Rewarding mentors, the academy’s unsung secret weapon Published: April 30, 2008 By: Dick Cortén The afternoon of April 22 was overcast and gloomy, with rain predicted. But inside the McCollum Room in Tan Hall, the atmosphere was toasty from warm feelings. Five faculty members, accompanied by colleagues and students who nominated them and friends and fans, were given special awards for mentoring grad students, an activity that historically has received little fanfare but is seen as vital by its recipients, often leading to key intellectual breakthroughs and providing the motivation to persevere despite daunting obstacles. Singled out as extraordinarily helpful were Susanna Barrows, a professor of history; University Professor Alexandre Chorin, a member of the mathematics faculty; Dru Dougherty, a professor in the Spanish and Portuguese department; Paola Bacchetta, an associate professor of gender and women’s studies, and Carlos Daganzo, a professor of civil and environmental engineering. Recognition for mentoring is having a growth spurt. The Tan ceremony involved two awards, the Sarlo Distinguished Graduate Student Mentoring Award, presented by the Graduate Division and the Academic Senate’s Graduate Council, and the Distinguished Faculty Mentor Award (FMA), presented by the Graduate Assembly. The Sarlo Award for senior faculty went to Barrows and Chorin; another Sarlo Award, for junior faculty, was reserved for Irene Bloemraad, an assistant professor of sociology; who was unable to attend the ceremony. Doughterty, Bacchetta, and Daganzo received the FMA. This is only the second year the Sarlo honors have been presented, and the fourth for the FMA. Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost George Breslauer paid tribute to all who mentor, especially the winners, noting that as underemphasized as mentoring often is, many of us can gain from it, students, faculty, department chairs, and provosts alike. “If you’re an institution that cares, both about your effectiveness and about the people who populate your institution, you’re all about mentoring. Ten or 20 years ago, you would have been struck by how few ceremonies of this sort, those who have gone the extra mile, there were. beyond the all-campus Distinguished Teaching Award ceremony, which has a long history. Happily, they’re much more numerous than they used to be. The awardees each received large clusters of nomination letters attesting to their effectiveness. In a similar vein, a not-atypical tribute to Barrows is contained at the beginning of The Making of a Social Disease, a book (published by UC Press) about tuberculosis in 19th-century France by David S. Barnes, a former Ph.D. student of hers who is now an associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania: ”In a profound way, my work bears the imprint of Susanna Barrows. I could not dream of a more inspiring and dedicated mentor. Her love of history and her ability to evoke its human dimension, both comic and tragic, serve as a model for all of her students. When she first suggested tuberculosis to me as a research topic, I recall thinking that with background in neither medicine nor opera, I was ill-equipped for (and little interested in) the task. She knew better. Over the years, her advice has been demanding, surprising, constructive, counterintuitive, and unfailingly on target.” The recipients, engagingly humble, thanked all who nominated and selected them, their students, colleagues, and those who created and funded the awards. Barrows took it even farther: “This is not an award for me, but for the 60-some-odd colleagues I have in the history department, for the staff who make good teaching and inspirational help possible, and last but not least, for my daughter, who began having graduate students stream through the doors of my house for long academic dinners at the age of two — and began suggesting, at the age of 10, very useful dissertation topics, such as ‘What is the History of Dog Doo in Paris?’” The Sarlo Distinguished Graduate Student Mentoring Awards were created on the Berkeley campus in 2007 through a generous grant from the Sarlo Foundation of the Jewish Community Endowment Fund. The student-initiated Distinguished Faculty Mentor Award (FMA), now in its fourth year, is funded by student fees through the Graduate Assembly.