieves a delicate balance between encouraging his students to be as independent as possible and providing just the right amount of support as they establish their path. This support often comes in the form of a challenge to students to trust their own capabilities. One student for whom Jelks served as a thesis advisor noted that “Dr. Jelks pushed me to think through the project on my own, refusing to hold my hand or placate me as I struggled through the ideas. He challenged me to work harder at every turn.” Jelks also regularly engages his students in discussions about the wider context of their work, often pushing them to see the great value of work published for audiences outside of academia. As one student notes, “he always encourages me to think of my research in the scope of my life, the communities I engage with, and the audience I hope to reach with my work.” Jelks has proven himself to be “a rigorous, compassionate, unfailingly knowledgeable, and utterly committed mentor who consistently puts his graduate students at the top of his very long list of professional priorities.”