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Dr. Ann L. Horgas

Associate Professor

UF Department of Adult and Elderly Nursing

2013-2014 UF Doctoral Mentoring Award Winner

I am humbled and honored to be nominated for the 2013-2014 Doctoral Dissertation Advisor/Mentoring Award. Mentoring PhD students is absolutely the best part of my faculty role, and I am delighted to be recognized for an aspect of my work that I enjoy so greatly. Mentoring is a dyadic process, and I have gained as much from working with PhD students as they have gained from me.

Over the past 13 years at UF, I have been actively engaged in a variety of roles related to PhD student mentoring and teaching. These activities have included the following: (1) direct mentoring of PhD Students as Supervisory Committee Chair, Co-Chair, committee member, and external member, (2) teaching PhD courses, (3) serving as training faculty on an NIH-funded, pre-doctoral T-32 in aging (2001-present), (4) serving as Coordinator of the PhD Program in Nursing Sciences (2007-2009), (5) serving as Chair of PhD Program Evaluation Task Force (3 times), and (6) serving twice on the UF Graduate Council. Through these various roles, I have interacted regularly and often with PhD students, and am very knowledgeable about doctoral curriculum, programs, policies, and student issues. In the College of Nursing, I have been instrumental in developing and implementing policies to enhance the doctoral education of our students (e.g., Mentoring Policy, Progression Exam Policy, Non-traditional Dissertation Policy) and supporting students (e.g., collaborating with our Dean to develop a PhD Fellowship Program). The depth and breadth of my PhD program-related activities demonstrates my commitment to doctoral studies and students.

Since joining UF in 2000, I have mentored a total of 25 PhD students at the University of Florida, and have chaired or co-chaired 12 dissertation Supervisory Committees. I am also mentoring 4 new PhD students who have not yet declared their Chair. It is important to note that doctoral students in nursing are mainly (although not exclusively) mid-career professionals who hold demanding positions as teachers, administrators, and clinicians. Thus, the majority of nursing PhD students pursue their doctoral studies on a part-time basis, and we admit a small class (typically < 10 students per year). The relatively low number of dissertations chaired reflects these facts.

Overall, my approach to mentoring can be characterized by three key words: (1)individualized, (2) supportive, and (3) rigorous. Individualized mentoring reflects the fact that each student brings a unique blend of strengths, weaknesses, experiences, goals, and life circumstances to the program. Thus, each student must be treated as an individual in order to capitalize on their strengths and experiences, help them overcome their weaknesses, and facilitate achievement of their goals. I invest time in getting to know all students in order to guide them in the most appropriate way. I help them to use their strengths, and to find and utilize resources to facilitate growth in other areas. As I work with doctoral students, I am cognizant of their personal issues and life circumstances, and I help them to problem-solve so that they can be successful in their academic work. For some students, this involves discussing issues of work-family-school balance, recommending organizational strategies, and/or imposing structure and deadlines to help them meet their goals; for others, it involves encouraging them helping them to set realistic timelines and work at a different pace. I challenge students to stay focused on their goals, and to develop strategies that will facilitate achievement. This approach has enabled my students to overcome personal challenges, some of which were very serious, and complete their PhD.

This individualized approach to mentoring means that I am very supportive to students. In my mentoring style, supportive means listening and understanding students’ issues and conveying concern, empathy, congratulations, and pride, when appropriate. Sometimes it means knowing when to push and when to back off. Other times, supportive means providing students with opportunities for professional growth. This entails co-authoring manuscripts and presentations, providing detailed feedback on dissertations and other written products, sponsoring students for awards and fellowships, mentoring in academic and professional protocol, and introducing them to other scholars. For instance, when my PhD students present at professional conferences, I always ensure that they are well prepared by reviewing and/or practicing their presentation in advance, strategizing with them about key sessions to attend, and introducing them to senior scholars in the field. This approach has facilitated job and post-doctoral placements for students, opportunities for collaborations, as well as students’ entrée into the scientific community.

Finally, I require a high degree of rigor in doctoral students’ work. I set the bar high for students, and then use an individualized and supportive mentoring approach to help them achieve it. I expect students to publish and present their work, and to conduct a high quality dissertation that is theoretically based and that contributes to the field. In order to help them develop these skills, I give them access to my data and encourage them to use it to gain skills in conceptualizing a problem, formulating researchable questions, analyzing data, and writing for publication. As a result of these efforts, my doctoral students have co-authored articles in high-quality journals, presented at prestigious conferences, completed post-doctoral training at major research institutions, and been hired as post-doctoral scholars and tenure-track faculty in major research universities.

In sum, I have demonstrated a long-standing commitment to doctoral mentoring and teaching at the University of Florida. I approach student mentoring with an individualized, supportive, and rigorous approach that helps them achieve their goals. The greatest joys in my academic career have come from mentoring and teaching PhD students. I thoroughly enjoy helping them to learn the rigors of research, discover the excitement that comes with developing their scientific ideas, and experience the satisfaction of conducting work that has the potential to positively impact people’s lives. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with outstanding PhD students at UF, and am honored to be nominated for this award.