Dr. Lori Pennington- Gray


Department of Tourism, Recreation & Sport Management

2016-2017 UF Doctoral Mentoring Award Winner

Philosophy of a Mentor

The greatest reward of being a faculty at a research intensive institution is working with and mentoring doctoral students. Mentoring doctoral students is a commitment beyond time and place, it transcends the 9-5 workplace and enters into an ongoing relationship. Bring a mentor entails “developing a personal relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person in a process” (Widipedia.com).  According to Bozeman & Feeney (2007), mentoring is “a process that always involves communication and where informal transmission of knowledge, social capital and psychosocial support is provided by the “mentor” to the “mentee.”

Successful mentorships can lead to mutually rewarding lifelong friendships between mentors and mentees. I am fortunate that I have sustained three lifelong friendships which have come out of academia, one at the undergraduate level, one at the Master’s level and one at the doctoral level. I dedicate my respect for mentoring to each of these individuals. My master’s thesis advisor is my closest relationship. Our personal friendship has surpassed our professional relationship however we continue to collaborate on research projects, publications, presentations and other personal projects and events. It is from these relationships that I base my philosophy about doctoral student mentoring. I have only positive experiences to base my philosophy on and such I engage in my relationships with my doctoral students in a similar fashion to which I was mentored.  

Overall, I subscribe to the “friendship/team building” model of mentoring. This style includes: (1) maintaining open communication, (2) building trust, (3) supporting each other’s interests, (4) inspiring academic rigor, and (5) inspiring curiosity.

Maintaining Open Communication

My personal philosophy is that an effective relationship requires an open door policy. I use this philosophy with my doctoral students. Interestingly, this goes beyond merely “keeping my door open” to my office, it means sharing personal cell numbers which allow for texting at anytime. In fact, my doctoral students and I communication almost on a daily basis either through personal communication, email, texting or “WeChat” (a Chinese IPhone ap).  My doctoral students are members of a collaborative team that allows for academic and personal cooperation. Furthermore, I adopt a mentoring approach among my own doctoral students; whereby, the most senior doctoral student is responsible for helping me guide, council and train more junior doctoral students. This allows for better communication among the team. Interestingly enough, the process is even adopted for students who have graduated and are now in the workforce. The still continue to mentor the more junior students even from afar.

Building Trust

Trust is essential for an effective relationship. However, building a trusting relationship requires sufficient time and dedicated effort. Honesty is at the core of trust. Therefore, I have adopted a style which allows for two-way communication and transferring roles. I recognize that many times the doctoral student can assume the role of “teacher” and that they need to trust that I am accepting of that role. Thus, it is important that I communicate my trust in their abilities on a regular basis. Being honest about their abilities is one way that the know if they are achieving the goals they have set for themselves.  I am honored that I have had an opportunity to take a “back seat” on a grant or presentation, because I trust that my students will deliver a quality product.  

Supporting Each Other’s Interests

Different mentors have different philosophies about working with doctoral students. I am open and honest about my dedicated research line related to tourism crisis management and share that with potential students prior to accepting them. Negotiating clear expectations will help the relationship run smoothly and help each partner achieve his or her mentoring goals.  Thus, I recognize that within this vast research area there are a multitude of topics. I am open to explore new untapped research areas within tourism crisis management, some include food borne illnesses, cruise tourism, crime and terrorism impacts to destinations, as well as hotel crises to name a few.

Inspiring Academic Rigor

Mentors should encourage rigorous independent work and offer autonomy and assistance to facilitate the research process. I believe that striving to meet the challenges that a faculty member at a research intensive university would meet is a reasonable goal for my mentees. Thus, I expect that each of my doctoral students will accomplish the following: prepare a research grant and submit for funding, publish multiple journal articles with at least half in premier journals, present at the premier conferences globally and teach at a quality level. My last PhD student published eleven journal articles as a PhD student, ten of which were in “A” journals. With regard to service, I expose my students to reviewing manuscripts submitted to top journals as well as serving on department committees whenever possible. I believe that a realistic view of a faculty position is the most effective way to communicate expectations for their future. Finally, when the time comes, I am extremely active in assisting my students in the job placement process given that is a new and exciting chapter in their lives.

Inspiring creativity

Finally, I believe the role of a mentor is to inspire creativity which is lifelong. The quest for knowledge should not begin and end with the doctoral program; it should be a life endeavor. I believe that leading by example is one way for doctoral students to be creative. My love of the field and my career is reflected in my daily enthusiasm and commitment to the industry.  It is sharing this love which I hope will inspire my students to search for the next meaningful study.

Evidence of Effectiveness of Mentoring

Since joining UF, I have chaired 11 PhD dissertations (6 completed), and served on 15 additional Ph.D. dissertations committees in the departments of TRSM. All of the Ph.D. students, for whom I served as a chair, are employed in academic positions after successfully completing their degree requirement. In particular, as a result of my effective mentoring, my students have been placed in quality academic institutions (e.g., University of SUNY- Buffalo, University of Hawaii at Manoa, University of Northern Colorado, Black Hills State University, Bowling Green State University and University of Indiana) in tourism programs as well as Hospitality programs.  I have been actively engaging in advising for numerous international graduate students as a faculty advisor and committee members. For this effort, I received 2011 International Educator of the Year award (senior faculty category) and 2012 Doctoral Dissertation Advisor/Mentor Award from HHP. So far, out of 81 peer reviewed journal articles, 52 are co-authored with students and students were lead author on 32 of them.


When I look back over my career a large portion of my contribution will be to those who I have had the opportunity to work with. More importantly, the legacy of my career will carry forward beyond my tenure with my doctoral students. I feel privileged that we will forever be bound together. I believe that success is defined by my students’ success, and like a proud parent it gives me tremendous pleasure to watch them grow and blossom and create impactful careers of their own. With pride, I look forward to continuing to work with doctoral students. Their successes inspire me. In conclusion, I am deeply humbled as well as honored to be nominated for the University of Florida’s Doctoral Dissertation Advising/Mentoring Award.