Meet the 2018 award winners!

Distinguished Graduate Student Mentoring Award for Senior Faculty

Sara Beckman, Senior Lecturer and Teaching Professor

Haas School of Business and Department of Mechanical Engineering

Sara BeckmanDr. Beckman has established a spectacular record of teaching, curriculum development and mentoring since joining the faculty at UC Berkeley in 1988. She has won numerous teaching awards, including the Earl F. Cheit Excellence in Teaching Award in the Haas School of Business (four times), and the Distinguished Teaching Award at the campus level.

One colleague describes Dr. Beckman as a “mentoring artist,” who “has guided countless students through the intricacies of degree requirements, helped them identify insightful dissertation research questions, guided them in framing their research and mentoring them in professional career development.” Her colleagues and students uniformly praise her for “going beyond the call of duty expected of a research mentor or advisor.” For example, “she has served on over 100 qualifying committees, mostly in the College of Engineering. For much of her career, these activities were not an official part of her role at UC Berkeley and serve as a testament to her commitment to mentoring graduate students.”

She has become a mentor and hero to students and faculty who want to partner across these boundaries.” Above all, Dr. Beckman is inspiring: “Sara electrifies her students with possibility.”

She also took formal responsibility for advising two students of a colleague who died unexpectedly and “additionally took it upon herself to meet with the other graduate students and the postdocs to ensure they were receiving necessary support because she recognized how hard the loss was for the whole lab community.” See more about Sara in Haas News.

The nomination letters describe an impressive array of career development opportunities that Dr. Beckman provided for her students over the years, including offering critical feedback on how to frame grant proposals that were later funded, helping students secure postdoc positions, and offering sage advice on which job to accept. One former student expressed gratitude that Dr. Beckman persistently encouraged her to “come back and graduate” after withdrawing from the PhD program to take an internship.

Dr. Beckman’s interdisciplinary background and approach to teaching and mentoring were also noted by several writers as a particular strength: “She has become a mentor and hero to students and faculty who want to partner across these boundaries.” Above all, Dr. Beckman is inspiring: “Sara electrifies her students with possibility.” “[Her] unique role as a research advisor and mentor is that she is in the trenches with you. She digs into the details of research.” “She wants you to produce great research of the highest Berkeley standard, and because she is working alongside you to improve your work, she inspires you to drive forward beyond what you thought possible.

Distinguished Graduate Student Mentoring Award for Junior Faculty

Aila Matanock, Assistant Professor

Department of Political Science

Aila MatanockProfessor Matanock has distinguished herself as an outstanding mentor, instructor, researcher and role model since her arrival on campus in 2013. She has been exceptionally active as a direct mentor, serving on a large number of dissertation committees with students relying on her for a wide range of advice from the methodological to ethics.

The breadth of her mentoring across disciplinary and departmental boundaries was highlighted by colleagues and students. Her commitment to mentoring was evident even before she joined Berkeley, with one graduate student remarking, “we had a conversation during her job talk visit that led me to completely change my dissertation topic.” The same student states that “she had a tremendous impact on my intellectual development at Berkeley.” She is clearly an inspiration to her students, with one stating that she “always recognizes my potential and helped me go above and beyond what I thought I was capable of achieving.”

She encourages “us to look forward and think strategically about positioning ourselves for both academic and non-academic career opportunities.” 

More broadly, Matanock has, as highlighted by her colleagues, worked hard using “external grants, institutional reforms and service opportunities to foster an outstanding environment for Berkeley graduate students.” Her exceptional $2M in grant funding provides research work for close to a dozen students and numerous networking opportunities that the students all highlight as being critical to their success.  She has been active in graduate administration in the department, pushing forward numerous rule changes that her colleagues state “will make the students readier for their future roles as scholars.”.

A number of her students highlighted her role in driving their careers with one emphasizing that she encourages “us to look forward and think strategically about positioning ourselves for both academic and non-academic career opportunities.” Moreover, she has an exceptional record as a graduate instructor with her own outstanding project-based graduate seminar on Civil Conflict and International Intervention, alongside a very influential seminar on research and writing that has become “the backbone of the program.” In the time she has been on campus, she has clearly had a major impact on a large number of students. As one student states, “the political science graduates are extraordinarily lucky to have her among them.

Carol D. Soc Distinguished Graduate Student Mentoring Awards, established in 2007, recognize UC Berkeley faculty for their vital role in mentoring graduate students and training future faculty. The awards are funded by the Graduate Division and seek to foster the qualities of excellence in mentorship that are so important to the Berkeley community.Winners are honored annually at an awards ceremony jointly sponsored by the Graduate Assembly and the Graduate Division.

The Graduate Mentoring Awards Ceremony will be held on Thursday, April 12, 2018 from 4-6 pm at Anna Head Alumnae Hall. We hope you will join us to celebrate mentorship at Berkeley and to honor the recipients of these awards.