The Excellence in Mentoring of Doctoral Students Award

Written by Chris Pasion, graduate assistant to The Graduate School.

Send in your nomination for the award that recognizes outstanding mentorship and advising. If you have had an exceptional mentor during your graduate or doctoral studies, take a moment to nominate them and celebrate their leadership!

Professor John Drury, the winner of the 2019 award

Professor John Drury, the winner of the 2019 award

A truly exceptional mentor must strike a delicate balance between passion, persistence, dedication, and – when called for – a dash of tough love. When you form a personal relationship with this kind of person, you know that they are a wellspring of guidance and expertise, constantly stimulating further thought, challenging your preconceived notions, and helping you along in your journey of self-realization. This type of relationship is few and far between, making it all the more important to treasure and celebrate it.

Luckily for us, UC’s campuses are full of exceptional, caring leaders that push the boundaries of mentorship and teaching. Professors put in late hours, readily sacrificing their free time in order to more fully devote themselves to the sustained success and education of their pupils. These types of people build our academic institution into a deft fortress of knowledge and holistic scholarship, supporting and inspiring each of us to dig a little deeper and work a little harder. 

Each year, one esteemed faculty member is chosen to be honored with the Excellence in Mentoring of Doctoral Students Award. This faculty member is chosen because they demonstrate an outstanding commitment to the leadership and mentoring of doctoral students – a commitment that is displayed through a sustained and time-tested devotion to helping students achieve success in academics and on their path to a career.

The candidates for this award are nominated by students – both current and former – and fellow faculty members, putting the power completely in the hands of those who have a personal connection with the mentor they are choosing. If you want to give back to the person who made a difference in your life, nominating them for this award is one of the best ways to do so. The recipient is chosen from a competitive pool of candidates by a distinguished committee. (Note: previous winners are not eligible to be nominated again.)

As the committee reviews your nomination, they are looking for evidence that this person has a record of sustained and active mentorship. Prospective candidates should display a devotion to mentorship in the classroom, laboratory, offices, and beyond that is evident throughout their career in academia. Nomination materials include a letter of nomination, a listing of all former and current students (including the positions of former students), letters of support for the nomination from student and colleagues (must include at least two signed and dated letters from former students), and a copy of the nominee’s CV. These nomination materials are due to Megan Tischner by 5p.m. on January 7, 2020. Direct any questions you have on the process to

Last year’s recipient of the award comes from the world of creative writing and poetry: John Drury. Prof. Drury has worked at the university since 1985, teaching courses in the English department on poetry, memoir, and prose. His storied history of mentorship of doctoral students is reflected in the enthusiastic nomination letters that championed his expertise and gentle guidance through their PhD programs. 

On mentoring students, Prof. Drury says, “There’s so much stress and anxiety inherent in the academic life of a PhD student. I try to make complicated, often confusing things make sense and to help clear away obstacles to creative and critical work. Listening and offering helpful criticism are essential. So is the encouragement of taking these creative-writing students seriously as artists, as well as scholars.” He also makes it clear that the relationship between mentor and mentee is reciprocal; each party is constantly learning from the other during the relationship, as any good relationship should be. Considering his chosen profession, which he states to be a privilege and pleasure, Prof. Drury concludes, “It’s gratifying to know that my mission and calling as a teacher means something important and that students are eager to declare to others in our community and beyond.”

Prof. Drury is the author of four full-length poetry collections (The Disappearing Town, Burning the Aspern Papers, The Refugee Camp, and Sea Level Rising) and two poetry books (Creating Poetry and The Poetry Dictionary). 

Learn more about the award and the nomination process by visiting The Graduate School’s Excellence in Mentoring page.

The deadline for submission of the nomination form is 5p.m. on January 7th, 2020, due to