Department of English
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.

Steven Justice of English is one of two faculty members who received the award in April 2017. Jeffrey Reimer, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering 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 note the excellent ongoing support Professor Justice provides GSIs throughout the semester:

“As a GSI mentor, Professor Justice was both incredibly generous and rigorous in terms of the supports offered to GSIs. He met weekly with all of his GSIs as a group for the first half of the semester, then as needed during the rest of the semester. He did this in order to give us as first-time GSIs a chance to debrief about our respective discussions sections and troubleshoot pedagogical or subject material issues together, such as how to get students comfortable reading Middle English or what kinds of questions students seem interested in, and to provide an overview of the material that would be covered that week.”

They highlight, in particular, the exceptional guidance and mentorship Professor Justice offers his GSIs in assessing student learning:

“These meetings also served as workshops for essay topics that each GSI would create and then assign their section…This gave us insight into the planning and timing needed to prepare student assessments. In addition to these meetings, he would also require us to attend norming sessions for grading papers, in which we brought pre-selected papers of differing quality to standardize grading and feedback for students. In addition, Professor Justice had clear, consistent standards for grading that are both easy for GSIs to follow and easy for students to understand and consider. He also gave us the important advice to minimize marginal comments, because they are not only time-consuming to write but actually distract students from higher-order conceptual issues.”

His GSIs appreciate the fact that Professor Justice’s mentorship is structured yet flexible, allowing GSIs to develop their own approaches to fostering student learning:

“He taught us what he believed were the most effective tools that he himself uses when approaching selection of lecture material, time management inside and outside of the classroom, and responses to student writing. Yet he also allowed us to try out and develop our own teaching styles and subject matter expertise within our discussion sections, including giving us the freedom to create our own discussion section agendas and essay topics that best fit our students’ interests.”

They also highlight their appreciation for the individualized feedback Professor Justice provides through classroom observations:

“He observed each GSI near the end of the semester and gave detailed feedback about strengths and weaknesses of the GSI’s public speaking skills, mastery of material, and management of student engagement. All of this was framed as constructive criticism since he also gave tips about how to develop the weaker teaching skills over the course of the graduate teaching career.”

GSIs summarize the impact of Professor Justice’s mentorship in the following way:

“His generosity, commitment, and expertise as a mentor to first-time GSIs has contributed centrally to our development as teachers and educators, both here at Berkeley and in future careers.”