Skip to main content

ASU Graduate College announces 2020–21 Outstanding Faculty Mentors

February 16, 2021

On Feb. 22, four ASU graduate professors will be awarded the Graduate College’s Outstanding Faculty Mentor award — a 33-year old tradition in which the Graduate College recognizes the impact that faculty members have on their students through mentorship.   

Mentors are essential to the success of graduate students in both their academic pursuits and their professional careers, and faculty mentorship is one of the most important elements of the job of graduate faculty — and can be one of the most rewarding.

The Outstanding Faculty Mentor Awards mentors are given to all levels of faculty — tenured, tenure-track, non-tenure-track clinical, instructional and postdoctoral advisers — and are initiated by their graduate student and postdoctoral mentees.

Faculty mentors become “outstanding” when they invest time and effort into their mentees, offer personal support in addition to being an academic and professional resource and when they expand the knowledge, opportunities and capabilities of their students.

This year's awardees will be recognized at the Outstanding Faculty Mentor Awards reception at 1 p.m. Feb. 22.  

2020–21 Outstanding Faculty Mentors

Leah Doane: Associate professor and developmental area head, Department of Psychology

Leah Doane “wears many hats” within ASU’s Department of Psychology, according to her student nominators. 

In addition to serving as an associate professor and developmental area head, she is the lab director for the Adolescent Stress and Emotion Lab and a co-principal investigator for multiple research projects.  

Doane is the proud mentor of nine current and former doctoral students and over 300 current and former undergraduate research assistants.

While she juggles all these roles, Doane “still makes it a priority to provide both quality and quantity mentoring to each of her students by holding weekly one-on-one meetings,” according to Jeri Sasser, one of the PhD students who nominated Doane for this award. 

When Sasser’s original mentor retired unexpectedly during her freshman year, Doane provided her guidance, options and “emphasized the support I had from her and the department as a whole,” Sasser wrote in her nomination.

Sasser later asked Doane if she would take her on as her mentee. 

“She didn’t hesitate to say yes,” Sasser wrote. “Dr. Doane turned what should have been a devastating experience for a first-year student into the best situation I could have asked for. And she did so without hesitating.”

Mentoring students such as Sasser is a central focus of Doane’s role as an academic. 

“Much of my enthusiasm for research and scholarship comes from my lab community and the mentoring relationships I have with students in my lab, and beyond,” Doane wrote. “Mentoring is at the core of my academic identity as I believe that training and promoting emerging scientists is the best way to bring about discovery and change.”

Kristin Hunt: Associate professor, School of Music, Dance and Theatre

Kristin Hunt is an artist and scholar working in many fields such as theater, performance studies and drama-based pedagogy. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the performing arts, negatively affecting many of Hunt’s students. 

In their written nominations, several of Hunt’s mentees praise the patience, flexibility and encouragement Hunt showed them when classes were moved online and when quarantine kept them at home. 

“As the chair for my applied project this year, Kristin has been doing a great job helping me navigate the difficulties of planning a community performance event in light of current social distancing restrictions,” wrote Jillian Johnson, a master’s degree student studying theater for youth under Hunt. “She has encouraged me to stay positive and to trust that I can make needed changes and accommodations when the time arises.”

Additionally, her students admire that she encourages them to turn their love of art into research and, eventually, careers. 

“Dr. Hunt has taken the time and care to help me think through the ways in which my seemingly ‘extracurricular’ activities can exist within my academic goals and interests, opening up a whole new way of thinking about my work as an artist and a researcher,” wrote Allison St. John, another of Hunt’s theater for youth students. 

Hunt says her mentoring method is “simple in theory and nuanced in practice.”

“Over many years of our work together I continually listen, learn and reflect upon the ways in which I can best support each student’s intellectual and creative agendas,” she wrote. “This work is time-consuming and challenging, but it is also one of the greatest pleasures of being an educator.”

Kevin Wright: Associate professor and director of Center for Correctional Solutions, School of Criminology and Criminal Justice

Kevin Wright has developed numerous courses and programs at ASU and within the Center for Correctional Solutions in order to enhance the lives of people living and working within our correctional system. 

