Mentorship is among the most important factors in the development of graduate students. Successful mentors challenge students to grow intellectually, provide personal support and guidance during their studies and help prepare them for careers as scholars.
In honor of his storied contributions as a mentor to doctoral students of history, Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra, Alice Drysdale Shefield Professor of History, has been awarded the 2018 Nancy Lyman Roelker Mentorship Award from the American Historical Association.
Established in 1991 in tribute to Nancy Lyman Roelker (1915–93), the award honors those in the field of history who have taught, guided and inspired their students in a way that changed their lives. It is given out every three years, and Cañizares-Esguerra is the ninth advisor in the nation to receive the award.
Cañizares-Esguerra joined UT Austin in 2005, following positions at the University at Buffalo – State University of New York and Illinois State University. During his career, he has served on 25 dissertation committees and as chair of 19 dissertations, and worked with countless students and early-career scholars from across the globe—many of who have become leading scholars in their fields.
He was nominated for the award by a group of current and former students and colleagues, including doctoral student Kristie Flannery, University College London Lecturer Chloe Ireton (Ph.D.’18) and Institute for Historical Studies Postdoctoral Fellow Adrian Masters (Ph.D.’18).
Additionally, his application was supported by dozens of letters from former students, early career scholars and current and former colleagues.
“Jorge’s students have had remarkable success in securing internal and external grants, prestigious predoctoral and postdoctoral fellowships and tenure-track jobs, even in a context of a dwindling and punishing job market,” said Flannery, Ireton and Masters in a joint nomination letter. “Part of that success is undeniably the effects of the broader community of committed scholars that Jorge has nurtured and the time that he dedicates to reading and critically evaluating drafts upon drafts.”
They note that Cañizares-Esguerra is known for mentoring students with a wide variety of interests—including history of the Pacific, Atlantic, Europe, Africa and the Americas—and for encouraging students to go beyond the often narrow concerns of particular historical subfields.
“There are two crucial roles mentors play in someone’s junior career,” Cañizares-Esguerra said. “Mentors introduce mentees into professional networks that otherwise would take mentees decades to cultivate, and mentors guide mentees into getting peer review publications in top tier presses and journals. My responsibility is to stimulate folks into thinking big, daring, challenging new ideas.”
His nominators also noted his support and guidance for students during times of financial difficulty, illness and changes in their personal and family lives. Cañizares-Esguerra said he has no formula for mentorship, and that his approach varies for each student.
“Mentorship is a profoundly personal relation,” he said. “Each individual mentee is as world onto herself. For every shy mentee there is another that is extrovert and self-assured. Both will be stimulated and humbled by the challenges of professionalization and life itself.
“Honest communication on weakness and strengths should not be paralyzing or inebriating. The experience of failure often is as formative as the experience of success. The loss of self-confidence is just as bad as the lack of humility. Either way, I prompt mentees into taking intellectual risks while sheltering them from making the wrong professional decisions.”