CAS Recognizes Leslie Gray with Advising Award
Environmental Studies and Sciences chair mentors Rhodes, Fulbrights
By Julia MacIntyre ’21
Santa Clara University’s College of Arts and Sciences recently awarded Prof. Leslie Gray (Environmental Studies and Sciences) the lauded John B. Drahmann Advising Award. Dean Debbie Tahmassebi announced the award at the College’s annual convocation that launched the 2018-19 academic year at SCU.
While all Santa Clara University continuing faculty advise undergraduate students, Gray was recognized for her years of advising and mentoring students, including four future Fulbright scholars, a future Udall fellow, and a future Rhodes scholar in one year. Tahmassebi cited Gray’s deep commitment to students and the collaborative approach Gray and her departmental colleagues bring to support student success.
“Even in a department that prides itself on developing close faculty-student relationships, Leslie’s willingness to offer the introduction, write in support of the application, or to provide a research opportunity are all signs of her willingness to go the extra mile for the students,” notes Tahmassebi in her announcement.
Gray acknowledges she is passionate in assisting her advisees. In particular, she enjoys advising on national and international research projects and grant applications, all with the goal of helping students evolve into independent researchers who “are able to see a project from beginning to end,” she notes. Some of her advisees have become research collaborators with Gray, whose research examines how poor farmers in West Africa are affected by the agricultural subsidies given to farmers in wealthy countries.
Gray is especially proud of mentoring Catherine Kilbane ‘05 (Spanish Studies and Environmental Studies), whom Gray calls her “first ever Fulbright scholar.” With Gray’s support and assistance, Kilbane wrote the winning proposal. “It was great to say ‘You should do this,’” says Gray. She notes she encourages her students to dream big, which is something that “students often think they shouldn’t [do].”
Gray notes that the best advice she can offer students as they contemplate their next steps is straightforward: follow your passions. “Do what you’re interested in,” urges Gray. “Now is the time to experiment with things that you might not be able to do later in life so take a chance.”
Gray was one of the first faculty associated with what was originally called the Environmental Studies Institute in the 1990s. More recently, she was instrumental in the creation of the Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences in the last decade. Now, as department chair, Gray is proud to see the program grow in size from 10 majors in those early days to now over 170 majors. When asked about her approach to advising these students, Gray said she treats them as people, “not just another student.”
About the Dr. John B. Drahmann Advising Award
The Dr. John B. Drahmann Advising Award is awarded annually to a faculty member in the College of Arts and Sciences in recognition of having established among colleagues and students a well-deserved reputation for extraordinary dedication to student welfare through wise, informed, effective, and caring counsel, and having demonstrated the ability to motivate other teachers and learners.