Cuttino award >>

Mentoring is mutual and a high priority for Karen Stolley

By Leslie King | Emory Report | May 10, 2013

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Karen Stolley, chair of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, is the 2013 honoree for the George P. Cuttino Award for Excellence in Mentoring. Emory Photo/Video.

Karen Stolley, chair of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, is the 2013 honoree for the George P. Cuttino Award for Excellence in Mentoring.

"The award means a great deal to me because it recognizes and honors an ongoing conversation that I have had with students, graduate students and colleagues for the 20 years that I've been at Emory," says Stolley, who is associate professor of Spanish. 
Mentoring, she says, "is a validation of the interconnectedness of what we're all trying to do." It is a large part of her work and mentoring colleagues as well as students is "part of what the nomination spoke to."

She points proudly to a plaque on her office bookshelf for a 2009 Mentoring for Leadership award from the President's Commission on the Status of Women.

That award was given to a pair of faculty, in this instance, Stolley and Vialla Hartfield-Méndez. "This meant a lot to me, too. We saw ourselves as being involved in a long process of mutual mentoring over a number of years. I actually see mentoring always as a mutual process."

With undergraduate students, there can initially be a kind of verticality to it, Stolley notes. "Over time, that relationship shifts and grows and that's what I really enjoy."

 What are some unexpected results of mentoring relationships for Stolley?

"Beyond this award?," she laughs.

"One of the lovely surprises is to have former graduate students who become colleagues. Or undergraduate students who go away and then come back to visit, and they are fully-fledged adults with professional responsibilities," she says.

Stolley finds an institutional commitment to mentoring that mirrors her own, particularly in Emory College, a "liberal arts college at the heart of a research university."
In addition to her teaching, academic and institutional duties, Stolley is a key player in helping Emory and the Latin American Association organize the annual Latino Youth Leadership Conference.

Stolley is part of a committee that determines the programming content to be delivered for the more than 1,000 middle and high school students who come to Emory's campus for a Saturday in November.  "We work with college students from across the greater Atlanta area and train them to be mentor guides. It's to encourage young Latino students to be thinking about college as a path that they can choose."

Stolley's research focuses on colonial and 18th-century Spanish America; her book, "Domesticating Empire: Enlightenment in Spanish America," will be published this year by Vanderbilt University Press.

"I'm a person who thinks about education holistically," she says. "And my family tells me that I tend to live out loud, so

I don't make a clear separation between my intellectual or professional or academic life, and my personal life." And bringing that all together is at the heart of mentoring for a liberal arts education.

"I have two daughters and I say to them all the time you have to thank your teachers. You have no idea how much it means for them to hear from you what you got from them," she says.

Stolley's younger daughter will enter Emory as a freshman this fall. "I'm excited to experience Emory as a parent," she says.