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2014 Dean’s Award: Ann Marie Rasmussen

Dean’s Award for Excellence in Mentoring

Ann Marie Rasmussen is a distinguished scholar and instructor, but according to one of the people who nominated her for a 2014 Dean’s Award for Excellence in Mentoring, her work as a mentor often goes relatively unacknowledged.

“Yet, she has made an enormous difference in my experience as a graduate student at Duke, and I have witnessed her impact on many other graduate students and recent graduates,” the nominator says.

One way Rasmussen helps students is by creating a collaborative spirit in her classroom. “Discussions in her courses have a clear focus, but her tone also communicates the value of anchoring conversations in curiosity and respect rather than performance and competition,” one of her students says.

Rasmussen uses this collaborative environment to her students develop practical skills that they say are often overlooked in their academic training. For instance, she conducts a collaborative grant-writing exercise that gives her students hands-on experience in a skill that one of her nominators says is “absolutely undertaught and undertrained in graduate students.”

The experience, one of her students says, provided “key insights into the real process of grant writing by a master of the craft.”

The collaboration extends beyond the classroom. Graduate students praise Rasmussen for working with them to incorporate their interests into her own work or even letting their interests guide her own focus. This, one student says, “provides unheard-of academic opportunities for her mentees.”

Comments from Mentees

“As a member of my dissertation committee she gives me invaluable advice on the content and direction of my dissertation. But she also gives me practical advice on how to sit down every day and write it. When I am struggling to make progress, she helps me brainstorm practical solutions. She shares tips on software, strategies—anything that might help me organize my research or spark my creativity.”

“Our work on this project alone has allowed her to mentor us through almost every traditionally undertrained facet of academic work: grant writing, course development, content course teaching, conference presentation writing, and conference organizing. Even the regular meetings to plan the work of the project helped train us for the many service committees we will no doubt serve on as early academics.”

“She has been an unfailing source of advice and support to me as I have navigated my academic career. I specifically use the word ‘career’ because Professor Rasmussen has always urged me to look at my work with an eye to the future. She encourages me to think about the wider arc of my career and make concrete plans to move towards my goals.”

“I know that no matter the topic, I can turn to Professor Rasmussen for advice. I know that I can always depend on her to respond promptly and productively to my inquiries and requests. Moreover, I am far from the only student benefitting from her support. Many of my fellow students and I agree that Professor Rasmussen is the backbone of our graduate program, and we are so grateful to know someone so invested in our futures as academics and as human beings.”

“She does not only provide help to her current graduate mentees. She has met with and counseled already launched students on thorny issues of the job market and early academic career.”

About Ann Marie Rasmussen

Ann Marie Rasmussen, professor of Germanic languages and literature, earned a PhD in Germanic languages and literatures from Yale University and a BA in German from the University of Oregon at Eugene. She joined the Duke faculty in 1988 and has served as both acting chair and chair of the German Department.In addition to her Duke appointment, Rasmussen holds an appointment at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as an adjunct associate professor of Germanic languages and literatures in the Carolina-Duke Graduate Program in German Studies, which she envisioned, initiated, and implemented and which was successfully launched August 2009.Rasmussen’s research examines medieval literature and culture from the twelfth century to the Reformation. In her publications she combines gender studies with a variety of other approaches, including manuscript studies, the anthropology of gift-giving, visuality studies, and, most recently, material culture.