Congratulations to Dr. Stephanie Leitch who has received the 2020-21 Florida State University Graduate Faculty Mentor Award! Administered by the Graduate School on the basis of student nominations, this award recognizes faculty mentors whose commitment to excellence in graduate education and mentoring have made a significant contribution to the quality of life and professional development of graduate students at FSU. Only five of these highly competitive awards are given each year.
Unlike the graduate teaching awards, which are determined exclusively from student feedback, the graduate mentor award requires a letter from the department chair outlining the nominee’s work with graduate students throughout the years. Regarding the success of Dr. Leitch’s students, Art History chair Dr. Adam Jolles writes, “Astonishingly, three of the seven doctoral students she has directed were awarded Fulbright full-grants—among the most coveted international research fellowships—for yearlong research in Germany. Of her three doctoral alumni, two have obtained tenure-track positions. They have done so in no small part through Dr. Leitch’s teaching and advising, and also because she has advocated so passionately for them among her distinguished network of peers.” He also describes her research collaborations and engagement across the discipline, support and review of student grant applications, and her drive for FSU to join the Newberry Center for Renaissance Studies Consortium, through which Dr. Leitch’s students have participated in conferences and workshops, one of which led to a compelling dissertation topic.
Dr. Leitch’s high expectations are matched with encouragement—her kindness was a particular comfort as I prepared for my comprehensive exams and while navigating the complications of writing a dissertation in the age of COVID-19. She is a model of excellence, balancing her own research, writing, and busy schedule of presentations and publishing with mentoring her graduate students.
Her ideas were fascinating and original, and her course allowed me to strive for new ways of understanding the material in my own research. I would eventually go on to join the doctoral program in 2015 and her encouragement has opened up a number of opportunities to research abroad and present my findings at multiple conferences. In addition to her help and attention to my professional development, Dr. Leitch has also been an amazing mentor. She has seen the potential in ideas that I have often overlooked and always encourages me to go beyond what I think is possible.
I was privileged to take five courses with her and also serve as her Teaching Assistant for two undergraduate courses. In each, her mastery of the material and engagement with the students was consistent and enlivening. Her ability to share her knowledge with humor and grace is truly remarkable and I aspire to emulate her in the classroom and with students. While her achievements as a researcher in her field are numerous, she remains the most accessible and genuine professor I have had the pleasure of working with.
Most importantly, however, Dr. Leitch has a rare skill of developing a strong community with her doctoral students. Dissertation writing can feel extremely isolating at times, but Dr. Leitch is constantly in touch with her current and past students (no matter where in the world we are). Her enthusiasm for her students’ research is infectious and she has encouraged us to create our own cohort, proofreading and reviewing each other’s work. Through her mentorship she has laid the foundation for career-spanning research partners and friends. She is most deserving of this award!