UMassAmherst: Research, Educational Measurement, and Psychometrics (REMP)
Research, Educational Measurement, and Psychometrics (REMP)

Sireci recieves NERA's Donlon Award


UMass' Professor Stephen G. Sireci was the recipent of the 2010 Thomas Donlon Award for Distinguished Mentoring, given by the Northeastern Educational Research Association (NERA), in October 2010. This award "was established in recognition of Tom Donlon's long and valued contributions to NERA, particularly as a mentor to so many colleagues. Presented for the first time in 2000, the award is given to someone identified for distinguished mentoring" (from the NERA website).

Presenting this award to Professor Sireci was Dr. Kurt Geisinger of the Buros Center for Testing at the University of Nebraska, a longtime NERA member and Steve's graduate advisor at Fordham University. His remarks from the Donlon Award presentation, made at NERA's annual meeting, are below.
Stephen G. Sireci

Stephen G. Sireci
Picture credit: UMass SOE

[From Kurt Geisinger] "I have been asked, as a member of the Thomas Donlon Memorial Award for Distinguished Mentoring committee, to make a few remarks about the award and this year's recipient.

I am probably one of the relatively few people here who actually knew Tom Donlon. That is both a good and a sad thing. Good because it means that NERA is replenishing its talents with youth. Sad because Tom Donlon was a person to know. With a distinguished career himself, he was an invaluable friend and colleague, making every person feel special, and helped scores of young professionals to maximize their careers, wherever they wished to go. I can remember giving him reports on my early career progress at NERA meetings. Now let me begin telling you about this year's recipient. There was a nomination letter as well as 5 supporting letters. Let me please begin with letters from some current students.

This professor "has been a good mentor to me because he focuses on my strengths and give me the belief that I am capable of achieving greater things than I have... He provides the required coaching along the way." This professor "strives to transform my weaknesses into strengths... I hope one day I will be like" this professor.

The second student mentioned that while an undergraduate at another neighboring institution, the professor receiving the award today actually arranged to do an independent study with the student and then worked to attract the student to the University where this professor teaches. The student went further. In the student's summer before starting graduate school, the student was permitted to become an assistant in a research project that the professor was doing. The professor "made certain that I understood the project I was involved in, answered any and all questions that I had, and ensured that I was able to fully participate in the process." This professor "is a source of suggestions, ideas, advice, and support for the students in the program, as well as other professionals in the field... Yet this professor's commitment extends beyond academics." The professor "has helped students and visiting professors find places to live, navigate a foreign culture that can sometimes feel overwhelming, and feel welcome in a new environment."

Three former students submitted letters. From the first, a distinguished graduate in his own right, "I was fortunate that I had the opportunity to work closely with this professor on various projects during the course of my doctoral program. Although this professor was not my advisor, the professor took personal interest in developing me professionally and helped me mold my career. The professor played a role of a mentor, and through kindness and encouragement, helped me identify my weaknesses and address them. At the time, the person recognized my strengths and potential and help me direct those in the right direction. Professor X not only gave me opportunities but created them, and enabled me to participate in professional activitiies within and outside the university environment. The support, recognition of my strengths and weaknesses, and guidance provided by this professor throughout my doctoral program is the backbone of my professional achievements today. I owe my career to this professor."

A second graduate. "This professor was my mentor from the beginning of my doctoral studies. While only a part-time, non-degree student testing my interest in the field, this professor enticed me to participate in a research project. It was a wonderful experience which led to my enrolling in the program in which this professor taught." This student went on to mention how this professor has for years brought many students to NERA, where the writer himself made his first presentation in 1996.

The third graduate mentions when she first visited the community where the university is located. This professor and the partner opened their home to the student. By the time she began her education, she already felt a part of the family. This former student describes our 2010 recipient as committed to the notion of family, not only the professor's family, but as forcing pseudo-families with whomever this professor works. This former student reported praising her advisor in her dissertation acknowledgments, reporting, "I am greatly indebted to my mentor for recruiting me to this university, for the high standards to which I have been held, for generosity, flexibility and kindness in all matters, and for a priceless positive outlook on life." This same graduate stresses the inclusiveness of this professor and the professor's "consistent reminders that our field is too white- has made me realize that blurring the lines between personal values and professional practice is the only way that change will come about."

Finally, the nominator was a graduate student companion of this professor. He reports, that this professor, "has affected many lives in a positive manner to not only pursue their dreams in a career, but has also helped many people be more human and live happier." This remarkable professional states that he was impressed by this other graduate student's professionalism, energy, and enthusiasm. As a graduate student, our recipient, took time to get to know people and offer assistance, advice, or a positive remark that made the day brighter... The colleague goes on to say that our recipient got him involved in NERA, AERA and other professional associations. Finally, this colleague mentions that he worked in a school district for 8 years and faced considerable professional isolation. Our recipient got him involved in research projects as a true collegial mentor.

At this conference I am a participant at one session directed to graduate students at this conference and also the discussant for the Fordham Five's session on doing their dissertations. Getting ready for these experiences has made me think about earning a Ph.D. I want to use a quick analogy for 4 types of ships and relate these to individuals finishing their dissertations.

Sailboat. Looks beautiful but does it affect anyone other than those sailing the ship?
Cruise ship. People have a great time but has the ship individualized this trip in any way?
Freighter. Carries many different things, many of which are useful and bring items to places around the world. I'd term it as useful.
Ice Breaker. Looks over a frozen tundra where no one else can go. Starts through as a leader, cutting through impenetrable problems with which no one else has been able to deal. Look behind. Many small ships, all held to the bosom of the ice breaker. All following along in the energy, insights, and passion of the ice cutter, in this case, the name of the ship is the Spirit of NERA.

I taught this individual as a student, directed his dissertation, and have watched him for a couple of decades. While professionally he has developed and risen to the top of the profession, but internally he has stayed the same, kind, generous, friendly and energetic person. He has in my opinion reached the most important status of all, friend.

It is my distinct pleasure and honor to introduce the 2010 Thomas F. Donlon Distinguished Mentoring Award recipient, Professor Stephen G. Sireci."

Congratulations, Professor Sireci!

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