Tim Sweet, Eberly Family Distinguished Professor of American Literature in the Department of English, has been named the recipient of the Faculty Award for Distinction in Graduate Research Mentoring.
Jointly sponsored by the Office of Graduate Education and Life and the Research Office, the award was created in the 2018-19 academic year to honor faculty who have demonstrated exceptional commitment to the mentorship of graduate students.
“The criteria for this award includes 12 examples of how one might be an excellent mentor,” said Associate Vice President for Creative and Scholarly Activities Melanie Page, who co-coordinated the selection committee with Micalyn Stump, program director for graduate academic affairs at OGEL. “All of the semifinalists are excellent, so to win you have to be the best of the best. What set Sweet apart was his focus on individualized mentoring as well as the success of his students. Sweet reads as many drafts as a student needs and meets them where they are to get them to heights they did not even know were possible.”
In his career, Sweet has mentored 14 doctoral students, many of whom have won national scholarly awards. He also designed a workshop course to help students turn dissertation chapters or seminar papers into journal articles that he teaches annually as a voluntary overload.
“Mentoring, in turn, leads to mentoring,” Sweet said. “Mentoring is finally about helping each other move forward.”
This mentoring philosophy and approach have resulted in his own students now winning outstanding mentoring awards, continuing to pay it forward. In addition, Sweet believes that “students discover their strengths at different times and develop at different rates.”
For him, this means equally supporting a student who moves through their doctoral program in four years as to one who takes a leave of absence to support a family and comes back years later to finish.
He also prepares and welcomes his students to pursue their passions whether they be in a traditional academic career like his or in non-teaching careers in academe or nonacademic careers.
According to his former students and current colleagues, this approach works. One of his letters of recommendation from a student stated, “It is not an exaggeration to say that I would not be where I am in my career today without the guidance and mentorship of Dr. Timothy Sweet. Moreover, I would not be mentoring students of my own with the same depth of compassion and joy were it not for his example.”
Another student said, “One of the first things that graduate students learn from Dr. Sweet is that research and inquiry are incredibly active — living, breathing, and surprising — processes where we not only get to challenge the limits of our chosen disciplines, but also the limits of our chosen selves.”
One of his colleagues wrote, “Of the primary metrics for this award, I don’t see a single category in which Tim does not excel. Comments from Tim’s current and former graduate students reveal a common theme: Tim’s belief in them allows each person to do more than he or she initially thought possible.”
The Distinction in Graduate Research Mentoring Award, which the University awards
annually, requires nomination from current and former graduate students, faculty
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