By Cheryl Reed
The WSU Graduate School has awarded Associate Professor Phyllis Eide the 2017 Graduate School Mentor Academy Award for Excellence for her work in mentoring graduate students. Eide has been a faculty member in the College of Nursing on the WSU Spokane campus since 2002, and a member of the Graduate School Mentor Academy since 2009.
“When I found out I had won the award, I just about fell off my chair,” said Eide. “I am gratified beyond belief. It is one of the highlights of my year.”
The Graduate Mentor Academy is a group of faculty who have volunteered to assist students during the most challenging aspects of their program, including preliminary examinations and defenses. The Graduate School established the Graduate Mentor Academy to provide students an unbiased and supportive presence during exams and defenses—someone to ensure that university policies and procedures are followed and correct protocol is observed. For example, Mentor Academy faculty will collect ballots, make sure that no committee member leaves during a defense, and assist in creating a comfortable test environment for the student.
“Logistically, taking exams and defending can be very difficult for students,” says Bill Andrefsky, dean of the Graduate School. “People in the Graduate School programs department rely on faculty mentors to step up and serve students as advocates, either upon the student’s request, or for a student’s second exam attempt. Dr. Eide is one faculty who has always willingly served graduate students over the years—which is why I established this award last year. Faculty need to be recognized for their service.”
Faculty members volunteer for the Graduate Mentor Academy upon invitation from the Graduate School, and serve for a three-year term—although their term is often renewed.
“Dr. Eide mentored nine different students on two different test retakes this year,” says Mary Stormo, academic coordinator in the Graduate School. “She also met with committees and assisted in negotiating the swirling waters around students who were taking their exams for the second time. She helped work out the exam kinks with the department to ensure that fair testing was in place.”
Eide says that her presence at exams and defenses usually has a calming effect on the student, but that is not her only purpose. She also takes care of other more concrete tasks of the exam and defense process to make sure the process is comfortable and as stress-free as possible.
“I always arrive early to coordinate with the chair,” she says. “At the last event, I contacted the IT Department to make sure that all the technology was working correctly to prepare for electronic testing.”
In spite of the time commitment, Eide says that serving the students has been an honor.
Eide is an associate professor in the WSU College of Nursing in Spokane. She has been certified by American Nurses’ Credentialing Center in advanced practice nursing as a clinical nurse specialist in community health since 1992 and holds a certificate in Decision Making for Climate Change from the University of Washington (2010). Before entering academia in 1992 at University of Hawaii/Hilo, she worked in a wide variety of community settings, including positions in public health, migrant school nurse, Associate Director of Hawaii Nurses’ Association, and vocational rehabilitation. Her primary practice and research interests are rural health, global climate change, and public health.
“It takes a village for this kind of work,” says Eide, who plans to use the Graduate Mentor Academy award to fund her new research on climate change.
Eide will receive her award at the Graduate School Evening of Excellence event on April 13. This is the second year that the Graduate School has awarded the Graduate School Mentor Academy Award for Excellence. In 2016, Lisa McIntyre of the Department of Sociology won the first annual award.