Four Professors Honored for Mentoring Doctoral Students

Issue Date: 
April 9, 2007

Four Pitt professors will receive the 2007 Provost’s Award for Excellence in Mentoring, which recognizes faculty for their mentoring of doctoral students. This is the second year the awards have been granted.

The awardees are Kathleen Blee, Distinguished Professor of Sociology in the School of Arts and Sciences; Nancy Day, professor of psychiatry in the School of Medicine; Robert Drennan, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology in the Arts and Sciences; and Noreen Garman, professor of administrative and policy studies in the School of Education.

The four, along with other nominees for the award, will be honored at a reception at 3 p.m. April 16 in the William Pitt Union’s Kurtzman Room. Each awardee will receive a cash prize of $2,500.

“The very existence of this award underscores the high institutional priority that must be assigned to our mentoring responsibilities,” said Pitt Provost James V. Maher. “The intellectual and personal leadership provided by mentors helps to support, encourage, and promote a student’s personal and professional development. This year’s awardees are an inspiring example of excellence in the role of graduate mentor. They have clearly touched the professional lives of many students and graduates of this University.”

The awardees were selected from 37 nominations made by Pitt graduate students and faculty members.

Background on the awardees follows.

Kathleen Blee has contributed to the lives of graduate students as a teacher, a mentor, and as director of the Pitt Women’s Studies Program, a position she held from 1996 to 2001. In her 11 years at the University, Blee has chaired 12 dissertation committees and currently is advising seven others. Her students have been very successful in securing tenure-stream faculty positions. In their nomination letter, three students wrote: “Not only is Dr. Blee a successful mentor, but she is an exemplary one… . Successive generations of students bear her thoughtful, caring imprint as a mentor.”

Nancy Day has chaired 21 doctoral committees and has advised 19 postdoctoral fellows over the past 27 years at Pitt. Her students have been placed at outstanding universities and research institutes around the country, including the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, the National Institute for Environmental Health Science, and Duke University School of Medicine. Ten of her students have received prestigious training awards. In letters supporting her nomination, Day’s students wrote that she encouraged them to present papers at national conferences and took the time to introduce students to her colleagues at conferences. Students credited these activities with opening up career opportunities for them following graduation.

Robert Drennan is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has chaired 30 dissertation committees and currently is advising 16 doctoral students. His doctoral students have an outstanding record of receiving funding for their dissertation research, winning 25 National Science Foundation Dissertation Grants in Archaeology and eight Wenner Gren Foundation Grants. His students have obtained tenure-track positions at universities throughout North and South America. One former student wrote that Drennan’s high expectations and dedication to students’ learning “propelled my colleagues and me to excel to the best of our abilities.”

Noreen Garman has supervised 28 doctoral dissertations, and she is currently advising 11 students. She pioneered a long-standing dissertation study group that brings together current and former students as a way of enriching the dissertation process, and she has published two books on dissertation writing. Several of her students have won Outstanding Dissertation Awards from the American Education Research Association, and her students have been placed in tenure-stream positions in both national and local universities. One former student wrote that she now practices mentoring techniques she learned from Garman. “Noreen’s work lives on in my students and in theirs; her contribution to generations of scholars is powerful,” the former student wrote.