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2011 Dean’s Award: Kristine Stiles

Dean’s Award for Excellence in Mentoring

Kristine Stiles, France Family Professor of Art, Art History & Visual Studies, earned a B.A. in Art History from San Jose State University in California, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in art history from the University of California at Berkeley. She joined the Department of Art, Art History & Visual Studies at Duke in 1988. In 2010 she was honored with an endowed professorship. Over the course of her years with Duke University, Dr. Stiles has also served as a visiting professor at the University of Bucharest, Romania and as associate professor at Venice International University. Professor Stiles' main field of research is contemporary art with a focus on performance art and other interdisciplinary experimental art practices. Her research is especially concerned with global representations of violence, trauma, and destruction, and she has begun to work in animal studies, as well.

Professor Stiles' involvement with her students is both immediate and sustained: one student remembers that upon meeting with her for the first time, "she welcomed me into her brood, candidly stating that ‘When you work with me, you will have me for life.'" This commitment is demonstrated throughout and beyond a graduate student's program in a myriad of ways, and is especially comforting to new matriculants, as one student remembers, "I cannot overstate how important it was to know, in my first days, weeks and months of graduate school, that Kristine would be not only a committed teacher and academic advisor, but a true advocate and mentor to me in graduate school and beyond."

Professor Stiles takes it upon herself to assure that each of her students is equipped with the knowledge, skills, and resources to be successful. This can be as fundamental as demonstrating good writing, as one student explains, "Rather than ‘doing it for me,' Professor Stiles instead showed me how to write, correcting a few sentences of my writing in front of me, and then proceeding to ask me to correct the next few lines. This method of teaching was not only helpful in solidifying stronger writing and grammar skills, but also in demonstrating effective teaching methodologies for me, which I have now, in turn, employed in my own teaching." Others also attest to Professor Stiles careful attention to student competence in the scholarly basics, "Beginning in my first semester she took the time to help me learn to read and think critically. She met frequently with me, read my papers carefully and gave valuable suggestions on content. She also took the time to make numerous editorial comments and suggestions. In so doing, Dr. Stiles taught me to write in a scholarly and professional manner." Her influence also extends beyond learning to read and think critically to expanding students' perceptions of the field on a more personal level: "Dr. Stiles was a key figure in shaping the way I understand art history not only as a theoretical discipline but also as a way of critically engaging with the world around me."

Aside from ensuring that students are on solid ground in their writing and critical skills, Professor Stiles also seeks to professionalize and develop them by sharing her extensive knowledge of her own field and many others: Her "breadth of knowledge in the fields of international contemporary and modern art is truly extensive. This is also true of her understanding of philosophy, critical theory, history, and political science, among other subjects." Professor Stiles "shares this knowledge freely," which helps students think in "radically new ways" that broaden their scholarly vision. Professor Stiles is also committed to equipping students with critical professional experiences:  "She encourages us to apply for conferences, publish papers, apply for grants and fellowships, and to share our research widely." In terms of connections in the artistic community, she consciously provides professional resources to students by sharing with them her many contacts, a gift of her "vast network of colleagues and artist friends" that is invaluable, as "she makes every effort to open lines of communication between her students and important contacts in the field."

Professor Stiles' students find that she "lives up to the commitment she made to them every day," an unwavering "open-minded and generous mentor" whose "enthusiasm and passion for teaching and learning is truly inspiring" and who "supports her students regardless of their physical proximity or distance and stage in their graduate studies."