Sociologist Receives UC Davis Award for Grad Student Mentoring

Portrait photo
Vicki Smith

Recognizing the vital role of faculty mentors, the UC Davis Academic Senate recently honored Vicki Smith, professor and chair of the Department of Sociology, for “outstanding commitment” to the success of graduate students.

Smith received the 2016 Distinguished Graduate Mentoring Award from the Academic Senate Graduate Council’s Graduate Student and Postdoctoral Scholar Welfare Committee during a ceremony at the Student Community Center on May 23. The award comes with $1,000.

Five graduate students and a Ph.D. alumna nominated Smith for the award. They expressed “immense gratitude” for her help in weathering the long journey toward a doctorate — from their first days as students to their entry into the job market.

They praised Smith for connecting them with research opportunities, giving insightful feedback on their work, launching a dissertation writing group, providing a role model through her ethical and academic standards and offering a compassionate ear.

“Vicki is an excellent mentor, providing amazing intellectual and career support and guidance,” Brian Halpin, a Ph.D. candidate, wrote in their nomination letter. “I believe this deeper level of mentorship has been instrumental in ensuring my successful transition from applicant to researcher to professional colleague.”

The graduate students also attested to her commitment to mentoring students from diverse backgrounds.

“I could not ask for a better mentor than Vicki Smith,” said doctoral student Carmen Fortes. “Her high ethical standards, professionalism, knowledge, and above all, her compassion make her an example of all that’s best at UC Davis.”

Parul Baxi, Ph.D. ’15, a lecturer in the sociology department, said Smith gave her the encouragement she needed “whenever I lost momentum, restoring my faith in my project, and provided much needed inspiration to keep moving forward.

“I feel extremely fortunate to be able to say that Vicki Smith was my mentor during my time at UC Davis as a graduate student,” Baxi said. “Knowing her and working with her is one of the most treasured and cherished experiences of my graduate years.”

— Kathleen Holder, content strategist in the UC Davis College of Letters and Science