Provost's Award for Distinguished Ph.D. Teaching and Mentoring
Conn, Deputy Provost
Krieger, Professor of Statistics
in Ph.D. education is the hallmark of a great university.
That excellence, in turn, depends upon the skill and commitment
of faculty mentors. In recognition of that key relationship,
the Provost has established a new university-wide teaching
award, designed specifically to honor faculty who show
special distinction as mentors to Ph.D. students.
selection committee, drawn from among past recipients of
the Lindback Award, was chaired by Abba Krieger, professor
and chair of Statistics (Wharton). The other members
were: Professor James Eberwine (School of Medicine), Professor
Robert Engs (School of Arts and Sciences), Professor Susan
Gennaro (School of Nursing), Professor Joan Goodman (Graduate
School of Education), and Professor Jan Van der Spiegel
(School of Engineering and Applied Science).
committee reviewed more than two dozen nominations. Candidates
evaluated on the basis of letters of recommendation from
past and present graduate students, from other university
colleagues, and from the wider research community. Among
the qualities considered were distinguished research, success
in collaborating on doctoral committees and graduate groups,
the ability to attract outstanding doctoral students, and
a record of successful doctoral placements.
Dr. Stuart Curran, Vartan Gregorian
Professor of English
Dr. Amos B. Smith III, Rhodes-Thompson
Professor of Chemistry
from the letters in support of the awardees provide a glimpse
into the qualities that make for outstanding mentoring.
Wallace, department chair in English, writes, "In
surveying the great mass of responses from current and
four key qualities of Stuart's mentorship come to the fore:
brilliance, precision, accessibility, and compassion." Author
and editor of ten books, Stuart has been dissertation advisor
to 27 doctoral students during his time at Penn. One writes, "Professor
Curran's former students are consistently among the most
influential members of our field (British Romanticism);
for this reason, the best departments are always eager
to interview his students, and simply put, they get jobs."
former student writes: "Stuart's attentiveness to his students
does not end with the close of their graduate careers.
In the 22 years I have been teaching, Stuart has been unfailingly
supportive, generous of his time, advice, invitations to
panels, and solicitations for essays and reviews." Another
writes, "No one who is not a member of my family has ever
lavished on me the kind of care, attention, and dedication
that I found as his student, nor has anyone ever challenged
me as much."
chairman, Larry Sneddon writes, "Amos led the Department
of Chemistry as it designed and developed new facilities
for the next generation of faculty. The practice of synthetic
chemistry is a real challenge today. Success depends on
resources, quality students, careful leadership and mentoring.
Here Amos has truly excelled. Amos leads by example. He
is one of the most energetic faculty at Penn. He works
hard and has a deep commitment to excellence and develops
these traits in his students. His influence on the development
of his students doesn't stop with the award of the Ph.D.;
rather, it continues at a new level as his students consider
the directions of their own careers. Amos is supportive
and nurturing throughout the process. In his thirty years
at Penn, he has taught over 500 graduate students, supervised
over 100 Ph.D. students and another 150 postdoctoral fellows."
Ph.D. student writes, "In the spring of my first year in
graduate school, Professor Smith taught a class called 'Advanced
Organic Synthesis.' As a result of Professor Smith's guidance,
this class was the single most defining moment of my entire
first year and set the intellectual tone for years to come!
The major focus of this class was the completion of what
initially appeared to be an exceptionally overwhelming
project far beyond my current intellectual level. Nonetheless,
I, along with the rest of my colleagues, successfully completed
the project. On the surface the project appeared to be
a 'sink or swim' situation. Professor Smith informed us
of the project's details but the topic was never discussed
again in class until its due date at the end of the semester.
No hints or successful strategies were given, but instead
the class appeared to continue as if the project did not
exist. In reality though, looking back on the entire situation,
every lesson that was taught was aimed at teaching us the
skills and building up the confidence we needed to tackle
the lingering project. The connection between the individual
lessons and the project was not initially apparent because
Professor Smith focused on teaching us how to think,
not just on what facts to remember. He taught us that understanding
how and why we got to the right answer was tremendously
more important than the correct answer itself. He clearly
demonstrated that the unexpected results were just as important
as the expected ones and developed our confidence in being
able to figure out ways to overcome the problems that we
might face in thinking about our project."
speaking for a larger group of students, one writes, Amos
Smith "supports all of his people, not just the
most successful, with everything he is capable of giving."
A reception in honor of Dr. Curran and Dr. Smith will
be held on Thursday, May 13th at 6 p.m. in
the Amado Recital Room, 110 Irvine. Members
of the Penn community are invited to attend.