Professor of Mathematics and Statistics Anna Panorska has received this year’s University Graduate Academic Advisor Award for her significant record of graduate student advising. She is also this year's recipient of the Vada Trimble Outstanding Mentor Award given by the Graduate Student Association to honor an individual who has been a true friend and advocate for graduate students.
Panorska performs graduate level advising in three distinct areas. She serves as a main research advisor as students prepare for thesis or dissertation, as a member of the students’ Advisory Committee, and as an academic mentor helping to guide students through their academic progress in the mathematics and statistics graduate programs. Panorska has served as graduate program director in mathematics as well as in statistics and data science, and has used that experience to shape her advising style today. The same students Panorska has supported in their academic endeavors are the ones who nominated her to receive this award—a testament to her outstanding contributions in academic advising.
Panorska has been helping her students make their way through the two challenging graduate degree programs in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, offering her mentorship, and building meaningful relationships with her students since joining the faculty in 2002. Below, she answers a few questions, reflecting on her time as an advisor and mentor.
What does it mean to you to have received this award?
This award is a very special honor, especially because it was student nominated. It means the world to me and provides a sense of being useful and helpful to them. Helping others is probably my most important calling. I was deeply moved by the many nomination letters, including faculty letters and students’ I worked with years ago. I am grateful for the opportunity to meet and work with such a diverse, talented and kind group of people, and their effort to so graciously acknowledge the impact of my work with them on their careers and lives.
How would you describe your advising style?
I think of my students as a diverse group of individuals, who have different backgrounds, goals, dreams and experiences. I do not believe that “one advising style fits all” and adjust my approach with every student.
I believe that the purpose of advising is to help students with their development, including their educational, professional, and personal/life goals and paths, realizing their strengths and challenges, providing mentorship, helpful resources, professional guidelines, and career options. I am also a cheer leader for their success. I think it is very important that an advisor really cares about her students, and is personally interested in their success and well-being. I have a holistic approach to advising, which encompasses the entire person professionally, academically, and personally.
I think of my students as a diverse group of individuals, who have different backgrounds, goals, dreams and experiences. I do not believe that “one advising style fits all” and adjust my approach with every student. I believe that establishing trust and a caring relationship with my advisees is very important.
It is important to me that my students know I respect them and am interested in their success. In addition, with many graduate students in our program coming from different countries and cultures, I believe it is important to learn about their culture and life in order to provide an effective mentorship. It is important to know where they are coming from, how the society and education system work there, and what are the differences, if any, compared to the US educational system and expectations.
How do you help your students be successful?
I see advising as both a privilege and a responsibility, as I enjoy contact with my students, yet I am very aware of my responsibilities of being professional yet friendly, helpful but not overbearing, open and trustworthy, understanding and effective, accurate and foremost kind. My approach is to help the students find their solutions and path on their own, where I provide questions to help them focus and make decisions, resources, another point of view, knowledge of university policies, job and internship hunting resources and networking opportunities. My goal is that they become independent, successful and kind people.
What moments in your career do you look to as being especially impactful?
The impactful moments come when I see the growth and success of my students. The work as Graduate Program director in Mathematics and then Statistics and Data Science graduate programs gave me opportunities to establish, develop and grow our graduate programs and help many graduate students find their path to academic and professional success. Another evidence of impact is the fact that current students advertise our program to the future students and we grew quite a nice pipeline of graduate students internationally using this “word of mouth” positive advertising.
What impact do you hope to have at the College, the University and on the students you advise?
I hope to be the agent of growth and “moving with the times” in the graduate culture and programs at the College of Science and UNR. My special interest is ensuring that students are respected, appreciated, and treated with kindness and professionalism. I would like to develop a culture and community for my program’s students to which they feel they belong. My hope is to impact the research level of my college and UNR in statistical science. For example I hope to develop an undergraduate degree and an online professional Master, and graduate minor programs in Statistics.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I am grateful to my past and current students for their friendship and the long-term mentorship/friend relationships we grew to enjoy for years after their graduation. I am proud of their accomplishments, job promotions, and the mentorship they now provide to others. I am also grateful to UNR for this incredible award that I will cherish for years to come.