Skip to main content

Outstanding Doctoral Mentors named for 2014-2015

Three Outstanding Doctoral Mentors 2014-2015
September 29, 2014

Graduate Education at Arizona State University has named three professors as Outstanding Doctoral Mentors of 2014-2015: Alfredo Artiles, associate dean of academic affairs in Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College; Sethuraman "Panch" Panchanathan, professor in the School of Computing Informatics and Decision Systems Engineering and senior vice president in the Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development (OKED); and Pamela Swan, associate professor in the School of Nutrition and Health Promotion.

In nomination letters from current and former doctoral students, the trio are lauded for their generous commitment to their students despite daunting schedules of their own. The mentors frequently include their graduate students in research grants and as co-authors on numerous published papers and journal articles.

Students also levied praise for the mentors’ encouragement toward autonomy and independence, providing the skills to be professionals in their chosen careers, instilling them with high values and standards, welcoming them into the scientific process of research and writing, unwavering support and enthusiasm, as well as empowering their mentees with a desire to excel.

Each awardee has a special gift for mentoring students from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds, those with disabilities, underrepresented minorities, international students and women.

“These three exceptional faculty members exemplify the commitment and caring of a great mentor,” says Andrew Webber, vice provost for Graduate Education. “They attract and inspire students from around the world. As educators, it may be one of the most positive services we can provide.”

Alfredo Artiles – associate dean of Academic Affairs, Ryan C. Harris Endowed Professor of Special Education, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College

Educational opportunities are essential for all learners, believes Artiles, but most so for vulnerable children and youth. Those with behavioral disorders, learning disabilities and ethnic minority English learners often do not have the social or economic opportunities to acquire the quality education they need.

Artiles has led an interdisciplinary research group for the last 10 years that includes graduate students and junior faculty from multiple disciplines – such as education; applied linguistics; justice studies; English; women and gender studies; Native American studies; and speech and language disorders – hat aims to advance the education of vulnerable learners.

“Dr. Artiles’ reputation attracts top graduate students from across the country,” says Ida Malian, a professor and associate dean of faculty at the Teachers College. “As a result, the PhD program in language, literacies and technology is now a highly competitive national doctoral program.”

In addition to obtaining more than $13 million in grants, Artiles also received numerous awards and accolades for his work. He was named one of the most influential Hispanic academicians in the nation by the Hispanic Business Magazine in 2011 and was selected a Residential Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University in 2008. President Obama appointed Artiles as commissioner of the President's Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, where he has served from 2011 to the present.

Artiles has been an adviser to the Civil Rights Projects at Harvard University and UCLA, the National Academy of Education, the Council for Exceptional Children, the Southern Poverty Law Center and numerous projects at universities in the U.S., Europe and Latin America. He speaks nationally and internationally on issues related to educational equity.

“I invest in understanding what students bring to learning environments,” says Artiles, “their theories, knowledge, past experiences, understandings and misunderstandings of education and its power as the quintessential social mobility tool.”

Pamela Swan – associate professor, Exercise Science and Health Promotion Program; director of interdisciplinary doctoral program in Physical Activity, Nutrion and Wellness, School of Nutrition and Health Promotion

Swan’s research interests include the impact of exercise on obesity and chronic disease. While inviting students to co-author research grants and articles, she also encourages students to explore subjects in which they have the most passion, even if they differ from her interests.

“Providing the structure to move toward more independent work is an essential aspect of mentoring students who will become the next generation of leaders in the fields of physical activity, nutrition and wellness,” says Swan.

As a doctoral mentor, Swan has worked to increase diversity in her field. She displays remarkable sensitivity for the needs of minority students, and developed a flexible program to help them stay in college despite challenges.

“A key measure of the effectiveness of a doctoral mentor is the career trajectory of the students after they leave the program,” says Linda Vaughan, director of ASU’s School of Nutrition and Health Promotion. Swan’s former doctoral students have gone on to postdoctoral positions, professorships, research scientists and industry positions.

Swan has held office, performed committee service and maintained active membership in several professional organizations such as The Obesity Society, Valley of the Sun YMCA Community Program, the American College of Sports Medicine and both the Rocky Mountain Chapter and the Southwest Chapters of the American College of Sports Medicine.

She has served as interim chair of the Exercise and Wellness Department and has served on ASU Faculty Senate Committees such as the Committee for Academic Freedom and Tenure (CAFT) and the Governance Grievance Committee (GGC). She has been the director of the interdisciplinary doctoral program in Physical Activity, Nutrition and Wellness in the School of Nutrition and Health Promotion for 12 years.

“As my doctoral chair, Dr. Swan not only guided me technically as a student, but as a complete person understanding the needs for total development as a future professional,” says Jenelle Walker, a faculty associate in ASU’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation. “I was allowed to explore my true research interests while still receiving strong mentorship and direction.”

Sethuraman "Panch" Panchanathan – senior vice president, Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development (OKED); director, Center for Cognitive Ubiquitous Computing (CUbiC); professor, School of Computing Informatics and Decision Systems Engineering, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering; Foundation Chair of Computing and Informatics

Panchanathan, or “Dr. Panch,” as he prefers to be called by his students, investigates numerous technologies, including ubiquitous computing environments for enhancing quality of life for individuals with disabilities; health informatics; multimedia computing and communications; haptic user interfaces, which add tactile sensations to phones and wearable devices; media processor designs; and others.

His six-pronged approach to mentoring students is formed by the influences of inspiration, intellect, innovation, interdisciplinary, independence and impact. “I strongly believe that graduate student mentoring is not only about the emphasis on hard skills such as being a strong technical leader and making innovative contributions to the field,” says Panchanathan, “but also about having the opportunity to acquire soft skills such as leadership, independence and an entrepreneurial mindset.”

“Dr. Panch takes a personal interest in each of his students,” says John Black, a research scientist in CUbiC. “He has an infectious enthusiasm about learning and research that quickly draws his students into the research process.”

Many of his mentees are now in leading positions in industry and academia. Students are often co-investigators on his more than $37 million in awarded grants. An ongoing National Science Foundation Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (NSF-IGERT) project offers four year fellowship awards to doctoral students to augment their doctoral program with disability research, education and training to become leaders in person-centered technologies.

In addition to many honors and memberships in prestigious organizations, he has been appointed to the U.S. National Science Board by President Barack Obama. He was elected a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors for his outstanding inventions with an impact on quality of life, economic development and the welfare of society.

With CUbiC, Panchanathan created the iCARE project designed for individuals who are blind or visually impaired. The project won the Governor’s Innovator of the Year for Academia Award in 2004. The software design for the iCARE Note-Taker Project also won first place in the U.S. and second in the world finals for the Microsoft Imagine Cup 2011.