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Dr. Danelle Stevens-Watkins’ passion for mentoring has been recognized with the 2014 Kentucky Psychological Foundation’s Outstanding Graduate Mentor Award.

As an assistant professor in the UK College of Education, she works with students in the Department of Educational, Counseling and School psychology. She always tells students if they are willing to go the extra mile, so is she.

“Among students, she is most known for her unparalleled mentorship style – a style that incorporates long-term career goals, professional development, and virtually around the clock assistance,” said first-year doctoral student Joi Sheree’ Knighton. “Largely due to her guidance, many students have been exposed to amazing opportunities to conduct research with nationally representative data sets, present at conferences, and co-author several peer-reviewed publications.”

photo of professor receiving award

Dr. Danelle Stevens-Watkins (right) with first-year doctoral student Joi Sheree’ Knighton.

Stevens-Watkins believes accessibility is crucial in the mentoring process and is known to respond to emails and phone calls from students at all hours.

“I will never forget the day I interviewed for the Ph.D. program at UK and Dr. Lynda Brown-Wright gave me her cell phone and home phone numbers and told me to call her with any questions I had when I was deciding on Ph.D. programs,” she said. “I was hesitant to contact her because I had never received this type of accessibility to a professor, but I did contact her and we have had and continue to have countless conversations – sometimes weekly – throughout my matriculation through the program and now as a professor. She has demonstrated to me that mentoring is a life-long process and I have adopted this philosophy and share it with my own students.”

Stevens-Watkins encourages students to develop a “team of mentors” in which there is someone they can call upon throughout their lives to help navigate personal, political and professional dilemmas.

As for her teaching philosophies, Stevens-Watkins is known for having high expectations for students and provides very direct feedback.

“I believe there is a difference between students that may lack the skills needed to complete an assignment verses a student that is unwilling to utilize the resources that have been provided and put in the time to present their best work. For example, if I find myself making more than three or four comments in the margins after only getting to page two of the assignment, I will return the assignment to the student. I learned the importance of good writing from the late Dr. Bill Stilwell, Professor Emeritus, who would not accept papers from students if the paper had indefinite pronouns. While, at the time I felt it was harsh, his rules forced me to become a better writer.”

Her commitment to the quality of her students’ work often sees immeasurable rewards in the end.

“I take the profession of counseling psychology very seriously and I instill in my students that their competency can enhance the lives of others or their lack of competency could actually do harm,” she said. “What has been most rewarding is watching students that may have initially struggled, being open to receiving feedback and putting forth the work needed to improve. I have also learned that my ‘old school style of tough love’ is often needed with students and I receive validation when at graduation they refer to me as ‘the drill sergeant’ to their families and thank me for challenging them to go beyond what they had ever imagined they could achieve.”