For the very best faculty, mentoring doesn’t end at the conclusion of a course or program. The practice is a way of life. Dr. Judith Green, professor in UC Santa Barbara’s Gevirtz Graduate School of Education, believes “mentoring is a dynamic part of life in higher education, not something that one does only in small moments with particular individuals.”
It is this philosophy that has earned Green and Dr. Tevfik Bultan, professor of Computer Science, 2015-16 Outstanding Graduate Mentor Awards from the Academic Senate. Green and Bultan, along with five other faculty members and four graduate student TA’s, were honored on April 21 at a reception and Academic Senate Faculty Legislature meeting. See below for the names of all of the winners.
In GradPost interviews, Professors Green and Bultan discussed what the award means to them, the qualities they believe an excellent mentor possesses, and the importance of graduate students to the mission of the university, among other topics.
“I learned that I won the award when it was announced at my undergraduate computer programming class in front of more than 200 students,” said Professor Bultan, who called it “a very nice moment.”
Bultan, who joined the Computer Science Department at UCSB in 1998, doesn’t take sole credit for the award. “UCSB has many outstanding graduate programs, so I am very honored to be recognized in this way in this elite university,” said Bultan, who directs the Verification Laboratory. “I see this award as a recognition of all the hard work and success of my graduate students.”
There is no one set of skills and talents possessed by an excellent mentor, Bultan said. “Every person is different with a unique combination of talents,” he said. “A key part of graduate mentoring is to help students figure out how to use their talents in the most effective way. An excellent mentor is someone who encourages students to apply their talents in the most productive way to topics that inspire them.”
Bultan, who has advised 18 Ph.D. and M.S. students, sees graduate students as crucial to a research institution such as UC Santa Barbara. “Universities have two basic missions: disseminating knowledge and expanding knowledge,” he said. “What separates universities from other educational institutions is the mission of expanding knowledge. And, graduate students are the ones who contribute the most to this mission.”
Mentoring pays off in unexpected rewards. Bultan shared that he once had a student who was dealing with severe health problems and was considering quitting his Ph.D. program. “It was a very hard time for him, and we had many long discussions about how to proceed,” Bultan said. “Eventually his health got better and he was able to complete his dissertation with a strong publication record. After he graduated, I nominated his dissertation for the top dissertation award in my area of research. And, he won it. It was great to see him receive a prestigious award for his dissertation after all the challenges he faced during his Ph.D.”
Bultan said it’s “wonderful to be recognized for the part of my job that I like the most: working with graduate students. Conducting research with outstanding graduate students is very rewarding in itself, so this award is the icing on the cake.”
Judith Green also learned of her award during one of her classes, when History Professor Mary Furner and Anna Lin of the Academic Senate showed up.
Green, who joined the Department of Education at UCSB in 1990, said she was puzzled when they asked to interrupt the class. “When Mary told us why she was there, I was overwhelmed, surprised and happy that they were sharing this with my class and in particular with those who had written in support of my nomination,” Green said. “The public nature of the announcement, in real time, with early career scholars present was an amazing gift.”
Professor Green believes that the value of mentoring is that it can be passed on from generation to generation as those who were recipients of mentoring go on to be mentors themselves.
“For me, mentoring is serving as a cultural guide to make transparent ways of viewing and understanding the potential directions that students will take,” she said. “It is a way of paying forward what others have shared with me along my journeys over the past six decades.” In her 25-year career at UCSB, Green has mentored 54 doctoral and master’s students.
Like Bultan, Green sees the award as honoring more than a single person. “It is also a recognition of what those with whom I have had the privilege to engage have accomplished and how they have continued to demystify the complex worlds of education in their own universities and schools, with new generations of students, often from Pre-K through higher education,” she said. “This award, therefore, is recognition of the collective work of an inter-connected community that even today continues to support each other and to build new educational possibilities with others.”
An excellent mentor, she said, “learns with and from intergenerational scholars, shares personal as well as professional experiences for exploring histories as well as for (re)formulating future possibilities. Mentoring is a communal process, through which more senior participants in a field learn from those developing disciplinary as well as professional knowledge.” Green added that an excellent mentor is also someone who is “not afraid to challenge the thinking of others.”
Mentoring is more than a formal process, Green believes. “It is relational, interpersonal, interdisciplinary, and often leads to unanticipated understandings and supports.”
Mentoring of graduate students is vital, Green said, because “as a research university, graduate students are the heart of our programs and help to create the depth of knowledge that is made available to undergraduate students.” Graduate students, she added, “create new understandings of how to solve current problems; they create opportunities for faculty to explore how to engage students in learning state-of-the-art knowledge, not simply to reproduce known knowledge. Graduate students also serve as research mentors, or what our group calls ‘cultural guides’ for undergraduates as well as interdisciplinary colleagues.”
See the full list of winners below. Congratulations to all!
2015-16 Academic Senate Award Winners
Distinguished Teaching Awards:
- Tommy Dickey (Geography)
- John Latto (Ecology, Evolution & Marine Biology and College of Creative Studies)
- Erika Rappaport (History)
- Salim Yaqub (History)
- James Donelan (Writing Program, English, College of Creative Studies), non-Senate recipient
Outstanding Graduate Mentor Awards:
- Tevfik Bultan (Computer Science)
- Judith Green (Education)
Outstanding Teaching Assistant Awards:
- Jeffrey Carmichael, Chemistry
- Hannah Goodwin, Film and Media Studies
- Becky Robinson, Communication
- Andrew Swafford, Ecology, Evolution & Marine Biology