At Harvard since 2013, Tamar Herzog, Monroe Gutman Professor of Latin American Affairs, 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.”
Sally Hayes, a PhD student in history, was Herzog’s primary nominator for the Mendelsohn Award. Hayes and Herzog have been working together since the very beginning of Hayes’ graduate school journey: Herzog was part of the group that selected Hayes for the 2014 cohort.
“When I was getting ready to apply for my PhD, someone told me that the relationship you have with your advisor is the most important one you’ll have in graduate school,” says Hayes. “I am so lucky with Tamar because we click so well; she walks this fine line between being attentive to my needs, but also respecting me as an adult and a colleague.”
For Hayes, Herzog’s serious approach to her career and the study of history is matched by a spirit of irreverence in the way she approaches the subject, which makes it more approachable.
“Tamar makes sure that I’m not afraid to ask questions,” says Hayes. “Even if it feels basic, you could question something foundational that people believe in your field that changes the game entirely.”
For Herzog, her approach to advising is to help students find where their passion is.
“The trick with students is to find what they care about—not what the field cares about or what the faculty care about,” says Herzog. “We spend so much time in our work—researching, presenting, educating—and the only way to sustain it is to choose something that you’re passionate about, so you have the motivation to continue.”
Hayes is a perfect example: When she began her degree, she was interested in nationalism in early modern Spain, but she kept getting drawn to the study of colonial Latin America. During an oral exam at the end of her second year, one faculty member asked Hayes what was the most intriguing question she could think of to investigate.
“Sally started talking about the place of Africans in early colonial Latin America, so I told her now was the time to change course,” says Herzog. “I think the change in direction reflected her own maturity, and it’s my job as a mentor to help her identify those moments.”
“Tamar is really invested in her mentees,” says Hayes. “She delivers a lot of time and attention to each part of the journey and keeps you focused on the moment.
“I’m grateful that GSAS has a way for students to show our appreciation for the time and energy our best advisors put in. It’s important to highlight the examples of how the advisee/advisor relationship goes right, and how to develop a strong relationship based on mutual respect.”