The Graduate Division, which oversees graduate education at Berkeley, and the Graduate Assembly, the grad students’ government, are making up for lost time. For decades, the campus did little to reward the vital role many faculty members play as mentors to their students. Countering that non-trend, the two groups have joined forces for the third year in a row, presenting their own faculty honors in a combined ceremony.

On April 22 the two entities presented two different awards for faculty mentoring of graduate students to a total of five faculty members. Those honored were: Marianne Constable, professor of Rhetoric, and Amani Nuru-Jeter, assistant professor of Public Health, each of whom received the Graduate Division’s Sarlo Distinguished Graduate Student Mentoring Award; and Loren Partridge, professor (and chair) of History of Art, and Inez Fung, professor of Earth and Planetary Science, and Carla Hesse, professor of History (not pictured), each were given the Graduate Assembly’s Distinguished Faculty Mentoring Award, or FMA — to the hearty acclaim of their GSIs, students, and colleagues at the presentation ceremony in Tan Hall. The Sarlo Awards honor the mentoring of graduate students, while the slightly more specialized FMA recognition is for mentoring graduate students as researchers.

Sarlo and FMA Winners from 2009
Left: Sarlo Award winners Constable and Nuru-Jeter. Center: FMA winners Partridge and Fung (Photos: Peg Skorpinski). Right: FMA winner Hesse (Photo from her website)

A week later, a new round of faculty mentoring awards began with “ambush” presentations to Gordon Silverstein, professor of political science, and Robert Reich, professor of public policy (and former U.S. Secretary of Labor).

By convenient coincidence, the two teach at the same hour in side-by-side classrooms in Valley Life Sciences Building. A “prize patrol” consisting of representatives from the Academic Senate’s Graduate Council and the Graduate Division’s GSI Teaching and Resource Center launched friendly takeovers of first Silverstein’s and then Reich’s classes, interrupting each in mid-lecture for a brief presentation.

Both were nominated by their graduate student instructors for the Faculty Award for Outstanding Mentorship of GSIs. Each received his award certificate from the chair of the Graduate Council’s Advisory Committee for GSI Affairs, Jeffrey Reimer, who also chairs of the chemical engineering department. Nearly speechless with surprise, Silverstein and Reich were separately roundly applauded by their throngs of students (Reich got a standing ovation). Then each, using virtually the same words, said “Where were we?” and resumed his lecture.

The surprises were cooked up because Reich and Silverstein had schedule conflicts and couldn’t attend a somewhat more sedate ceremony that took place May 6. Three of their colleagues — Gillian Hart, professor of geography, Margaretta Lovell, professor of history of art, and Lisa Pruitt, professor of mechanical engineering — received the Faculty Award for Outstanding Mentorship of GSIs at that gathering.

With the friendly connivance of his GSIs, Public Policy Professor Robert Reich was surprised in mid-lecture during his afternoon class in 2050 VLSB. He received the Graduate Division’s Faculty Award for Outstanding Mentorship of GSIs.
With the friendly connivance of his GSIs, Public Policy Professor Robert Reich was surprised in mid-lecture during his afternoon class in 2050 VLSB. He received the Graduate Division’s Faculty Award for Outstanding Mentorship of GSIs.
Flanked by his political science GSIs, Professor Gordon Silverstein holds aloft the mentoring award he had just received in a surprise presentation April 29 in his 2060 VLSB classroom during a constitutional law lecture. One of the GSIs, in nominating Silverstein for the honor, said “Gordon’s most amazing feat is that he teaches us as the graduate students that we are, while treating us as the colleagues that we aspire to be.”
Flanked by his political science GSIs, Professor Gordon Silverstein holds aloft the mentoring award he had just received in a surprise presentation April 29 in his 2060 VLSB classroom during a constitutional law lecture. One of the GSIs, in nominating Silverstein for the honor, said “Gordon’s most amazing feat is that he teaches us as the graduate students that we are, while treating us as the colleagues that we aspire to be.”

Being a GSI: not always the most glamorous job, but rewarding none the less

GSIs act as a bridge — Sara Atwood spoke on behalf of the honored grad students.
GSIs act as a bridge — Sara Atwood spoke on behalf of the honored grad students.

The May 6 ceremony honored more than 270 graduate students as Outstanding Graduate Student Instructors. Since there were a few too many for individual responses, one GSI, mechanical engineering grad student Sara Atwood, spoke on their behalf, remembering other significant recognition that happened in their time here, including George Smoot’s Nobel Prize in physics, and the appointment of Steven Chu as U.S. Secretary of Energy. GSIs, Atwood said, “act as a bridge — to use an engineering metaphor — between busy faculty doing amazing research and busy students contributing to an active campus life.” Being a GSI, she said, “may not be the most glamorous job: coming up with ‘fun’ activities the students are hesitant to try at first, grading papers, holding review sessions, sometimes even helping students with graduate school applications or other classes. But those of us here today know that it is our passion, and that we are rewarded throughout the semester in many small ways: when a struggling student aces an exam, or when a student drops by to tell us he got a fellowship at his top-choice grad school, and was so excited the night he heard that he woke his family to tell them.” She thanked the GSI Center and the Graduate Council, adding that “while our efforts often are not rewarded with the worldwide fanfare accompanying a Nobel Prize, I think we can all claim a piece of every award conferred on Berkeley professors and students, because I think we are all a big part of making those achievements possible.”