May 13, 2020

Every year Arizona State University Faculty Women’s Association recognizes exceptional mentors across the university with the Outstanding Faculty Mentor Award. This year, two social sciences faculty members from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences were selected for the honor. 

“Mentorship is an important part of the college experience and these two outstanding faculty members have shown the positive, long-lasting impact mentorship can truly have on students,” said Pardis Mahdavi, dean of social sciences. “They are deserving of this honor and I am proud they are a part of our community.”

Meet the award recipients, and learn a little more about what makes them outstanding mentors.

headshot of ASU faculty member Amber Wutich

Amber Wutich joined the School of Human Evolution and Social Change as an assistant professor in 2007 after initially coming to ASU as a postdoctoral student in 2006. Today she serves as the President’s Professor of anthropology, the director of ASU’s Center for Global Health and the associate director of ASU’s Institute for Social Science Research.

Wutich, who has won several awards for being an outstanding educator and mentor, is an anthropologist with two decades of community-based fieldwork that explores how inequitable and unjust resource institutions impact well-being, especially under conditions of poverty. Her focus on cross-cultural trends has led her to direct the Global Ethnohydrology Study, a cross-cultural study of water knowledge and management, as well as co-author the book “Lazy, Crazy, and Disgusting: Stigma and the Undoing of Global Health.”

As a teacher, Wutich offers courses and workshops in content analysis, grounded theory, theme identification, systematic coding and research design. In her courses and in her role as a mentor, Wutich strives to create positive change by inspiring students to realize their full potential.

“As mentors, we impact the world most directly through our students and through their impact on the world. I feel honored that students entrust me with the responsibility to help them navigate all of these paths as they complete their education. I’m delighted to have the chance to take on different roles when students need me to do so. Like a boss, I can teach professional skills and hold students accountable. Like a parent, I can nurture students’ curiosity and help them realize their full potential. Like a friend, I can listen and empathize and cheer students on. My favorite thing about being a mentor is the precious opportunity I have to influence and encourage students to change the world.”    

Wutich was nominated for the award by her students and colleagues. Graduate research associate Anaís Delilah Roque said Wutich’s mentorship greatly helped her on a path to success.

“Dr. Wutich is an outstanding mentor because she prioritizes her mentee's personal and professional development. She does this by keeping in contact with students like myself and adjusting our particular needs to be successful in academia,” said Roque. “As a student of color, where English is not my first language, and a first-generation in graduate studies, this is extremely important to me as her support allows me to thrive in this environment.”

headshot of ASU faculty member Tracy Spinrad

Tracy Spinrad is a professor at the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics and has been with ASU for 22 years. Her contributions to the field of family and human development focus on understanding the factors that predict children’s socioemotional development — with an emphasis on children’s effortful control and how individual differences in effortful control and emotional reactivity predict children's positive and negative developmental outcomes. In her current research, she focuses on children’s feelings of concern and helpful behaviors toward different recipients. 

Spinrad was previously recognized for her exceptional teaching in 2015 with the Zebulon Pearce Distinguished Teaching Award. Spinrad’s current graduate and postdoctoral students nominated her for the Outstanding Faculty Mentor Award, with the effort being led by Diana Gal-Szabo, a PhD graduate student.

“Tracy is truly an inspirational mentor who invests deeply in her students,” Gal-Szabo said. “She has always been there for me both professionally and personally as I navigated my PhD program. I can honestly say that I am a better researcher and human as a result of Tracy's support and guidance.”

After learning that her students had nominated her for the award, Spinrad said she felt overwhelmed and extremely touched to be nominated.

“These are really difficult times, and to be appreciated and honored in this way made me very emotional. My students deserve the credit. They are amazing, and I respect and appreciate them in return for this honor,” she said. “The relationships that I’ve developed with my students bring meaning to my work. It also brings me a lot of pleasure to see my students succeed in their careers and personal lives.” 

In her human development and research courses, and as a mentor, Spinrad said she strives to expand her students' knowledge on the subjects while allowing them to feel heard, valued and respected. 

“Being a faculty mentor is more about developing a partnership. I often think that my graduate students are more like future colleagues than mentees,” she said. “Sure, I can teach students the ins and outs of research with children, and I will challenge them — but they contribute to the learning process as much as I do. There is not one formula for every student, because everyone brings their own unique style, interests and personality to the table. I have also learned that sometimes, when faced with a question from a student, a simple ‘What do you think?’ goes a long way. It shows them that I value and respect their ideas — and often, their answers are more creative and thoughtful than my own.”

Top photo: Arizona State University's Tempe campus. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Emily Balli

Communications Specialist and Lead Writer , The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences