Professor John Battles receives the 2013 Graduate Student Association's Faculty Mentor Award

May 15, 2013

The 2013 ESPM Graduate Student Association's (GSA) Faculty Mentor Award was given to Professor John Battles for his commitment to mentoring and helping graduate and undergraduate students succeed.

In announcing the award during the GradFest Symposium in early May, GSA president Lauren Hallet gave the following statement:

This year’s faculty mentor award recipient has a philosophy that a lab group is a home, where labmates prepare each other to meet academic challenges, celebrate each others’ successes, and support each other in hard times. His dedication makes this simple model highly effective.

His students hit the ground running. From the beginning he asks students for ideas and helps them plan summer research well in advance, and he readily offers financial support for early graduate work. Throughout he actively engages in his students’ research, even when “active engagement” involves donning chainsaw chaps and a hard hat to saw logs in the hot summer sun. From letters of recommendation timestamped at 5 am, to car rides filled with research questions, to reliable and rapidly returned edits on manuscript drafts, he is committed to helping students succeed.

His students admire his academic and personal integrity. He leads by example, and is unafraid to speak up and take action when these standards are not met by others. Academically, he maintains rigorous practices for error-checking and quality assurance of data; he advises his students to preemptively discuss authorship before beginning manuscripts. He has a strong moral compass and a sense of obligation to confront difficult or awkward situations, ensuring that his students feel comfortable and productive in his lab.  He makes it abundantly clear that he values his students as both colleagues and as people – and has been incredibly flexible as their lives have grown to include families and children of their own.

This faculty mentor’s commitment to mentorship extends far beyond just his lab. As a teacher of both 201c and 100ES, he makes the time and effort to provide all students with meaningful mentorship. In the example of 201C, he has vastly increased its utility to PhD students by incorporating conversations with ESPM graduates in many careers. He also redesigned the course expressly to meet graduate student needs. The course now offers detailed criticism of grant proposals, and a competitive review process that actually awards grants. Simultaneously, more advanced PhD students are offered experience in panel reviews and critical academic service; opportunity and training that would not be available without his dedication to mentorship.

Finally, this mentor also provides extraordinary support for undergraduates who are interested in exploring the research and teaching paths of graduate students. One undergraduate recalled that this mentor spent hours teaching and helping him interpret results, concluding that “due to his ability to make science less intimidating through his friendly disposition, he has truly impacted my scholastic and professional goals.” Another recalled, “When I expressed a desire to be an Undergraduate GSI for 100 ES, he immediately drafted a proposal and provided me with the opportunity to test out the life of a student instructor. This opportunity allowed me to work closely with current graduate students and gain practical experience in teaching.” These anecdotes are just a handful of the many instances in which this mentor fosters the intellectual curiosity of his students and inspires them to continually strive for self-improvement.

In case you haven’t guessed it yet, the 2013 GSA faculty mentor award goes to John Battles. Across the board, John is recognized as an advocate, supporter, and role model, and it is a pleasure to recognize his dedication to mentorship.