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Four honored for their work mentoring graduate students

From the May 8, 2006, Princeton Weekly Bulletin

Four Princeton faculty members have been named the recipients of Graduate Mentoring Awards by the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning and will be honored during the Graduate School’s hooding ceremony on Monday, June 5.

They are: Charles Beitz, professor of politics; Stefan Bernhard, assistant professor of chemistry; William Gleason, associate professor of English; and Paul Prucnal, professor of electrical engineering.

The McGraw Center, together with the Graduate School, instituted the award in 2002 to recognize Princeton faculty members whose work with graduate students is particularly outstanding. It is intended to honor faculty members who nurture the intellectual, professional and personal growth of their graduate students.

Graduate students nominate faculty members for the award and, along with faculty members, serve on the committee that selects the winners. One faculty member in each academic division (humanities, social sciences, natural sciences and engineering) is chosen. In addition to being honored at the ceremony, each receives a $1,000 award and a commemorative gift.

Beitz was once a graduate student himself at Princeton, earning a Ph.D. in 1978. He returned as a faculty member in 2001 and has focused his philosophical and teaching interests on international political theory, democratic theory, the theory of human rights and legal theory.

“The amount of time and consideration he puts into structuring his classes is incredible, and is reflected in how well-organized and clear all of his syllabi and lectures are,” wrote one graduate student in nominating him for the award. “He thinks very carefully about what will be best for the students, and how they can best learn. He conveyed the importance of this simply by his example to me and to the other TAs.”

Bernhard, who joined the Princeton faculty in 2002, teaches inorganic chemistry and conducts research on new materials that can be used to design and fabricate optoelectronic devices such as light-emitting diodes or photovoltaic cells.

“He is an exceptional leader and has proven to be highly adept at managing students and helping us maximize our potential,” wrote a graduate student. “Under his guidance, I have learned how to approach complicated problems and reach creative solutions. … He has further helped me prepare for a career in research by allowing me to write [manuscripts] on my own — even when he knew that it would be faster for him to write [them] himself, he understood the value of [my] acquiring such a skill and was incredibly supportive of my efforts.”

Gleason, a Princeton faculty member since 1993, specializes in 19th- and 20th-century American literature, American cultural studies and popular culture. In addition to teaching and advising graduate students in his capacity as a faculty member, he serves as the English department’s director of graduate studies.

“Whether or not students are officially ‘his,’ Bill takes an interest in their research, forwarding them relevant articles and calls for papers, and reading and commenting on their essays, prospectuses, chapters, conference proposals and fellowship applications,” wrote a graduate student. She added, “… Bill’s exemplary mentoring is a result of his genuine interest in and excitement about graduate students’ work. As a scholar who seems to derive much of his own intellectual energy from teaching and mentoring, he is a model to all of us of how the different aspects of professional life can inform and enrich one another.”

Prucnal, who joined the faculty in 1988, has taught courses in the areas of fiber-optic communications systems, quantum electronics and digital signal processing. His current field of research activity is optical networks.

“… my affiliation with Professor Prucnal has been extremely rewarding,” wrote a graduate student. “As both a student and teaching assistant, I have developed much respect for his commitment to teaching, as well as learned the important role the classroom plays in the research university atmosphere.” Another student added, “Paul Prucnal is the most important mentor and role model I have in my life other than my parents.”


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