2019 Mentor Award

Spencer Awards Inaugural Mentorship Prize


Winning Scholars Show How Mentorship Can Transform Lives and Institutions

The Spencer Foundation is pleased to announce the winners of its inaugural Spencer Mentor Award, designed to honor mentors who have enriched the lives, research, and careers of their students and colleagues and enhanced the field of education research.

This year’s winners are Brian Powell from Indiana University, Alfredo Artiles from Arizona State University, and Margarita Azmitia from the University of California, Santa Cruz. The award comes with a grant of $25,000 to support the awardees mentoring activities.

“The goal of the award is to emphasize that mentorship is not something extra that good folks do, but that it is a cornerstone of our field,” said Spencer President Na’ilah Suad Nasir at the 2019 AERA Annual Meeting, where she presented the awards. “The response to this new award was remarkable and frankly more robust than we imagined. …We are blown away by the quality and depth of mentorship happening across our field.”

This year’s winners exemplify what excellent mentorship looks like and how it can shape the kind of community that is possible in education.

Brian Powell is the James H. Rudy professor in the department of Sociology at Indiana University. He also is affiliated faculty in the department of Gender Studies and the Kinsey Institute. Professor Powell's research focuses on family, education, gender, and sexuality.

Dr. Powell’s nomination package highlighted that every person in his department--under-graduate, graduate, and faculty--have been mentored by him. His letters described his office as abuzz with students and intellectual conversation and noted that he is well-known for reading his junior colleagues’ work and supporting their efforts through feedback. Of particular note was how he managed to institutionalize his remarkable mentoring practices.

In 1995, he cofounded the Preparing Future Faculty Program which he continues to codirect. The program sponsors a certificate in college pedagogy for graduate students, a fellowship for graduate students who plan to pursue teaching careers in higher education, and an annual, campus-wide, professional development conference. To earn the certificate, students take a three-course sequence in pedagogy that Powell designed. The program has earned national recognition, receiving the American Sociological Association’s Distinguished Contributions to Teaching Award and inspiring a new campus-wide certificate in pedagogy.

Alfredo Artiles is the dean of the Graduate College and the Ryan C. Harris Professor of Special Education at Arizona State University. His scholarship focuses on understanding and addressing educational inequities related to the intersections of disability with other sociocultural differences, especially with respect to students of color.

Dr. Artiles’s nomination package highlighted the range of ways he has made contributions to the field, including being a scholar who leads by example and supporting students to make significant intellectual contributions.

Indeed, Artiles has mentored a long line of top-quality scholars, including scholars of color and scholars with disabilities. His students assert that he has the distinct ability to tailor his mentorship to the individual, understanding each mentee’s intersecting identities.  He does this in a way that brings what one letter described as “love, respect, and integrity.”

Each letter highlighted how Artiles has gone above and beyond, as a faculty member, then as Dean, in supporting students and faculty alike and creating space in the field for scholarship that asks critical questions about issues that matter in the lives of students and communities.

Margarita Azmitia is a professor in the department of psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She studies the social and cultural contexts of development, and more specifically, how youth negotiate their ethnic, gender, and social class identities in the academic and personal contexts of their lives. She does not simply study these issues, but also enacts them in her mentorship.

Her nomination letters indicated Dr. Azmitia is dedicated to promoting and developing first-generation college students and non-traditional students and creating spaces of belonging. They underscored that she is available to her students through her time, her feedback, her collaboration, and her care.

She also leads numerous programs on campus that create more spaces of belonging. She has demonstrated leadership in Psychology Field Study Program (sponsoring scores of undergraduates in service-learning placements in the community over the years); the Educational Opportunity Program (advising and support for students from underprivileged backgrounds); the Services for Transfer and Re-Entry Students (advising and support for re-entry students); the Student Success Evaluation and Research Center; and the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee (organizing educational events for graduate students and faculty).

In addition, she reaches beyond the university and models that behavior for her graduate students, mentoring high school students in programs such as Pathways to Research, Cultivamos Excelencia, and the Summer Internship Program.  Azmitia’s approach to mentorship is shifting what is possible for students and creating new pathways for young scholars.

 Congratulations to this year’s winners!


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