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SIS Faculty Win Awards for Excellence in Graduate Student Mentoring

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Sharon Weiner and Thespina Yamanis

The Office of Graduate Studies and Research recently awarded Professor Sharon Weiner the 2019 Award for Excellence In Doctoral Student Mentoring and Professor Thespina Yamanis the 2019 Award for Excellence in Master's Student Mentoring. These competitive awards recognize excellence in the mentoring of master's and doctoral students.

Doctoral Student Mentoring: Individualized Approach  

Sharon Weiner is an Associate Professor at the School of International Service and the recipient of the 2018 Andrew Carnegie Fellowship. She is currently on sabbatical and spending a year as a visiting researcher at the Program on Science at Global Security in Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

Professor Weiner states that her mentorship philosophy “is rooted in trying to understand each individual student’s relationship to the production of knowledge, their own assessment of their shortcomings, and the type of mentoring most likely to help them develop as mature scholars.” The positive impact of Professor Weiner’s mentoring approach was evident in the recommendation letters sent to OGSR from current and former students in support of her nomination for this award.

Alice Friend, PhD candidate in SIS, wrote, “I’ll never forget that at one point she identified my creeping sense of inadequacy and said, ‘You are worried you don’t sound like Sam Huntington (the academic godfather of my thesis topic). That’s okay. You aren’t Sam Huntington. You have something to contribute that is your own.’ She gave me permission to follow my own instincts and believe in myself.”

Master's Student Mentoring: Learning through Doing  

Thespina (Nina) Yamanis is an Assistant Professor at the School of International Service and the recipient of a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Interdisciplinary Research Leader fellowship. Dr. Yamanis is a global public health scholar whose research focuses on improving the health of underserved populations. She states that “My approach to mentoring Master’s students includes providing them with high-level research training and then involving them in my own research." Dr. Yamanis mentoring enables students to gain essential research skills using qualitative or quantitative methods, writing for a community or academic audience, and analyzing literature using a critical lens. Professor Yamanis’ research together with AU Master’s students has resulted in 4 co-authored published articles in peer-reviewed publications.

Professor Yamanis is also committed to helping Master’s students design and carry out their own research ideas. She states that “learning skills on my research projects often translates to students wanting to perform independent research.” Several of her Master’s students have gone on to pursue doctoral studies at prestigious universities such as Columbia University and the University of California, Berkeley.  

A former student, Elisabeth Nolan (MA, 2016) enthusiastically recommended Professor Yamanis for the Award for Excellence in Master's Student Mentoring. Ms. Nolan wrote, “Dr. Yamanis is first and foremost excellent at providing opportunities for students to participate in research. She pursues research opportunities continuously, and just as continuously provides opportunities for master’s students to participate in these studies.”  

Jon Tubman, Vice Provost for Research and Dean of Graduate Studies, is thrilled to announce the winners and “congratulates our faculty colleagues for their significant contributions to a university culture that supports the scholarly and professional development of graduate students.”