Distinguished Mentor Award

Graduate Student and Postdoctoral Scholar Distinguished Mentor Award

The Graduate School established the Distinguished Mentor Award in 2006 to honor and encourage the considerable efforts and accomplishments of faculty who have demonstrated exceptional commitment to the mentorship of graduate students and postdoctoral scholars. The Distinguished Mentor Award is for faculty from any discipline.

The award recognizes faculty who stand out for effectively guiding graduate students and postdoctoral scholars throughout their professional training in a continuing, multifaceted partnership sustained by mutual respect and concern. In addition, the award recognizes faculty who make a broad impact on mentorship by facilitating communities or building infrastructure for mentorship of graduate students and postdoctoral scholars.

2021 Distinguished Mentor Award Recipients

Dr. Lee Ellington

Professor and Robert S. & Beth M. Endowed Chair
College of Nursing

I am grateful to the many mentors throughout my career for believing in me and supporting my professional and personal growth. My mentors have inspired me and I find mentoring a very rewarding experience. My intention is to develop a deep understanding of all mentees—their goals, aspirations, what motivates them, and what challenges they believe they face. I have had the privilege to work with many students, post-doctoral fellows, and junior faculty. Each has been unique. I try to create an environment with scaffolding where they can reflect, create, reach and learn from mistakes. I believe there are times in mentoring relationships to be seriously focused on working towards a goal and times to laugh, have fun all the while still steadfastly focused on reaching a goal. I highly value helping mentees make connections with other mentors, potential collaborators, and to gain confidence in building and thriving in their emerging professional network. The greatest reward is to at some point “get out of the way” and watch in wonder at what they create and the challenges they successfully navigate.  I am continually learning how to be a better mentor from my mentees and from my colleagues. I am honored to receive this award and want to express gratitude to all the remarkable mentees who have impacted my life both personally and professionally.


Dr. Laurence J. Parker

Associate Dean, Honors College
Professor, Educational Leadership & Policy

College of Education

I believe that as faculty, the teaching, research and service we do at the University of Utah and in higher education overall, should be dedicated to high quality research mentoring and professional development at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. It is important for us to create and foster relationships with graduate students that will lead to research, teaching and community engagement career and life goals. This type of mentorship can take many forms, from formal meetings, to individual sessions, or to efforts to socialize graduate students and have them take intellectual ownership of their work. All of this with the purpose I have argued for which is that we must disrupt the normalization of student failure that has become too widely accepted and assumed in our K-12 schools, undergraduate and graduate education. Our mentorship must disrupt this norm.

One of my mentors William Trent at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign gave me valuable advice as I finished my dissertation and was soon about to begin my academic career as an assistant professor at Temple University. He said, “One of the purposes of being a faculty mentor is to eventually see your students do better than you. Then you will know you have been a good mentor.” I truly believe that all of the students I have worked with have indeed done this, and I am thankful and honored to have worked with them and look forward to creating future mentoring pathways with new students.


Dr. Wanda S. Pillow

Professor and Chair, Gender Studies