2015 Mentor Awards

Byron A. Alexander Outstanding Graduate Mentor Award

Nyla Branscombe – Psychology

Left to right: Mea Benson; Chris Goode; Nyla Branscombe; Nader Hakim.

Branscombe Profile

Many students, past and present, stepped forward to nominate Nyla Branscombe for this award. Branscombe’s experience, knowledge, and reputation as a scholar – “She is a rock star at conferences” – enriches both her skills as an instructor and her ability to open doors for her students. She includes her students as co-authors on publications, uses her connections to help them gain postdoc positions, facilitates networking opportunities, and “shares the unspoken mechanics of the field, explaining details that would take years to uncover.” One student noted that her organization, clarity, and engaging style as an instructor “allows for a smooth transfer of knowledge from instructor to students.” Her teaching style not only inspires her students to push themselves academically, but also to be better instructors for their own students. Many of the students who nominated Branscombe echoed one student’s statement that “Dr. Branscombe has taught me that simply teaching what I taught last semester is not good enough. She inspires me to continue learning from and for my students so that each passing year I become more effective as an instructor than the previous year.” Her students also agreed that Branscombe’s personal characteristics allow her to be a first-rate mentor, noting that she is welcoming, thoughtful, honest, confident, and always displays an “unpretentious openness.” It is for these reasons that one graduate of the program noted that “I have continued to use her as an example when mentoring my graduate students.” It is also for these reasons that Branscombe continues to be a “wonderful mentor and colleague” to her many students.


John C. Wright Outstanding Graduate Mentor Award

William Matthew Gillispie – Speech-Language Hearing

Left to right:  W. Matthew Gillispie; Jim Mielke, Associate Dean for the Social & Behavioral Sciences; Kristine Latta, Director of COGA; Holly Storkel, Chair, Speech-Language-Hearing.

Gillispie Profile

William Matthew Gillispie’s impact on his graduate students started while many of them were still undergraduates when he prompted them to think about advanced study at the graduate level. It was in these early interactions that “Matt became my mentor, teacher, and life coach,” comments one student. His students strongly value his ability to recognize the aspects of their identities and lives that make their graduate experiences unique. One student expressed his gratitude for the ways in which Gillispie helped him bridge his studies and cultural identity by drawing his attention to how the two connect. In addition to his skills as a teacher and mentor, Gillispie’s students find great inspiration in his accomplishments and drive as a scholar. He serves as a “prime example of what it looks like when passion, knowledge and community outreach come together.” His passion extends well beyond his own scholarship through his recruitment and mentoring of Native American graduate students and the guidance he provides to all of his students through his availability, prompt critical feedback, heartfelt interest in their wellbeing, and encouragement to acknowledge and trust their own abilities. All of the students nominating Gillispie acknowledged their great fortune in being able to work with a mentor who encourages them to build their own identities as scholars and professionals, while also helping them to find a balance between their personal and professional lives. One student summed up the overall sentiments of those who nominated Gillispie in stating that “he has never told me how to think or how to say something, rather he has taught me to be self-directive by encouraging my innovation, independence, and creativity…It is a very powerful thing when someone like this believes in you.”


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