Faculty Win Awards for Mentoring

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Brien Alkire

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Cheryl Damberg

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Julia Kaufman

Mike Mazarr

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Aaron Strong

October 27, 2021

RAND recently recognized five Pardee RAND faculty members — one of whom is also an alum — for their valuable contributions in mentoring junior researchers and advising colleagues.

Prof. Brien Alkire, a senior engineer, provides exceptional mentorship to many through effective coaching, promotion advice, and opportunity creation. He guides staff in how to lead large, complex projects but also beyond projects, such as profile building and demystifying how projects come to be. Alkire proactively reaches out to mentees to provide coaching, encouragement, and a sense of belonging for those who might encounter challenges in working with clients. He invites colleagues to take a seat at the table while remaining completely authentic in how he supports those around him.

Prof. Cheryl Damberg (cohort '89), a RAND principal economist, supports her colleagues in myriad ways; peers note Cheryl's generosity with her time and that her knowledge, skill base, and leadership experience have contributed to their own success. She provides opportunities for team members to take on leadership roles on her projects, mentors them through client relations, and provides feedback on research at all stages of projects.

Prof. Julia Kaufman, a senior policy researcher, was described as a truly inclusive mentor who ensures that her team members and mentees feel valued and important. One nominator noted that “she regularly includes [them] in calls with external organizations, moved [them] into a leadership position early on, and encouraged [them] to be the principal investigator on another project.” Kaufman checks in with her mentee regularly, provides constructive and supportive feedback, identifies tangible opportunities for project leadership, and shares tips and tools she has picked up through years of navigating RAND. She also models how to interact successfully with clients, navigate team dynamics, and resolve conflicts.

Prof. Michael Mazarr, a senior political scientist, was recognized for his continuous willingness to mentor junior researchers and analysts. Fellow researchers seek his guidance on projects, and he is also a trusted colleague outside specific projects. One RAND colleague describes Mazarr as “unfailingly approachable even in the busiest of times,” adding that he “serves as a much-needed voice of encouragement and empowerment to analysts and researchers alike. He always manages to strike the perfect balance between providing valuable feedback and oversight and allowing others to learn and grow on their own. In short, it is difficult to imagine RAND without Mike. He embodies all of RAND’s best qualities and is an outstanding colleague and mentor to all those lucky enough to work with him.”

Prof. Aaron Strong, an economist, provided valuable guidance to new economists throughout their first years at RAND. His knowledge of RAND processes, time-management guidance, and project opportunities have been especially helpful to new researchers. Colleagues note that he is generous with his time and supports his peers’ efforts to develop new skills.

Global Research Talent, the division within RAND that manages research staff, established Spotlight Awards for Mentorship in 2016 to recognize and reward research staff for valuable contributions in advising colleagues on

  • expanding methodological toolkits and becoming fully capable members of research project teams
  • helping with professional development and career opportunities
  • navigating RAND's policies and procedures and adapting to RAND's culture
  • mentoring activities that enable colleagues to increase the impact of their work or lead to important innovations in their research and that support and improve RAND's diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts and climate, respectively.

Recipients are selected from nominations by research staff.

Previous faculty awardees include:

  • Katie Carman
  • Mark Cozad
  • Natalie Crawford
  • Lindsay Daugherty (cohort '05)
  • Abby Doll
  • Daniel Egel
  • Becky Kilburn
  • Debra Knopman
  • Matt Lewis
  • Edward Okeke
  • Christopher Paul
  • Howard Shatz
  • Bill Shelton
  • Heather Williams