Photo above: Nick Lovrich with student Yu-Sheng “Linus”
Lin, whose doctoral work is on causes and prevention of
aggressive driving (Photo by Robert Hubner, WSU Photo
PULLMAN – Sound judgment on timing and “distance” are among the secrets to successfully mentoring doctoral students, according to Nicholas P. Lovrich, who recently received the national Outstanding Mentoring Award from the American Political Science Association for 2008.
Lovrich, a Claudius O. and Mary W. Johnson Distinguished Professor of Political Science, has been a member of the WSU political science faculty since 1977. He has chaired the Ph.D. dissertation committees of 18 students who have gone on to academic careers at institutions such as Michigan State University, North Carolina State University and the University of Illinois.
“Of all the teachers I have had throughout my 23 years of formal education, no one has had more impact on my life and career than Professor Lovrich,” wrote Stephen J. Ziegler in support of his mentor’s nomination. Ziegler, assistant professor of public and environmental affairs at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, earned his Ph.D. in political science at WSU in 2003.
He credits Lovrich with helping him develop his career and acquire necessary skills in research, grant writing, and publication. Lovrich “continues to demonstrate his commitment to current and past graduate students as an exceptional mentor,” Ziegler wrote.
Reflecting on the role of mentor in graduate education, Lovrich says, “I see doctoral students arrive who need to develop both their intellectual skills and their professional and relationship skills,” he explains. “Many doubt their abilities, yet the skills are there to be found and nurtured.”
He said effective mentoring is about introducing ideas and skills at the right time in a doctoral student’s development.
“Perhaps the biggest skill a mentor needs is sound judgment on ‘distance.’ You have to know how to be close enough to understand where students are in their development, yet distant enough to remain the professor,” Lovrich said. “You are not their friend or buddy.”
Increasing interchange among faculty members about successful mentoring would really be helpful to enhancing doctoral education at WSU, Lovrich believes. “It is tragic, really, that we don’t do more of that. I believe this should be a part of the WSU Teaching Academy.”
He believes that this type of interchange is important because professors typically don’t acquire mentoring skills in graduate school.
Lovrich’s dedication to his doctoral students is clear in their letters.
“Nick is regularly available to listen to and advise individuals on all aspects of their academic career, often quietly providing research opportunities to young scholars who, if they listen carefully, realize that doors are being opened for them in their careers and life,” wrote Christopher A. Simon, associate professor of political science at the University of Nevada, Reno.
Lovrich is “the warmest individual I’ve met in the academy, always willing to work with a student or a colleague,” said Simon who earned his Ph. D. at WSU in 1997.
Maria Chavez, assistant professor of political science at Pacific Lutheran University in Seattle, credits much of her success to Lovrich’s guidance. “As a first generation college student whose parents were agricultural workers, I am now an assistant professor because of the assistance I received from mentors like Dr. Lovrich who believed in me, guided me, and pushed me to be and do my best.” She earned her Ph. D. from WSU in 2002.
Colleagues also recognize Lovrich’s gift as a mentor. John Pierce, political scientist and former dean of WSU’s College of Liberal Arts, joined in supporting Lovrich’s nomination.
“I have worked with Professor Lovrich for thirty years, and cannot imagine a faculty member doing more than he to educate, professionalize, advise and personally support graduate students,” Pierce wrote. “And his amazing work with graduate students has come while he has achieved a scholarly career of great distinction, and a public service record that has achieved recognition at the very highest levels in his home state.”
For the past quarter century, Lovrich has directed WSU’s Division of Governmental Studies and Services, a unit jointly supported by the College of Liberal Arts and WSU Extension. DGSS provides applied research services and training to agencies of federal, state and local government with grant and research contract funding of $500,000 to $1 million annually.
His scholarship has, in recent years, focused on public policy affecting environmental sustainability, political culture, community policing, and the issue of racial and ethnic bias in police work.
Lovrich has been recognized for excellent mentoring numerous times. In 2000, he received the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, or WICHE, Faculty Mentor of the Year Award for professors working with minority graduate students headed for careers in higher education. Between 1988 and 2002, he was honored six times with the Graduate Students’ Faculty Appreciation Award in WSU’s Department of Political Science and Criminal Justice Program.
Many individuals who are excellent mentors had an individual who had a major impact on their own development, whether a teacher or mentor. Lovrich is no exception.
“I had a teacher in fifth grade who cared about me and convinced me that I had potential. He was Clayton Lilly at the Bandini Street School in San Pedro, Calif., and I’ll never forget him,” Lovrich recalls.
Lovrich got a scholarship to play baseball at Stanford University because he was an all-league second baseman and also had the grades to go there, he said. Lilly encouraged both his sports activity and his academic development, so Lovrich became captain of San Pedro High School’s baseball team and had grades high enough for admission to Stanford.
Lovrich earned his bachelor of arts degree, cum laude, in international relations from Stanford University, and his master’s and doctoral degrees, both in political science, from UCLA.