At Harvard since 2012, Alexandra “Sasha” Killewald, professor of sociology, is one of the recent winners of the Everett Mendelsohn Excellence in Mentoring Awards, a student-led award that honors GSAS faculty for their excellence in mentorship. Read more about this year’s winners in “What Makes a Mentor Great.”
“It means so much to receive an award that’s initiated by students,” says Alexandra “Sasha” Killewald, professor of sociology.
Killewald was nominated by a group of mentees, including Alexandra Mitukiewicz, a PhD student in sociology and social policy. The two were paired up in 2015 when Mitukiewicz arrived at GSAS.
“Sasha is an extraordinary mentor who is incredibly invested in her students’ research and growth as scholars,” says Mitukiewicz. “She cares deeply about her students—not only as scholars but as people—evidenced by the fact that 11 students got together to create and submit this nomination for her.”
Margot Moinester—another nominator and a PhD student in sociology—agrees.
“Sasha thinks so deeply with you about your work in a remarkable way,” says Moinester. “She has an incredible brain and can advise students in different methodologies and topics. The combination of thinking deeply and being so reliable makes her an amazing treasure as a mentor.”
For Killewald, she knows that there’s not one particular way to be a good mentor, and your success on that front is, in part, measured by whether your students think you’re doing a good job.
“I’ve modeled some of my advising practice on what I learned from my own mentors in the past—namely having an open-door policy and doing line-by-line edits on each student’s writing,” says Killewald. “But a lot of how I approach things has been shaped by years of practice.”
Killewald says that a common thread she sees among graduate students is that they’re often concerned that they are uniquely not doing something well, so reassuring them that everyone struggles with many of the same issues is important.
“I told one of my mentors in graduate school that I didn’t want to be an academic, and the very best thing he told me is that it didn’t change anything in our relationship,” she says. “I want to emphasize to my students that their well-being is the most important thing. Their worth as a human being isn’t determined by their publication record.”
Another of Killewald’s nominators, Aaron Brennen Benavidez, a PhD student in sociology, sums up the benefit many GSAS students see to the Mendelsohn Awards.
“They represent one moment out of the year when graduate students truly honor the professors who are absolutely inspirational,” says Benavidez. “It’s a way to highlight remarkable faculty who have served as beacons of inspiration and excellence for us.”