Department of History
Recipient, Faculty Award for Outstanding Mentorship of GSIs

Background of the Award
Excerpts from the GSIs’ Nomination Letters

Background of the Award

Each spring graduate students are invited to nominate faculty members for the Faculty Award for Outstanding Mentorship of GSIs. Typically each nomination is supported by several GSIs who have worked with the honoree. The award, sponsored by the Graduate Council’s Advisory Committee for GSI Affairs and the GSI Teaching & Resource Center, is presented as a surprise in the faculty member’s classroom, with the GSIs and other departmental faculty and staff present.

David Henkin of History is one of the four faculty members who received the award in April 2015. Laura Stoker, professor of political science and chair of the Graduate Council’s Faculty Committee for GSI Affairs, presented the award plaque.

The excerpts below reflect mentoring activities that the GSI found especially effective.

Excerpts from the GSIs’ Nomination Letters

GSIs identified Professor Henkin’s trust in them as an important component of his mentoring style:

If I were to distill David’s mentoring style down to one word, it would be trust. From the beginning, David trusted GSIs to gauge the dynamics, needs, and assets of each of their classrooms. In one memorable one-on-one meeting that I had with David, I asked him for advice on how to handle a troublesome dynamic…Throughout our discussion, David communicated his trust in my capacity to address the problem effectively for the benefit of all students involved. That trust was crucial. It enabled me to address the dilemma at hand confidently and directly. More importantly, David’s trust compelled me to think of myself beyond the role of section facilitator or grader. He expected me, and all of the GSIs, to be teachers.

GSIs commented on Professor Henkin’s excellent guidance in helping GSIs facilitate productive discussions in their sections:

While David was always accessible and prepared to work through lesson plans and classroom scenarios, his biggest advice was to trust our ability to guide a discussion rather than engineer one. “Don’t think of the readings or the lectures as your material,” David told us in one of our first weekly GSI meetings. “Your students’ comments are your teaching material.” “Don’t play ‘what’s-in-my-pocket,’” David cautioned us, referring to the practice of asking questions with a desired answer in mind. Now, when I catch myself about to go fishing, I remember that creating a classroom culture of open-ended, productive discussion benefits as much from those questions that go unasked as those that get asked.

GSIs highlighted his valuable mentoring in the area of grading student:

David recognized that we would all be different graders and was supportive of our individual grading choices. However, he did offer rubrics that outlined the basic requirements that each answer must possess to receive a particular grade. David’s grading baselines and collaborative grading workshops ensured that students across sections were being graded as uniformly as possible, and that the GSIs had a supportive, structured, and democratic space in which to refine their academic assessment skills.

Additionally, GSIs expressed appreciation for the time Professor Henkin devoted to classroom observations:

We were all a bit surprised when he told us that he planned to observe at least one of our two hour sections. David viewed [the observation] as an opportunity to enter a unique intellectual landscape completely of the students’ (both undergraduate and graduate) own making. After visiting my own section, David helped me untangle knots that I had not addressed that semester: how to direct a certain student’s digressions toward the topic at hand, how to include another who hesitated often, and above all how to mold a common question in which everyone would have a stake. Overall, his visit to my section empowered me to continue challenging myself to make my section discussions as inclusive, creative, and beneficial as possible.

The GSIs conclude by saying:

Professor David Henkin’s creative, compassionate, and authentic approach to teaching and mentoring provided members of the History 7A GSI team with a superb pedagogical model to consult as they embark on their careers as educators and pedagogical leaders.