2016 Mentor Awards

Byron A. Alexander Outstanding Graduate Mentor Award

Paula Fite – Clinical Child Psychology

Paula Fite, fourth from the right, with Jim Mielke, Associate Dean for the Social and Behavioral Sciences; Kristine Latta, Director of COGA; and her students.

Fite Profile

In the short time that Paula Fite has been with the Clinical Child Psychology program,  she has been known among her students as an exceptional “instructor, research mentor, co-author, and clinical and teaching supervisor.”  Among the many current students and graduates who nominated Fite for this award, all expressed a deep appreciation for her eagerness to learn about their interests and help them develop educational and career trajectories that allow them to pursue their goals.  One aspect of her mentoring that students feel exemplifies her investment in their success as both students and scholars is her insistence that they take credit for their work.  This has led to many co-authored publications as well as encouragement to submit first-author works.  Fite also acknowledges when she has limitations in being able to provide students with the experience and guidance they need.  As such, she will regularly supplement her mentoring by networking her students with other professionals in the field.  Additionally, Fite helps her students be successful by encouraging and monitoring their “engagement in self-care.”  She helps them learn and adopt strategies for reducing stress and fatigue, time management, and establishing a work-life balance.  To encourage engagement in self-care, she provides one-on-one guidance, hosts lab social events, and “is a stellar example of balance” in her commitment to both her work and her family.  Overall, students find in Fite someone who is “extremely bright, motivated, and successful,” as well as “a kind mentor and a genuinely good person” who is “authentic, hardworking, and compassionate.”  It is for these reasons that they enthusiastically nominated her for this recognition.

Don Haider-Markel – Political Science

Don Haider-Markel, center, with Kristine Latta, Director of COGA; Jim Mielke, Associate Dean for the Social and Behavioral Sciences; and his students.

Gillispie Profile

 For the students of Don Haider-Markel, he serves as a valued “teacher, advisor, mentor, and friend.”  Among the students who nominated him for this award, all feel that he is a stellar example of what a mentor should be.  For those who have graduated and became professors themselves, he also serves an inspiration for how they would like to mentor others.  In fact, it was clear in the letters of support for his nomination that Haider-Markel’s role as a mentor is not limited to the time in which students fall under his pedagogical supervision.  As one student put it, “Don does not stop mentoring students when they graduate; he continues to be a central figure in our professional development.”  He assumes this role early in their graduate careers, taking the time to learn about students’ research interests, encouraging early engagement in research and writing, helping students network with alumni, challenging them to hold high expectations for themselves, and making it clear that he is always available when they need his guidance.  While they are in the program, he also emphasizes the importance of presenting and publishing their work, encouraging them to see the value of communicating their research to others.  For these students, this resulted in Haider-Markel either co-authoring publications with them or helping them plan and finalize manuscripts for submission.  One student remembers the first time Haider-Markel showed him that student contributions are valued when “he quietly put my name and the name of my graduate colleague ahead of his on the article.”  When the student asked why he had done this, Haider-Markel simply stated that “he wanted my colleague and me to get recognition for our work, and to take responsibility for the ideas, arguments, and conclusions.”  This was an experience that was shared by many others who nominated Haider-Markel for this award.  For this and the many other ways Haider-Markel invested in and encouraged their success, they will always value his role in their lives.


John C. Wright Outstanding Graduate Mentor Award

Omri Gillath – Psychology

Omri Gillath and Jim Mielke, Associate Dean for the Social and Behavioral Sciences.

Gillath Profile

From their first meetings with Omri Gillath, it was clear to his students that he is driven by a genuine desire to understand their goals and help them succeed.  All of the students who nominated Gillath feel that this dedication to his students is evident in the sheer amount of time he devotes to them.  They all note their gratitude for the fact that his door is always open and he is ready and willing to give quick feedback when they need it most.  One student summarized the sentiments of his peers, stating that Gillath “is always available to help no matter what day or time, he is always available and genuinely wants to help.”  They also emphasize that he provides this support while also challenging them to expect more of themselves.  Gillath carefully calibrates a “balance between providing warm nurturing support and challenging his students to reach their potential” and “discover and learn things on their own.”  Among the international students who wrote in support of Gillath’s nomination, there is an additional appreciation for the time and effort he puts into helping them integrate into the KU community.  These students spoke of the difficulties they faced when transitioning to life in a new country and how Gillath invested time and energy in making sure they felt like part of a larger family.  He did this by introducing them to other students and providing opportunities for socializing outside of class.  For all of his students, Gillath also stresses the importance of integrating into their academic field, encouraging students to network with other researchers, present their work at conferences, and engage in service opportunities early in their graduate careers.  For all of these reasons and for being “an enthusiastic, ambitious, and practical researcher who greatly motivates [students] to keep pursuing the truth and the complexity of the human mind,” Gillath’s students felt that he deserved recognition for his outstanding mentorship.


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