By: Kara Jones
This month, Vanderbilt University Graduate School named three faculty members as recipients of their first Excellence in Graduate Student Mentoring Awards. Honorees included Bruce Compas, Patricia and Rhodes Hart Professor and professor of psychology and human development, professor of pediatrics and director of clinical psychology training; Meike Werner, associate professor of German and European studies and chair of the Department of French and Italian; and Kelly Oliver, W. Alton Jones Professor of Philosophy.
The award, created by members of the Graduate Faculty Council, is meant to honor outstanding mentorship and affirm the mission of helping students reach their full potential as scholars and human beings. “These colleagues have not only provided types of mentoring, but they have also taken mentorship one step further into sponsorship, by actively advocating for their students’ career success,” said André Christie-Mizell, vice provost and dean of the Graduate School said.
Compas celebrates 20 years at Vanderbilt, where he has authored more than 160 publications in peer-reviewed journals, all of which have been co-authored by one or more Vanderbilt graduate students. “The mentorship I experienced with Compas has also shaped how I value my own mentorship relationships and is a style I continue to try to emulate to this day,” said Kristen Hoskinson, a research assistant professor at Ohio State and former student. “I try to model myself as a collaborator who welcomes input and encourages students’ involvement in presentations and publications and hope their time in my lab will be as supportive and formative as my own experiences with Compas.”
Werner joined Vanderbilt in 1997, and in 2011 she was awarded an Outstanding Graduate Mentoring Award by the College of Arts and Science. She has published articles on German literature and the history of Germanistik, or German studies, from the 18th to the 20th centuries.
“Having become a mentor to my own students, I am deeply familiar with the farsightedness, steady commitment, professional excellence and integrity it takes to responsibly mentor another person,” wrote Kathrin Breuer, associate professor of German at Brandeis University and Werner’s former student. “Werner set a high standard and inspired me to strive for a comparable level of kindness, wisdom and knowledge of the discipline of German studies and academia itself.”
Oliver writes on topics related to social issues and change. A colleague of Oliver’s noted that she not only specializes in feminist philosophy but has made it her life’s work to support and mentor women in the profession. In 2012, she received the Margaret Cuninggim Women’s Center Mentoring Award.
“Early on I was told to secure Kelly Oliver as an adviser if I could,” said Rebecca Tuvel, an associate professor and chair of philosophy at Rhodes College and former student. “It was widely shared that she supported young women in philosophy and worked especially hard to ensure our success on the job market.” She continued: “I was fortunate enough to learn firsthand how true this was. Like many young women graduate students, I struggled with self-confidence. I did not think my ideas were any good, and I often contemplated giving up on a future in academia. Oliver enabled me to overcome my fears by consistently encouraging me to develop my ideas.”