Department of Mechanical Engineering
Recipient, Faculty Award for Outstanding Mentorship of GSIs

Background of the Award
Statement of Mentoring Philosophy

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 is sponsored by the Graduate Council’s Advisory Committee for GSI Affairs and the GSI Teaching & Resource Center. Prof. Pruitt received the award in 2009.

Lisa Pruitt’s Statement of Mentoring Philosophy

I am fortunate to have had great mentorship throughout my whole life. In my earliest years, my father instilled in me a sense of life-long learning, inquiry, and a love for science. My mother and father both created an environment where anything was possible — I never had a sense that there was something that I could not do if I set my mind to do so. At an early age I learned that everyone has a unique gift to offer. My sister is an extraordinary teacher and I am always inspired by her devotion to educational development and innovation within the classroom. She is truly a role model to me. I am certain that my passion for education and learning is grounded by the guidance and support that I received from my family.

As I continued into college I was mentored and guided by several devoted faculty members who helped develop me into a researcher and educator. It was in graduate school that I first served as a graduate student instructor. I was privileged to work with an extraordinary professor who provided an equal sense of excellence in the laboratory and in the classroom. He brought such passion and enthusiasm into his courses that it was nearly impossible to not be motivated by the subject matter of his lectures. These experiences have provided my pathway into teaching and education. My mentors have provided me with some guiding principles that I use in my own mentorship philosophy. In particular, I try to bring forth a sense of passion, leadership, and respect for diversity when I am working with graduate students instructors.

Passion: We must have passion for teaching and we need to bring our excitement and energy about our lecture topics with us into the classroom.

Leadership: We are each responsible for our selves and we lead by example. We must bring our best self forward in everything that we do. As faculty we provide the framework and environment for learning. If we expect the best from our graduate student instructors, our undergraduate students, and ourselves then that is what must be offered.

Respect for Diversity: We have to appreciate the uniqueness and special qualities that we each offer. Everyone learns and processes information differently — we must find an educational path that is inclusive and not exclusive.

In teaching with graduate student instructors I aim to respect each individual for their unique offerings and to provide them with a framework for developing their unique teaching styles within the classroom. Successful development of a course in which undergraduates students are actively learning is facilitated by the excellence of our graduate student instructors. Berkeley graduate students are scholarly, motivated and committed to excellence. Many of these students are natural teachers and only need a structured environment in which they can blossom.

In my teaching at Berkeley I have always tried to work with my own doctoral students in the classroom as I consider these students to be my extended family. In working together for a number of years rather than only a few months we are able to work as a team and develop our teaching skills together. I am highly motivated by the energy that graduate students bring forward to the educational process. I often think that I learn as much if not more from them as they do from me. I try to lead by example and I am always open to new ideas that are offered by my graduate student instructors.

In providing mentorship to graduate student instructors I try to provide an environment that allows them to develop as educators and future faculty. Working with graduate student instructors to create a successful course in which everyone is valued and everyone is motivated by the learning process is one of the most rewarding aspects of being a professor.

Thank you again for this wonderful award — and many thanks to the graduate student instructors who have made this all possible.