Four faculty members honored for excellence in mentoring graduate students

May 25, 2016 3 p.m.

Four Princeton University faculty members have been named recipients of the Graduate Mentoring Awards by the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning and will be honored during the Graduate School's Hooding ceremony Monday, May 30, on Cannon Green.

They are Michael Celia, the Theodora Shelton Pitney Professor of Environmental Studies and professor of civil and environmental engineering; Harriet Flower, a professor of classics; Kenneth Norman, a professor of psychology and the Princeton Neuroscience Institute; and Lawrence Rosen, the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Anthropology.

The mentoring award recognizes Princeton 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. The award honors faculty in each academic division (engineering, humanities, natural sciences and social sciences) and includes $1,000 and a commemorative gift.

Celia, who also is director of the Program in Environmental Engineering and Water Resources, joined the Princeton faculty in 1989 and focuses his research on subsurface hydrology and energy systems, including carbon dioxide sequestration and shale gas. Students characterized Celia as dedicated to their intellectual growth, working one-on-one with them for hours and even on weekends. One student said that Celia "truly embodies what it means to be a mentor" and "will sit with you for no matter how long to go over problems and work them through with you step-by-step until you can explain it back to him." Celia takes time to help graduate students with their research or to find housing, and is consistently "deeply empathetic, motivating and solution-oriented." Students noted "the respect with which he treats all of his students and colleagues," and that Celia "expresses trust and confidence in his students' abilities and fosters a feeling of partnership rather than a hierarchical relationship." Celia encourages students to take advantage of the research opportunities and resources available to them at Princeton. Several said that Celia primarily inspired them to pursue engineering graduate degrees and careers, with one writing that Celia's "helpful and thoughtful advice has been and continues to be an important factor in my career decisions."

Flower joined the Princeton faculty in 2003, where she studies Roman history and religion. Graduate students described Flower as an inspiring instructor and mentor who sets "the highest standards for herself and for her students." Another student described Flower as "the standard to which I aspire as a teacher," while one called her "a model of intellectual generosity, professional guidance and personal support for her graduate students." Students wrote that Flower's support transcended their time at Princeton. "Harriet made a point to say that our relationship was by no means coming to an end at graduation," one wrote, while another wrote that Flower's "combination of attentiveness, compassion and pragmatic advice has left me confident that I will be able to fall back on her support for the rest of my career." Another student wrote that Flower's "key quality as a mentor is her dedication to creating a professional network for her students." Flower was commended for being "an ideal role model for her female graduate students, an exemplary scholar and teacher who does not shy away from discussing her experiences as a working mother if she thinks that doing so will help or encourage." Another student with children wrote that Flower's "encouragement — as well as her frank and no-nonsense tips on how to manage the work-life balance — have been invaluable to me in keeping my forward momentum and sense of purpose."

Norman came to Princeton in 2002 and uses computational models to understand how learning and memory occur in the brain. One of his students noted how "deeply and constantly he engages with our problems," and Norman's "utmost commitment to his role and to the advancement of everyone he mentors, from undergrads to postdocs." Students recalled Norman guiding them through research, career and personal struggles, with one writing that Norman "not only is the best mentor I have had in academia, but also one of the kindest, most dedicated people I have met." His lab is described as "buzzing with intellectual life," one where aspiring researchers are regarded as "rising scientists and [are provided] with challenging projects of their own." He regularly meets with the people in his lab and exhibits a genuine interest in their research. Norman is a diligent scientist with an "extremely strong moral compass, including on issues of scientific integrity," who inspires those under him to balance their work and personal lives. One student wrote that Norman "gives me tremendous faith that success in academia does not go hand-in-hand with sacrifice in those areas of life whose value is immeasurable."

Rosen, who joined Princeton's faculty in 1977, is an anthropologist and lawyer who studies the social and legal implementation of cultural concepts, particularly in North Africa. Rosen has impressed students with his intellect, humor, advice, inclusiveness and generosity. He is "an institution unto himself within the Department of Anthropology, and his reputation among the undergraduates as an engaging teacher is perhaps only eclipsed by the view of him by many graduate students as a devoted mentor and thought-provoking interlocutor," one student wrote. Another student said that Rosen is "the scholar and mentor I endeavor to emulate," while another said Rosen "connects with students as colleagues and as friends and has not been known to refuse to provide help to anybody on any occasion." Rosen engenders an "intellectually generous atmosphere" that inspires confidence and participation. He understands that "student success requires their physical, emotional and intellectual well-being, which may require unexpected kinds of support," be it advice about publishing, or his own computer or furniture. "His old desk from law school days is our dining room table to this day, which we have continued to cherish as a link to a person who made our Princeton experience a warm and well-rounded one," a past student wrote. Rosen, a former student concluded, is "someone who has so sincerely and selflessly dedicated his life to his students and to being a teacher as much more than a scholarly endeavor, but a most pure humane, altruistic act of care for others!"