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2010 Dean’s Award: William Geoffrey Gardner

February 23, 2010
William Geoffrey Gardner

Dean’s Award for Excellence in Mentoring

William Geoffrey Gardner, a doctoral student in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, received a bachelor’s degree from Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering in May 2009. His research interests include portable power generation using ethanol fueled microengines and microscale propulsion. Under Will’s leadership, Duke’s Formula SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) placed 11th out of 130 teams in the most prestigious student engineering competition in the world. Aside from demonstrating his skill at collaboration and passion for motorsports, this venue also led him into a mentorship role with some Durham high school students who entered the RoboCup Junior competition hosted by Duke. His leadership, motivational, and mentoring skills are exhibited in his interactions with peers and faculty at Duke, as well as in the larger Durham community.

Seeing the team function at competitions held at the Ford Proving Grounds and Michigan International Speedway was a testament to Will’s leadership. I was thoroughly impressed watching Will command the team during an intense engine swap that took less than 1 hour. It was clear to me that Will possesses a unique talent used to engage and motivate his peers.

His willingness to answer questions at any time and to personally invest in the work I was doing was not only helpful, but inspiring in that it made me work all that much harder to justify his investment in me.

Will has always been one of the most accessible people I have worked with. He responds to e-mail questions promptly and appropriately, is nearly always in his office, and will set up a meeting upon a moment’s notice . . . . As I have known Will, his already formidable mentoring skills have improved significantly. While at the beginning of the semester he was very specific in his recommendations, toward the end he would begin to point me in the right direction, but leave me enough leeway to engage my own creative processes in solving a given problem.

A natural educator, Will selflessly helps others, frequently investing many unsung hours into the improvement of the education experience of his students . . . . His efforts have motivated and enabled these students to perform beyond their expectations and create unique projects.

Will’s energetic selflessness and encouragement are strong motivators that foster teamwork and individual success in those he mentors.