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Mentors As Masters

Professor Ann Marie Rasmussen, 2014 mentoring award recipient.

One of the hallmarks of excellent mentoring is the experience of shepherding students through the transition from pupil to junior colleague. Strong mentors ensure that their students develop the composure, skills, and self-possession to enter the professional world with confidence. This process takes a balance of guidance, encouragement, accountability, and selflessness on the part of the mentor. Outstanding examples abound across all disciplinary boundaries in graduate education at Duke. “My papers will grow dusty on the shelves—they are already dusty on some of my shelves,” one faculty member explains, “but my legacy is the students who are going on, hopefully to the kind of wonderful career that I’ve had. It is my responsibility and my love to engage them in the profession.”


Student Perspectives

“She taught me that learning to question is perhaps the most useful skill an academic can have, particularly if one wants to write in a way that’s different from the mainstream. Anyone who has attended a presentation with her knows to listen for her during the question and answer session; she asks excellent, thoughtful questions—not the kind that are calculated to show how smart she is, but the kind that a genuinely intelligent and a curious person wants to know.”

“Throughout our relationship he believed that I could do anything, and because he believed in me I began to believe in myself. He encouraged me to take higher-level math classes I was not comfortable with, and through these experiences I realized that I had underestimated myself and what I was capable of doing.”

“He formed his lab based on the thought that science is ‘built on the shoulders of giants,’ and thus collaboration is indispensable to produce great results and discoveries. He specifically looks for different skill sets in each person in the lab with the intention of fostering an environment where techniques and advice are shared on a daily basis among its members.”

“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.”

"On fellowship my second year, he allowed me to sit in on his undergraduate course so that I could gain experience on how to approach teaching undergraduates. In my fifth year, I am currently TAing for this course with him and will be the instructor for the course next semester. My experiences with him have fully prepared me to tackle this exciting opportunity." 

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