Graduate School Honors Distinguished Mentor and Staff Award Recipients

Keisha Green
Keisha Green

Recognizing outstanding contributions to graduate education on campus, the Graduate School recently announced its selections for the 2018 Distinguished Graduate Mentor and Distinguished Graduate Staff Awards.

Three faculty members were chosen for the Distinguished Graduate Mentor Award, which honors individuals who have had a transformative impact on the intellectual and professional development of advanced degree candidates. This year’s recipients include:

  • Keisha Green, assistant professor, education
  • Donna LeCourt, associate professor, English
  • Alexandra Pope, associate professor, astronomy

The Graduate School also selected Beth Grybko, a program assistant in the philosophy department, for the Distinguished Graduate Staff Award, which recognizes staff members who have played a vital role in helping students complete their academic degrees. 

Recipients of both awards will receive an honorarium and were congratulated on stage by Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy at Graduate Commencement on May 11. Distinguished Graduate Mentors are selected based on nominations submitted by university faculty and supporting letters written by current or former graduate students. The winner of the Distinguished Graduate Staff Award is chosen based on nominations provided by current university graduate students.

“I am delighted to announce the recipients of this year’s Distinguished Graduate Mentor and Distinguished Graduate Staff Awards,” said Barbara Krauthamer, dean of the Graduate School. “Although their approaches to mentorship differ quite significantly, professors Green, LeCourt and Pope share traits common to all outstanding mentors. They are creative, dedicated and inspiring teachers and advisors who are deeply invested in guiding students towards the attainment of their academic and professional goals. Likewise, Beth Grybko has demonstrated these same qualities in helping graduate students navigate a variety of complex administrative and logistical obstacles that could potentially impede their academic progress. Regardless of their institutional roles, each of these award recipients has excelled in advancing the university’s educational mission.”

According to Krauthamer, the award recipients are representative of a broader UMass culture focused on graduate student achievement. “While the accomplishments of these individuals are unique, the impressive recommendation letters and other materials supporting their candidacy were reflective of the broader nomination pools for both awards,” Krauthamer said. “As in prior years, the Graduate School received strong supporting letters for dozens of faculty mentors and staff members who deserve recognition for their outstanding work on behalf of our students. This surplus of impressive nominees—representing almost every department on campus—demonstrates the university’s large scale commitment to graduate student success, a quality that distinguishes us from many of our peer institutions. Not only does our university boast a world-class environment for cutting-edge research, but it also affords students the opportunity to work alongside renowned scholars who are engaged and adept mentors.”

Krauthamer anticipates that this supportive culture will only become more vibrant in the future.  Recalling that the Graduate School has launched one of the nation’s first training programs to promote the use of evidence-based mentoring practices across a major research institution, she estimates that several hundred university faculty members will complete research-driven mentoring workshops by the end of the next academic year. By introducing faculty members to proven techniques for enhancing the student-mentor relationship, this program—known as the UMass Mentoring Initiative—has begun elevating the quality of mentorship available across campus. “The UMass Mentoring Initiative has proven highly effective at disseminating an array of best mentoring practices across campus, methods that are known to boost scholarly productivity, increase retention rates, and position students for more desirable jobs” Krauthamer said. “As a result, this effort will enhance the university’s tradition of excellent graduate mentorship and should lead to even more outstanding nominations for the Distinguished Graduate Mentor Award in the coming years. I am greatly looking forward to reading them.