13 graduate faculty recognized for commitment to mentoring

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The seventh annual Graduate Dean’s Award for Excellence in Mentorship was presented April 16 to 13 professors who have demonstrated exceptional commitment to mentoring graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.

Recipients include Donna Arnett, Etty (Tika) Benveniste, John Chatham, Carolyn Conley, Lisa Curtis, Martha Dawson, Aaron Lucius, Kristopher Maday, Leslie McClure, Steven Rowe, David Schneider, Uday Vaidya and Hui Wu.

Faculty selected received at least five letters of nomination that commended excellence in teaching and communication and mentoring. These honorees will not be eligible again for at least 10 years to ensure that the award is distributed as widely as possible among the faculty, said Bryan Noe, Ph.D., dean of The Graduate School.

These are excerpts from the nomination letters:

Donna Arnett sizedDonna Arnett

Donna K. Arnett, Ph.D., professor of epidemiology

“Since Day One she has challenged and pushed me to succeed, and I have accomplished many things I did not think possible thanks to her encouragement and unending support. She actively integrates her mentees into her team of statisticians, bioinformaticians, junior faculty and other student/postdocs, creating a pyramid of support and infrastructure that benefits all involved through multiple collaborations and publications.”

etty benveniste sizedEtty Benveniste

Etty (Tika) Benveniste, Ph.D., professor of cell, development and integrative biology

“I will never forget the times when, in the midst of her other responsibilities, she would make time to be my only audience for a first run-through of my presentations. She used these meetings to give me specific, constructive feedback on how to grow into an effective presenter and communicator. She encouraged independence of thought and an open, collaborative atmosphere in the lab. Her expectation was for all of her students to strive for scientific excellence, and this expectation always was coupled with her willingness to assist and support our projects. Through these formal and informal meetings, she inspired and motivated me to think and critically examine ways to move our projects forward.”

john chatham sizedJohn Chatham

John C. Chatham, Ph.D., professor of molecular and cellular pathology

“While I was under his supervision, John also made it a priority to ensure that I had numerous opportunities to present my work, meet leading researchers in our field and attend major conferences. Furthermore, he actively encouraged me to submit my research for publication and applications for fellowships and awards and was extremely enthusiastic in providing feedback to drafts and ensuring that a high quality was maintained.”

Conley sizedCarolyn Conley

Carolyn A. Conley, Ph.D., professor of history

“The sheer amount of time and work that she has devoted to me personally is daunting considering everything else she does. She always makes me feel as if I am the most important student she mentors and that is her primary job. She does not get paid for the amount of time she spends with students, which includes the late night emails, impromptu meetings — me barging into her office not considering if she was busy — countless letters of recommendations and numerous discussions of reassurance. She has made herself available to me all hours, day and night.”

lisa curtis sizedLisa Curtis

Lisa M. Curtis, Ph.D., assistant professor of nephrology

“Dr. Curtis is very methodical and organized in her approach to science, projects and the proceedings in the lab. I am honored to be trained under her, learning the right approach to science and laboratory management. The periodic lab meetings and the project meetings that we regularly have provide an excellent direction to the multiple ongoing projects.”

martha dawson sizedMartha Dawson

Martha Dawson, DNP, assistant professor of community health, outcomes and systems

“It is obvious Dr. Dawson cares very much for her students. She can see when her students need a personal touch. She teaches a professional graduate program, and she understands there are times when her students need understanding and assistance to work around life and careers so they can achieve their goals and graduate. She truly understands this, and she will work with students and support them when they need it.”

aaron lucius sizedAaron L. Lucius

Aaron L. Lucius, Ph.D., associate professor of chemistry

“Lucius’ excellent mentorship is showcased in the diversity of careers that members of the lab have entered. A previous lab member is pursuing a successful career as a writer while others have entered postdoctoral positions in science. A current member of that lab is planning on entering a career in academia. The diversity of career paths that Lucius students are pursuing speaks to his ability to nurture and develop the unique strengths and interests that we each bring into his lab.”

kris maday sizedKristopher Maday

Kristopher Maday, assistant professor of physician assistant studies

“No matter how busy his schedule, Mr. Maday always makes time for his students. As I struggled with the transition of becoming a full-time student at 29, he provided consistent encouragement. He has been extremely patient with students, spending additional time needed both in and outside of the classroom to reinforce material that may be difficult to grasp.”

leslie mcclure sizedLeslie McClure

Leslie A. McClure, Ph.D., professor of biostatistics

“I have never been pressured by Dr. McClure to pursue any particular sector of work (academia, government, non-profit, or industry). Even though she is a professor and loves academia, she had no hesitation in introducing me to her classmate from graduate school who works in industry, when I had questions about working in that sector. She supports any career path that aligns with the goals of her students, and her actions support her words.”

steven rowe sizedSteven Rowe

Steven M. Rowe, M.D., associate professor of pulmonary, allergy and critical care

“By allowing me to design and execute experiments and develop my own project, he has helped me advance my skills as a scientist. He fosters an incredibly collaborative atmosphere, enabling the scope of each project to include many specialized techniques. His mentorship allows for each member to develop individually, while simultaneously succeeding as a team.”

david schneider sizedDavid Schneider

David A. Schneider, Ph.D., associate professor of biochemistry and molecular genetics

“David leads by example, but also listens to our ideas and perspectives, then provides advice without trying to completely control the direction of our projects. All of these are valuable traits to have as a mentor, and I strive to model my approach after his.”

uday vaidya sizedUday Vaidya

Uday Vaidya, Ph.D., professor of materials science and engineering

“An important aspect of Dr. Vaidya’s interactions with students is his ability to provide structure, yet allow students to think critically, make assumptions and solve the problems that they will encounter in the real world.”

Hui Wu sizedHui Wu

Hui Wu, Ph.D., professor of pediatric dentistry

“Dr. Wu fosters an environment of innovation, learning and professional development. Specifically, he has encouraged laboratory members to think critically about our research, present data at meetings, write manuscripts and apply for fellowships and career awards. Dr. Wu also emphasizes the importance of conducting careful research in an ethical manner. Dr. Wu’s commitment to mentoring is evident because he devotes time to have weekly individual meetings with all 12 of his laboratory members, in addition to a weekly round-table meeting.”