UBC Reports | Vol.
51 | No. 6 |
Jun. 2, 2005
UBC’s Inaugural Graduate Mentorship Awards
By Hilary Thomson
Commitment, consistency and continuity are the hallmarks
of a successful mentoring relationship, according to two faculty
members who have received the inaugural Killam Graduate Mentorship
School of Nursing Prof. Joan Anderson and Creative Writing
Prof. Emeritus George McWhirter have been honoured for outstanding
performance by faculty members in mentoring graduate students.
The award is based on sustained mentorship of many students
over many years.
Anderson, who joined UBC in 1975, says she’s never
thought of herself as a mentor, but has always enjoyed the
process of reciprocity and sharing ideas with students.
“The best relationships are those where students are
willing to have their ideas challenged. I challenge them and
they challenge me,” says Anderson, who was instrumental
in developing one of Canada’s first doctoral programs
in nursing. “If they’re ready to explore, I can
be a guide. When the student is ready, the mentor will appear!”
She cites Prof. Emeritus Roy Turner, of the Dept. of Anthropology
and Sociology, as being an outstanding mentor when she was
completing her own PhD at UBC.
“He shifted my thinking. It was transformative learning
-- painful but exciting,” she says. Anderson’s
research interests include the socio-cultural context of health
and illness; gender and health; and health and public policy.
She was named a 2003 Distinguished UBC Scholar in Residence
at UBC’s Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies.
In addition to the satisfaction of watching her students
succeed, Anderson is particularly proud when her students
demonstrate they are “good academic citizens.”
“I get a tremendous sense of satisfaction when students
show a sense of social responsibility and a commitment to
social justice and civility. That is what brings us together.”
George McWhirter has mentored students in the Dept. of Theatre,
Film and Creative Writing for 35 years and served 10 years
as head of the department. This year, he won UBC’s Sam
Black Award for Education and Development of the Visual and
Also a UBC alumnus, McWhirter agrees with Anderson that
mentoring is both a “learning and a leading” process.
He says he has tried to take the best from his own mentoring
experiences and “put it together for others.”
One of his students has said, “George guides without
chastising, teaches without patronizing, and hopes without
The so-called writers’ temperament isn’t a particular
challenge to his mentoring, he says, since most people in
academia are passionate about their work. He believes a writing
workshop is not much different from a laboratory, where things
are tried, challenged and explored.
“I try to keep the student focused on the work, not
their feelings -- or my feelings -- about the work.”
McWhirter mentors students who write plays, poetry, prose
and are involved in literature translation. Over the past
six or seven years, his students have been nominated for and
won the Governor General’s Award for poetry. They include
winners, Stephanie Bolster and Roo Borson, and prose writers
Terrence Young and Tammy Armstrong, who were both nominated
for Governor General’s awards for books they worked
on with McWhirter.
“When you see them establish themselves as the literary
entity you saw in the embryo phase -- that’s very satisfying.”
The Killam Fellowships and Prize programs were established
in memory of Izaak Walton Killam, a Canadian financier whose
estate has provided substantial bequests to higher education
initiatives in Canada.