USC Davis Faculty Members Recognized for Exemplary Mentorship

The University of Southern California has honored two USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology faculty members with Mellon Mentoring Awards for their extraordinary dedication to and support of their students.

Professor Christian Pike and Assistant Professor Tara Gruenewald were recognized during a ceremony on April 13, 2015. Pike was awarded for his work with graduate students.
“Mentoring, like parenting, is a partnership with evolving roles. It requires ongoing investment of time and energy,” Pike said. “With any luck, your graduate students mature into true peers and collaborative partners that find success both within and outside the world of science.”

Recognition of his mentorship is simply an acknowledgment of his students’ excellence, he added.

“I use the skills Christian taught me every day, whether it be writing, setting up a research study, or mentoring my researchers,” said Emily Rosario, a 2007 PhD in Neuroscience graduate who wrote a letter in support of Pike’s nomination; she is now the director of the Research Institute at Casa Colina Hospital and Centers for Healthcare. “He is a gifted, brilliant individual who has chosen to share his talents in such a way to foster [his mentees’] success. You could not ask for more in a teacher and mentor. I still look to him for advice and feel so fortunate to have his continued mentorship in my life.”

Gruenewald, awarded for her work mentoring undergraduate students, said she felt honored to be recognized by her students and colleagues as an exemplary mentor.

“Mentorship is a vital resource for thriving in academia, or in any field,” she said. “My achievements and my ability to function effectively in the professional realm are due in no small part to those that have provided concrete assistance and advice, as well as guided by example. I hope that I can compensate in some small way for the many gifts of mentorship I have received by paving the path forward for others.”

She said the most important aspects of mentorship are identifying mentees’ goals and helping them devise a plan to capitalize on their strengths and available resources to achieve their goals.

“In my opinion, Dr. Gruenewald represents a mentor that any student would be lucky to have, as she is a person who incessantly works to ensure the academic success of all of her students,” said Shivanti Kariyawasam, BS Human Development and Aging ’15, MS Gerontology ’16. “It is truly a blessing to have someone who cares so much about your future, and having this mentoring relationship with a faculty member was something that I never thought I would experience before coming to USC.”

Several Davis School faculty members have also previously won Mellon Mentoring Awards: Assistant Professor Sean Curran (undergraduate mentoring, 2012); Vice Dean, Director of the Ethel Percy Andrus Gerontology Center, and James E. Birren Chair in Gerontology Kelvin Davies (graduate mentoring in 2010 and undergraduate mentoring in 2011); Associate Professor Susan Enguídanos (graduate mentoring, 2012), Merle H. Bensinger Professor of Gerontology Bob Knight (graduate mentoring, 2005); and Mary Pickford Foundation Professor of Gerontology Kathleen Wilber (graduate mentoring, 2007).