Compassion is a quality that doesn’t often appear on CVs or in grant proposals, but it’s a quality that makes a faculty mentor great. The Everett Mendelsohn Excellence in Mentoring Awards, presented by the Graduate Student Council, aim to highlight compassionate, generous mentors who help their graduate advisees thrive at Harvard. Students nominate faculty for the award, and winners are chosen by a GSC selection committee. This year’s winners included faculty in psychology, health policy, philosophy, history of science, and romance languages and literatures. This year marked the 20th anniversary of the Mendelsohn Awards.
Incoming GSAS dean and 2015 Mendelsohn award winner Emma Dench pointed out that when she is invited to speaking engagements, her Mendelsohn award is cited in her bio more often than any of her other accolades.
“It gives me great hope that the world actually recognizes that excellent mentorship is really valuable and has a huge effect on lives, on our disciplines, on everything that we do,” said Dench.
The Mentoring Award is named for Everett Mendelsohn, a professor emeritus in the history of science. Mendelsohn has been on the Harvard University faculty since 1960.
Mendelsohn noted that each of this year’s award winners were being celebrated for “what they did as people, rather than what they did as scholars.”
David S. Jones is the A. Bernard Ackerman Professor of the Culture of Medicine in the Department of the History of Science. Cara Fallon, a seventh year PhD student in the history of science spoke on behalf of all of Jones’ nominators.
“He has students from across the graduate career, from first years to postdocs, who are eager to express their gratitude,” Fallon said. “He is a virtuoso mentor, one with the flexibility, kindness, and exceptionally high standards that help students at any and every point in our graduate careers.”
Fallon noted that Jones has students whose areas of research range from prostate cancer to Japanese medicine.
“David knows how to suggest sources and archives for every single topic and knows the art of a perfectly timed question that will open up new avenues of research,” said Fallon.
Sergio Delgado Moya is an associate professor of romance languages and literatures. Adrian Rios, a first year PhD student, invited his fellow nominators to join him in thanking Delgado Moya, including fourth year PhD student María Gómez Lara.
“When I decided to come to Harvard, I thought I was choosing an institution,” said Lara. “After four years here, I know that going to Harvard wasn’t an encounter with a myth, it was an encounter with humans. And this human experience has completely changed the way I think of myself as a scholar and as a person. It’s the mentorship of Sergio Delgado that has made Harvard for me.”
Alison Simmons is the Samuel H. Wolcott Professor of Philosophy. Sixth year philosophy PhD student Patricia Marechal spoke on behalf of the nominators.
Marechal emphasized Simmons’ commitment to teaching and educating the next generation of exceptional teachers. Marechal was a teaching fellow for one of Simmons’ most popular introductory classes for undergraduates.
“One of the things that became clear to me is that she wasn’t just teaching this amazing class to 90-some students, she was also teaching us, the teaching fellows, to become better teachers and better mentors,” said Marechal, “She treated us as co-investigators and co-teachers. She empowered us in the classroom.”
Katherine Swartz is a professor of health policy and economics at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. Jamie Daw, a fifth year student in health policy, spoke on behalf of the nominators.
“Kathy does not try to fit students into a particular box,” said Daw. “She’s always thoughtful and flexible, keen on cultivating the unique talents of students and considering how they can best use their graduate school experience to achieve both personal and professional goals.”
Swartz is known among students as an unwavering source of support, a believer in a healthy work-life balance, and a booster of students’ professional ambitions.
“She’s generously offered her experience, her connections, to help countless numbers of students to succeed in the program and help land their dream jobs—without imposing any idea of what a ‘dream job’ should be,” said Daw.
Daniel Gilbert is the Edgar Pierce Professor of Psychology. Bethany Burum, who graduated with a PhD in psychology in 2014, spoke on behalf of the nominators.
“Dan treated me as an intellectual equal from the day he interviewed me to be his graduate student,” said Burum. “Dan is a superlative mentor and a dear friend. He’s my model for the kind of mentorship that really does change lives.”
Burum quoted sixth year PhD student David Levari as saying, “Dan has a rare gift, he can take enthusiastic young students and turn them into enthusiastic, slightly less young scientists. I’ll cherish every gray hair I grew under his tutelage.”