Dean's Award recipient Katherine J. Franz
Chemistry professor Katherine J. Franz

Good mentors take seriously the responsibility to share knowledge with their students, not only within their area of expertise, but also with regard to their professional trajectory and experience. The best mentors at Duke go above and beyond that calling, demonstrating a deep and abiding investment in the development of their mentees by advising them at each stage of their graduate education, attending to issues both within and outside the academic sphere, and providing honest guidance and advice. “I would be really distressed if someone left here unhappy,” one faculty member has said. “I want them to have a good experience. And if I see that they’re having problems, we’re going to sit down and find out what isn’t working.”

Student Perspectives

“She taught me well about the kinds of support a mentor can give—and the way in which mentoring students is part of a vision of the profession that draws its strength from connection, collegiality and community rather than competition.”

“He treats his students not so much as subordinates to direct but as young colleagues, and strikes the perfect balance between giving us enough freedom to learn and the guidance to succeed. He has created an atmosphere where his students are truly happy, collaborate and support each other, and are productive.”

“We had extensive conversations about what my career trajectory would look like after Duke. He and I talk regularly since I graduated, and I always see him whenever I am back at Duke. He regularly influences and challenges my work.”

“He offers his students not simply an academic direction but a place to belong. He often puts his own work aside to give students much more attention than any graduate student could hope for. He helps us choose courses, navigate academic hurdles, handle conflicts, and sooth anxieties. He asks our opinions like they actually matter, sharing his own work with us as fellow colleagues and treating our writing with critical but big-hearted honesty. . . . He allows me to take on ambitious projects, eager to help me accomplish more and climb higher than I thought possible. Because he thinks so highly of everyone, he gives students the confidence to think big and produce work that seeks to change the field.”

“Even five years after my graduation from Duke, my former dissertation advisor continues to consult and mentor me with regard to my professional plans—whether by writing letters of recommendation, sharing information on publishing venues, or simply by exchanging ideas on our scholarship. No matter what my predicament or aspirations, she continues to be there for me, to support me in a myriad of ways.”

— Compiled from nomination letters for winners of the Dean's Award for Excellence in Mentoring