On May 20, at the culmination of a long weekend devoted to celebrating the achievements of graduating Yale students across the university, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences awarded a total of 1,363 degrees. Of these, four-hundred and six were Ph.D.’s, three-hundred and eighty-one were M.Phil.’s, and five-hundred and seventy-six were Master’s degrees. This was Yale University’s 318th commencement and the Graduate School’s 158th.
Graduation is also an opportunity to reflect on the importance of student-faculty relationships. This year, for the twenty-first time, the Graduate School honored faculty members at Convocation for their exemplary qualities as mentors. Earlier in the spring, graduate students had the chance to nominate faculty from their departments for the Graduate Mentor Award, which recognizes faculty members who have been exceptional in their support of the professional, scholarly, and personal development of their students. It is the University's principal award for superb teaching, advising and mentoring of graduate students. The award is given to a professor in each of the three academic divisions in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
In the Humanities, the Graduate Mentor Award went to Inderpal Grewal, Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and of American Studies. As one student wrote in a nomination letter, Grewal is “…an inveterate advocate for her students, many of whom feel out of place in their respective disciplinary ‘homes’… She is one of those rare mentors equally at ease advising dissertations on topics ranging from modern art to Palestinian displacement.” In a speech accepting the award, Grewal described the myriad challenges facing the humanities in a rapidly changing world, but concluded on a hopeful note. “I have faith in these students to think, to struggle and to keep working in innovative and collaborative ways,” she said. “I welcome what these students will give us and am excited by what possibilities they will create.”
Professor of Geology and Geophysics, Maureen Long received the award in the Natural Sciences. One of her students wrote that “as an advisor, Dr. Long makes it clear that her students are her top priority. At scientific meetings, Dr. Long would promote my work to her colleagues, ensuring that I was well known when it came time for me to apply to jobs… [she] is an unequivocal role model for women in science.” On the subject of her award, Long wrote that she was “…truly delighted to be recognized with one of the Graduate Mentor Awards this year. When I learned that fourteen of my current and former advisees wrote in support of my nomination, I couldn’t believe it. I’m so grateful to them, and it makes this award so meaningful to me. Working with graduate students is absolutely one of my favorite parts of my job, and it’s really special to be recognized for that work.”
In the Social Sciences, Phillip R. Allen Professor of Psychology, Jennifer Richeson received the award. In a nomination letter, the atmosphere in Richeson’s lab was described as a “communal atmosphere,” and “an environment where each individual feel supported in their work.” One student wrote that “she is incredibly encouraging and validating of the efforts we each make, while continuing to push us to reach beyond obvious answers.” When asked for comment about her award, Richeson extended thanks to her students and to her own mentors.
“This mentoring award is incredibly meaningful for many reasons! First, you have to be nominated by your students! I know how busy they are, so if they took the time to do this, they must really want to acknowledge me in this way,” she wrote. “Also, I was so lucky to have an amazing Ph.D. mentor who made such an impact on my development as a scholar. It is nice to know that my efforts to pay it forward, so to speak, are appreciated!”
Sean Blink, Website and Social Media Fellow