Graduate School Outstanding Mentoring Awards

The Graduate School Mentoring Awards recognize graduate programs, faculty mentors and doctoral students whose practice exemplifies the Foundational Values for Graduate Student and Faculty Mentoring Relationships and who make exceptional efforts to sustain the rights and fulfill the responsibilities outlined in the MSU Guidelines for Graduate Student Mentoring and Advising. Although we had hoped to provide these awards at this year’s PhD Commencement, we hope that these awardees will receive the public recognition and congratulations that they richly deserve.

Outstanding Faculty Mentor Award

Dr. Nathan Moore and the 2019 entering Geography cohort at Hartwick Pines State ParkDr. Nathan Moore. The Outstanding Faculty Mentor Award for a senior faculty member goes to Dr. Nathan Moore, Associate Professor of Geography, Environmental, and Spacial Sciences. With a clear acknowledgement of the strength of this year’s nominees, the members of the committee independently ranked professor Dr. Nathan Moore’s at the top of this exceptional group. Dr. Moore’s. nomination was put forward by a large group of current and former graduate students, who offered testimonials illustrating his strong support for them across many different situations and issues. There is evidence of effectiveness, compassion and empathy in Moore’s mentoring engagements and the testimonials reveal the presence of an extraordinary and universal high level of trust from the students. His advisees speak to his commitment to their professional and personal development:  his “defining trait is fearless encouragement” and he “cares about the whole student as an intellectual . . . and as a person.”  In his time as graduate program director, the students affirmed that “he has a history of leading by example and exemplifying how to live the foundational values” set out in the MSU Guidelines for Graduate Student Mentoring. Dr. Moore’s record shows a strong commitment to diversity across multiple dimensions; he has been a positive and important influence on many students during the challenges of the pandemic and national social unrest.  As one student put it, “unbeknownst to him, Dr. Moore has been responsible for retaining a considerable number of students within the program through his continuing support and encouragement.” His leadership throughout the last year has been critical; in the words of his chair, “Nathan has been a rock for our students during this unsettling time.”  

Outstanding Faculty Mentor Award

Dr. Shade with an MMG Ph.D. student in her lab, John ChodkowskiDr. Ashley Shade. The Outstanding Faculty Mentor Award for a junior faculty member goes to Dr. Ashley Shade, an assistant professor in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics. In their collective nomination letter, students detailed the ways that Dr. Shade has used her cross-disciplinary affiliations (faculty member in both MMSG and PSMS, and involvement in the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, the Plant Resilience Institute, and the EEBB program) to expand her their networks and collaborations across fields.  She encourages her students to pursue novel research projects that go beyond her lab’s focus, helping them to develop as independent researchers.  She supports her students in their different career trajectories and encourages them to balance their research time with professional development training; as her students put it, “she whole-heartedly supports the interests of her mentees in whatever career path they choose to pursue.”  In her annual performance reviews with her students, Dr. Shade solicits their feedback on her own effectiveness as a mentor and asks them to provide suggestions for improving the lab community for everyone.  This reflectiveness about mentoring extends beyond her own lab: she is committed to helping graduate students and postdocs become effective mentors for undergraduates, offering a summer “Entering Mentoring” workshop for her department.  Her nomination letters attest both to Dr. Shade’s own strengths as a teacher and to her effective mentoring of graduate students in their teaching; she has mentored teaching-as-research projects for students involved in the FAST and Certification in College Teaching programs.  Dr. Shade has been recognized for her leadership in mentoring by her departmental colleagues: she received the inaugural MMG Faculty Mentoring Award.  Her exceptional work as a mentor across multiple dimensions (research, teaching, mentoring, career development) and evident care for her students would be noteworthy on their own, but she has also done this while being nationally recognized for her research excellence both by an NSF Early CAREER Award and selection as an Ecological Society for American Early Career Fellow.

Outstanding Doctoral Student Mentor Award

Jennifer Watts presentingJennifer Watts. The Outstanding Doctoral Student Mentor Award goes to Jennifer Watts in Molecular, Cellular, and Integrative Physiology. Jenn is a valuable colleague and leader to students, peers, faculty and others, and her contributions are wide and deep:  her many contributions to her various communities demonstrate her stated commitment to being the kind of mentor that she wishes she had encountered earlier in her career. As an African American woman in STEM, Jenn has a stated goal of creating a sense of belonging and support and being a leader in this work. To that end, she has served as a leader and mentor to other students she meets in the AGEP community, to the students she serves in the classroom as a TA, to the students and peers she works alongside in the lab. Her impact is local and international, ranging from MSU’s Undergraduate Mentoring Committee and Girls Math and Science Day to scholarly and research contributions in high-impact journals. With these examples, Jenn demonstrates how to model STEM success in scholarship, teaching, service and mentorship. We are honored to celebrate this impact.