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Yale Graduate School Honors Three Outstanding Faculty Mentors


New Haven, Conn. — The Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences honored three faculty members as outstanding mentors at this year’s Commencement Convocation on May 27.

They were Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, professor and director of graduate studies in psychology; Valerie Hansen, professor and director of graduate studies in history; and Scott Strobel, professor and chair of molecular biophysics and biochemistry.

“I am delighted that the Graduate School is able to honor faculty members for helping students evolve into colleagues,” said Graduate School Dean Jon Butler. “The relationship between graduate students and their research advisors is immensely important. Developing this prize has been one of our most rewarding activities. Suggested by the Graduate Student Assembly, the prize evolved as a dynamic collaboration among the Assembly, the Graduate School Dean’s Office and the Graduate Teaching Center.”

This year’s winners were selected from among 28 faculty members who had been nominated for the award by students via anonymous letters of recommendation. Ian Simon, president of the Graduate Student Assembly, presented the awards on behalf of the students.

Writing in nomination of Nolen-Hoeksema, one student said, “Everyone in our lab is amazed at how much time she devotes to our research projects. In addition to the time that she puts into helping us develop our strengths in the lab, Susan also takes special efforts to make us feel welcome and comfortable. She and her family have hosted barbecues and parties at their home for the lab… it is so nice working in a caring, collaborative environment.”

Another wrote: “Susan is my primary research advisor, my mentor as a teaching fellow, and the director of graduate studies for the psychology department. In all of these different roles, she has demonstrated her dedication to the graduate students in this program. Her generosity and support have shaped my graduate experience thus far, and I can’t imagine what my experience at Yale would be like without her.”

In nominating Hansen, one student wrote, “Her exceptional ability to balance her work and her family life (she’s happily married with three kids!) has inspired me to aim at a higher level of professional and personal satisfaction. I believe that she has consistently demonstrated all the best traits of a mentor and adviser -- challenging me to think and to learn, listening and giving thoughtful responses to my concerns, and preparing me for advanced stages of the Ph.D. and beyond.”

Another student noted, “She’s one of few professors at Yale I know who have audited and taken courses (even as a professor with tenure!) just to expand her own knowledge of various other disciplines. This active involvement with learning new things all the time means that she is particularly sympathetic to what it’s like to be a student.”

One of the students nominating Strobel wrote: “Scott has taught all of us to think like scientists, providing the necessary framework of logic and skepticism. His vision has been to establish a laboratory environment that fosters creativity, independent thought and scientific discourse; it is a culture that is both supportive and critical. He demands excellence from his students at all times.”

Another said of the researcher: “He is proof that it is possible to be a first-rate scientist and educator while maintaining family responsibilities and outside interests. For many of us, his example serves as a guide as we pursue our own careers.”

Bill Rando, director of the Graduate Teaching Center, which coordinates the annual competition, said: “The individuals nominated for the Graduate Mentor Award represent Yale at its best. In their letters of nomination, students describe acts of enormous personal dedication, affection and courage on the part of their mentors. It’s wonderful to think about how much good these mentors have produced, especially when you consider that these same acts will likely be repeated when their students become mentors themselves.”


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