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3 professors named outstanding graduate mentors

May 09, 2007

Sharon E. Robinson Kurpius, David MacKinnon and N. Joseph Cayer have been named ASU outstanding graduate mentors for 2006-2007. The award recognizes their commitment and excellence in encouraging the intellectual and professional growth of their students.

The three ASU professors are the 23rd, 24th and 25th recipients of this award, which includes a $3,000 cash award. The Graduate College will hold a reception in their honor, inviting current and former students to participate in the celebration.

“This year, we had 19 stellar nominees for this award,” says Maria T. Allison, ASU vice provost and dean of the Graduate College . “Those who are selected have demonstrated mentoring excellence at multiple levels. We solicit not only information about the quality of their teaching, their mentorship, and their scholarship, but we also review placement of their doctoral students and request letters from their former students addressing the impact of these mentors on the students' career development.”

Since arriving at ASU in 1978, Robinson Kurpius has fostered the development of 50 doctoral candidates as well as numerous master's degree graduates in counseling and counseling psychology. The students who enter the psychology program “are amazing,” Kurpius says.

“To be able to work with them is a privilege,” she says, adding: “As I have tried to enrich their lives and careers, they have enriched mine, both personally and professionally.”

“When I was first interviewed for the program in early 1998, I was impressed with how involved Dr. Robinson Kurpius was with all her students,” writes Kayoko Yokoyama, who earned her doctoral degree from ASU in 2003, in her nomination letter. “It was the warmth that she brought to her mentoring role that was one of the factors that led me to the counseling psychology program at ASU.”

Cayer joined the ASU School of Public Affairs in 1980 and is highly regarded by students and faculty as a teacher and mentor. Cayer “works with students on a one-to-one basis more effectively than anyone I have seen in 40 years of teaching,” says Robert Denhardt, director of the School of Public Affairs . “It's remarkable to see the changes that occur in students who work with Dr. Cayer.”

Seeing graduates succeed professionally and academically is its own reward, Cayer says.

“The reality of mentoring is that it is the result of being there for students,” he says. “Showing genuine interest in students leads to a natural mentorship relationship.”

MacKinnon's tenure in the ASU Department of Psychology spans 17 years. He believes his role as a mentor is to channel the student's talents and gifts in a way that is best for the student, while always respecting the student's life goals.

“My golden rule as a mentor is to treat students with respect, as I would like to be treated,” MacKinnon says.

MacKinnon “embraces diversity in every way,” writes Marcia Taborga, a former doctoral-degree student who is working in a joint position at the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health and Children's Hospital. “Students who might have otherwise left graduate school flourished under Dr. MacKinnon's mentorship.”

“This year's candidates for the Outstanding Graduate Mentor award were all very impressive,” says Andrew Webber, associate dean of the Graduate College. “It is inspiring to read the stories from students who feel that their lives have been changed by a dedicated mentor. The service and dedication to students provided by the three awardees is truly outstanding.”

The full mentoring essay by each of the award winners, as well as statements from past winners, can be found online at the Division of Graduate Studies' Web site