Hal Grotevant honored for mentoring, inspiring student to create positive change for families

Hal Grotevant, Professor and Rudd Family Foundation Chair in Psychology at UMass, has received the Elizabeth Hurlock Beckman Award of 2017. This award identifies educators who have encouraged former students to “create an organization which has demonstrably conferred a benefit on the community at large.” Grotevant’s former student, Julie Kohler, nominated him for the award, bringing attention to the profound effect of his mentorship. Kohler is Senior Vice President for Strategy and Planning at the Democracy Alliance, a network of donors addressing progressive policymaking, grassroots community organization, and environmental sustainability.

Grotevant served as Kohler’s advisor for her M.A. thesis within family social science, also working together during Kohler’s position as Project Manager for the Minnesota Texas Adoption Research Project (MTARP). Grotevant continues to lead this 30-year longitudinal study of adoptive families at UMass. Additionally, Kohler collaborated with Grotevant on the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, which includes a large sample of adopted youth.

Kohler played a key role in managing the MTARP project, including recruiting and interviewing participants, supervising undergraduate and graduate assistants, leading countless coding teams, and instituting procedures to maintain confidentiality and data security. She published several academic articles and chapters with Grotevant as well as numerous reports and conference presentations. In addition to seeking solid training as a social scientist interested in families, Kohler always had a keen interest in public policy affecting families and children and was focused from the beginning on creating a career that allowed her to bring those interests together.

In her current position at the Democracy Alliance (DA), she is a key strategist who monitors and directs the DA’s vision for 2020. Kohler connects a community of donors who work under the common goal of providing progressive change to democratic and economic policies. Her many years of work in philanthropy have guided her deep commitment to creating positive change in the lives of families within our communities. She is also a writer and member of the advisory board of Family Story, an organization "working to change the way we talk about families."

Grotevant notes, “It is indeed humbling and an incredible honor to receive the Elizabeth Hurlock Beckman Award. Mentoring has been one of the most satisfying aspects of my academic career. My goal as a mentor, both for Julie and for my other students, is first to listen to them so that I can understand their experiences and their goals. Only then can I help them get to the destination they are seeking.“

Mentoring continues to play an important role in Grotevant’s work as the Rudd Family Foundation Chair. In addition to individual mentoring he provides to undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral students, he has established two larger efforts. The Adoption Mentoring Partnership matches university students who themselves were adopted with adopted children in the Amherst community to build a friendship based around something central to their lives that they hold in common. The Rudd Adoption Research Program also holds one of its key goals to be mentoring the next generation of scholars in the field of adoption psychology. Grotevant adds, "We now have a cohort of over two dozen Rudd Adoption Scholars from around the world who are closely connected to our program and each other as they take their places as leaders of the next generation in this growing, interdisciplinary field."

Grotevant recalls, "I learned a great deal about mentoring through my experience with my Ph.D. mentor, Professor Sandra Scarr, now retired. She provided a context in which I could explore and clarify my interests and goals, and supported me at every step along the way, while always challenging me to be the very best I could be and modeling an academic career of engagement and passion. My greatest joy is paying that forward, just as I know that many former students of mine, including Julie, have done and will continue to do."

Further, “This summer, I am completing my 4th decade as a university professor (13 years at the University of Texas at Austin, 18 years at the University of Minnesota, 9 years and counting at UMass Amherst) -- a milestone which seems quite hard to believe, but fills me with both joy and satisfaction as I think back over the many wonderful students I have worked with and am continuing to work with.  As the new academic year begins, it renews my connections to my students of the past, present, and future.”

Wells Fargo's Philanthropic Services, the awarding institution, will issue a $25,000 honorarium to be presented at a ceremony on Saturday, November 4, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia.

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