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. Ann Ryan. Outstanding Faculty Mentor Award for a senior faculty member goes to Dr. Ann Ryan, professor in Psychology. Dr. Ryan has a sustained history of more than 25 years of excellence and leadership in improving graduate education and mentoring her own graduate students and those throughout the Michigan State University community. Because of these efforts, Dr. Ryan has been recognized over the years for her mentoring and teaching including being the recipient of the 2018 Raymond Fowler Award from the American Psychological Association which is given to one of more than 100,000 members for their outstanding contributions to the professional development of students. One of her students said that although Dr. Ryan is a world class scholar, she "talks to her students as if she were learning from us." Her past and current mentees feel “a profound sense of kinship": when they meet, they "often talk about being raised with her ideals of conducting rigorous scholarship, leading with integrity and ethics, and championing values of excellence and inclusion." As emphasized in Dr. Ryan’s nomination package, perhaps one of her most notable achievements in graduate student mentoring and professional development has been her demonstrated commitment to inclusive mentoring, an area in which she has also been recognized through national research awards. As a result of these efforts, the diverse group of graduate students she has mentored have gone on to be successful professionals in numerous career trajectories, including leadership at top corporations and leading HR consulting organizations. Dr Ryan’s contributions to shaping her field have also been recognized by receipt of the Michael R. Losey Excellence in Research Award (2021) from the Society for Human Resource management, which honors lifetime achievement in human resource research, recognizing significant past and ongoing research contributions that impact the HR management field.
Outstanding Faculty Mentor Award
Dr. Maria Lopez. Outstanding Faculty Mentor Award for a junior faculty member goes to Dr. Maria Lopez, professor in Community Sustainability. Fourteen current and former graduate students wrote the letter of nomination for Dr. Lopez, explaining the ways in which she “has expanded our view of the world and has further confirmed our desire to become researchers and development practitioners who are looking for sustainability solutions to local communities’ challenges.” They describe how she helps them set goals at the beginning of each semester and creates a supportive environment in which the students operate as a collaborative group to each one meets their goals. Through this "intentionally created . . . multi-generational cohort of students," Dr. Lopez helps to model key professional skills (critical thinking, peer-review, giving and receiving supportive feedback) and modes of co-mentoring. Many of her students report that while in graduate school they authored a manuscript as first author with her support and have been co-authors on publications with her. She has worked with her students on writing successful grant proposals to fund their multidisciplinary research projects. Dr. Lopez has helped fund her students to attend career building workshops; she connects them with her own nationally networked research projects so that they can build their professional connections outside their immediate field to further their own multidisciplinary research. With few opportunities within the graduate program to teach, Dr. Lopez has worked to find teaching experiences for her students and to encourage their participation in intensive university-wide programs (e.g., FAST) to develop their teaching expertise. When her students are doing field research, she works with them in advance to link them with a knowledgeable local partner, ensures they have the tools and resources they need before they go, and checks in regularly while they are in the field to ensure their wellbeing and to help them through research issues: “she encourages us and trusts in our research abilities." Dr. Lopez mentors many international students and helps them navigate MSU processes and procedures. As current and former students summed it up, they know when they become her mentees that "Dr. Lopez is a mentor for life."
Outstanding Doctoral Student Mentor Award
Erica Dalzell is in the School of Criminal Justice. She received this award for her work supporting and mentoring undergraduates, fellow graduate students, community partners, and faculty engaged in work around the Juvenile Risk Assessment Team, a data management partnership between Michigan State University and the Juvenile Division of the Ingham County 30th Circuit Court. Ms. Dalzell has served her peers as a leader in the School of Criminal Justice Graduate Student Association, where she advocated for improvements to the professional development courses and support for graduate student quality of life. She was also elected to serve the School of Criminal Justice Committee on Equity, Inclusion, and Justice and the search committee for a new Director of the school. Her mentoring legacy is, perhaps, most extraordinary when you examine the impact she has had on undergraduate students. Many of the undergraduates who join the JRAT community may expect to do only data entry, but instead are mentored by Ms. Dalzell through all facets of a research project: identifying a testable hypothesis, designing appropriate research methodologies, applying for funding to support the work, writing up results for publication and dissemination, and translating research to practice. These students then present their work at national conferences, the University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum (UURAF), and for community research partners in the Ingham County 30th Circuit Court Family Division. Ms. Dalzell mentors her undergraduate team in professional norms and preparation from public speaking to interviewing so they can each find the professional path that best fits their goals. Of Erica’s 17 mentees, 15 have earned grant funding, and most have gone on to graduate programs or applied juvenile justice work. Under her mentorship, all these students have made important contributions to the juvenile justice literature and a tangible difference in the lives on system-involved youth in Ingham County.
Outstanding Doctoral Student Mentor Award
Azam Ali Sher, a trained veterinarian originally from Pakistan, first came to MSU as a Fulbright Scholar and then returned to campus to pursue a master’s degree in Epidemiology. He is now working toward a Ph.D. in Comparative Medicine and Integrative Biology (CMIB) and Environmental Toxicology (EITS). This diverse scholarly background and his international perspective make him an effective mentor to undergraduates who come from a variety of backgrounds and scholarly traditions including MSU undergraduate researchers, participants in the Summer Research Opportunity Program (SROP), and his peers in graduate school. He works with these students to train them in different laboratory techniques, but also in research study design, speaking and presentation skills, and exploring career opportunities. His colleagues have gone on to present and win awards at the University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum (UURAF), Mid-SURE, and the professional conferences in microbiology and infectious diseases. His nominators highlighted what makes him such a valuable mentor: an infectious passion for science and inquiry, a soul of service and interpersonal connection to help people find a path for their goals, and valuable teaching skills that help build confidence in those with whom he works. He has been continuously praised for his excellent communication skills that help his students and mentees feel included, supported, and confident. Dr. Sher has demonstrated support for their scientific progress and research creativity. Concerned about his students' physical and mental health and academic success, he also supports students with insightful career advice. Several undergraduate researchers wrote in support of him earning this award, highlighting his integral role in helping them identify great graduate programs that align with their goals and helping them build a foundation for success.
Outstanding Graduate Program Community Award
The Master of Arts Educational Technology Program has been selected as the recipient of the 2022 Graduate School Outstanding Graduate Program Community Award. The program has outlined core principles (e.g., providing support from application to beyond graduation, valuing diversity of resources, perspectives, and communities, and promoting growth as curious learners and transformational leaders) that clearly align with MSU’s Foundational Values for Graduate Student and Faculty Mentoring Relationships. They also align with MSU’s values of collaboration, equity, excellence, integrity, and respect. The program has thoughtfully and intentionally designed both processes and interactions to center student success and to empower students to meet their individual career and professional development needs. Testimonials from current students detail the various ways in which the program provides professional development opportunities that are attentive not just to individual students but to the local communities in which they are working: in the words of one student, "From the moment I began my graduate journey, I could sense I was stepping into something larger than a degree program." An alum of the program confirmed that experience, talking about the educational support she continues to receive from instructors in the program, even as she has transitioned into several different professional settings. Another alum, in describing the graduate community leadership in the program, observed that "it looks and feels" like an "integrated in a positive working culture” that is built around “ardent dedication to the values of open communication, integrity, and personal and professional growth.” All of the current and former student testimonials demonstrate that the program enacts its stated values, and they attribute both their professional success and their personal growth and development to their time in MAET.