Wright believes incarceration can be reimagined as an opportunity to repair harm, empower people and promote public safety. By involving his students in this mission, he hopes to enhance their lives through empowerment, deliberate practice and service to others.

According to several of his student nominators, Wright is caring, inclusive, dedicated and concerned for and considerate of the personal lives of his students.

When PhD student Danielle Haverkate was dealing with a tough separation and relocation, Wright “made sure to consistently check in on me, provide support for my academic duties, and also give practical advice and support when it was needed.”

Additionally, Wright listens with respect to all ideas and opinions.

“Kevin recognizes and respects the opinion of others, regardless of their gender, race/ethnicity, culture, sexual orientation or criminal record,” Haverkate wrote. “He is open to hearing the ideas of all of his students and is consistently interested in important discussions revolving around our individual experiences and perspectives.”

Finally, Wright is attentive and involved in the work of his mentees.

“Dr. Wright shows up to every conference presentation his students give,” wrote Caitlin Matekel, another of Wright’s students. “He sends notes of congratulations for achievements big and small. He leads by example and lives mentorship in all he does.”

For Wright, mentorship is not optional; being a mentor to his students is a requirement. 

“I believe that the professional development of students should be a baseline responsibility for faculty and that true mentoring takes shape in providing the support and encouragement for students to create meaningful futures for themselves,” Wright wrote. 

Kelin Whipple: Professor, School of Earth and Space Exploration

Kelin Whipple has been a professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration for 15 years. His research is focused on the activity of the earth’s tectonic plates and how this activity is related to climate change.

Whipple is a knowledgeable and involved mentor in this field, according to Anna Grau Galofre, a postdoctoral exploration fellow in the School of Earth and Space Exploration. 

Whipple has assisted Grau Galofre in many of her postdoctoral projects and his help “has been key to my academic and professional development,” she said. 

However, it is not his academic or professional assistance that has been most impactful for Grau Galofre. Instead, it is Whipple’s commitment to inclusivity and his cultural awareness that has left the strongest impression. 

She first met Whipple in 2016 at the American Geophysical Union. After her poster presentation at the event, Whipple waited patiently for 30 minutes to discuss her work while another “rather disrespectful” professor was questioning her methods and results. 

“Upon introducing himself, he said 'You did a great job managing that professor's mansplaining',” Grau Galofre said. “I was impressed by Professor Whipple's forwardness and his recognition of the situation, which no other professor or researcher recognized.”  

Grau Galofre also appreciates that Whipple recognizes her Catalan identity — “Catalonia is a small region within Spain with its own language, social reality and a very active movement for independence,” Grau Galofre explained — and always refers to her as Catalan rather than Spanish. 

For Whipple, being a mentor is a role he prioritizes and is one that lasts a lifetime.

“My job is to enable and facilitate my mentee’s future success; the priority and focus is their research and their careers, not mine. My career benefits when I focus my efforts on their success,” Whipple said. “When I accept a graduate student or hire a postdoctoral researcher I see this as a lifelong commitment to mentoring and advocating as their careers advance and they face various decision points and challenges – just as my former advisers are there for me.”

Join the Graduate College in celebrating this year's Outstanding Faculty Mentors. Register for the virtual reception today.

Written by Emily Carman

More University news


Headshot of ASU Professor Matthew Martin

ASU and Governor's Office co-create programs for substance-abuse prevention, job training

Arizonans will have better access to substance-use prevention programs and job training thanks in part to a pair of…

February 26, 2024
Case family members perform at a concert to raise money for the James Case Scholarship.

College of Health Solutions scholarship honors speech and hearing professor

James Case loved teaching. Specifically, he loved helping develop future practitioners and teachers in the field of speech-…

February 23, 2024
Palo Verde Blooms

ASU professor earns Outstanding Postdoctoral Mentor Award

Arvind Varsani, professor in the School of Life Sciences, the Center for Evolution and Medicine and the Biodesign Center for…

February 22, 2024