Giddens, Ono garner Eleanor Main Awards for mentoring excellence

By Melissa Gilstrap | Emory Report | May 16, 2017

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Laney Graduate School Dean Lisa Tedesco (center) poses with Eleanor Main Graduate Mentor Award winners Michelle Marie Giddens, a PhD graduate in neuroscience, and Ken Ono, Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Mathematics.

Professor Ken Ono and 2017 PhD graduate Michelle Marie Giddens are the recipients of this year’s Eleanor Main Graduate Mentor Awards. The awards, established in 2015 by the Laney Graduate School to recognize graduate faculty and graduate students for mentoring excellence, are presented annually during Laney’s commencement celebrations.

“Every year, I am amazed by the quality of the nomination pool for these awards,” says Lisa Tedesco, dean of the Laney Graduate School. “Mentorship plays a critical role in student progress and success, and that is particularly true in graduate education. Recognizing faculty and emerging scholars who are setting the standard — particularly during commencement when our community is celebrating the culmination of the graduate student experience — is an important and visible indicator of the importance we place on mentoring in the Laney Graduate School.”

For Ken Ono, Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Mathematics, receiving this award is a testament to his own mentors.

“I was a terrible student. Without superb mentors who saved me from myself, I would never have amounted to much," Ono says. "I actually wrote a book last year called 'My Search for Ramanujan,' and it is a gift to my mentors who helped me find my way and gave me confidence in my lowest moments.”

For Giddens, a 2017 PhD graduate in neuroscience, the award is one of her proudest achievements.

“To know that my mentees, peers and advisers thought me deserving of this award is truly meaningful," she says. "I am fortunate to have had so many wonderful mentors to emulate, and I am certain that my success is a direct result of their excellent examples.”

Ono and Giddens received these awards because they are excellent mentors. But beyond the recognition of their own mentoring successes, both praise the value that the Laney Graduate School places on mentoring.

“Mentorship is an essential component of Emory’s success both in the classroom and in the laboratory,“ says Giddens. “I think that every opportunity to acknowledge, support and advocate for mentoring of any kind is important.”

Ono agrees. “Mentoring students of all ages is one of my life’s true passions. Everyone needs help. It is not possible to exceed without help," he explains. "In this way, mentors play an important role for graduate students. They inspire. They teach. Mentors buoy students and foster self-confidence. Acknowledging this work is important, and I will forever cherish this honor.”

Honoring Eleanor Main's legacy

The mentor awards are named in honor of the late Eleanor C. Main, who joined the Emory faculty in 1969. During her time at Emory, Main served as chair of the Department of Political Science, director of the Division of Educational Studies, acting dean of Emory College, interim dean of the Laney Graduate School, associate dean of both the College and Laney Graduate School, and associate vice provost for graduate studies. She was also a recipient of the prestigious Thomas Jefferson Award, which honors Emory faculty or staff who have significantly enriched the intellectual and civic life of the Emory community.  

“Dr. Eleanor Main was an outstanding leader at the Laney Graduate School and Emory University,” says Tedesco. “She was wise, passionate and generous with her time and support of graduate students and fellow faculty colleagues. We believe that recognizing outstanding mentoring at the student and faculty levels is an appropriate way to honor Dr. Main’s legacy and bring additional visibility to the importance of mentoring in graduate education.”