Sidebar of "Deep Impact"
Associate Professor Julia Henly appreciates the School’s close relationships between faculty and Ph.D. students, who are matched with an adviser on day one. “Most of us have a pretty informal relationship with our doctoral students. The relationship is one of imparting knowledge but also a two-way interaction,” she says. “We’re not just about teaching skills, but we’re also here to support them more holistically in their education and their careers. The relationships that faculty and students develop are often pretty strong, long-lasting ones.”
Henly’s approach to advising has helped her win the recognition of her peers and doctoral students by becoming the first faculty member to be honored with SSA’s inaugural Award for Excellence in Doctoral Student Mentoring.
The diverse interests of SSA Ph.D. students can make mentoring a challenge, says Henly, whose current students are studying everything from permanence in the child welfare system in the U.S. to social networks among street children in Bangladesh. “I can’t possibly be an expert in all these topics,” she says. “So in addition to the topical areas, you have to think, how can I be helpful with the theoretical toolkit or methodological toolkit students will use?”
In addition to giving back, mentors learn plenty themselves—and they have a blast, Henly says. “It’s fun to learn from students about things you don’t know very much about,” she says. “Because my students are so diverse, I get to know at least a little bit about areas I wouldn’t know anything about.”