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Samyn named recipient of WVU’s Distinction in Graduate Research Mentoring Award


Mary Ann Samyn, Professor in the Department of English at West Virginia University, has been named the recipient of the 2022 Faculty Award for Distinction in Graduate Research Mentoring.

Jointly sponsored by the Office of Graduate Education and Life and the Research Office, the award was created in the 2018-19 academic year to honor faculty who have demonstrated exceptional commitment to the mentorship of graduate students. 

“The criteria for this award includes 12 examples of how one might be an excellent mentor,” said Associate Vice President for Creative and Scholarly Activities Melanie Page, who coordinated the selection committee. “The committee looks at not only what is the faculty member’s philosophy and approach to mentoring, but if their students have been successful in their own careers; they are also looking for someone who is the type of mentor that mentees maintain contact with and are able to develop career-long professional relationships with.”

In her career at WVU, Samyn has served as thesis director for 39 of the 53 poets (74%) the MFA program has graduated. Her mentees have gone on to win national prizes and publish 22 books with respected presses.

Samyn said her philosophy and approach towards mentoring center around the student and their needs. Samyn “strives to create a nurturing environment so that students can develop their talents as writers, become conscientious teachers and citizens, find venues for publication and careers that appeal to them, and tend to their own physical, emotional, intellectual and artistic well-being.” 

“When I work with graduate students, I try to offer them a strong foundation for their poems and for their lives,” Samyn said. 

According to her former students and current colleagues, she has done just that. 

One of her letters of recommendation from a student summed it up this way: “She pushes students to write better, to find their material, and she provides a level of attention that goes far beyond any other professor I’ve ever known.” Another student stated that “Most notably, Professor Samyn continues to give advice and help to students even after they have graduated.” In recounting the effect that Samyn had on their life, one student reflected, “None of this would have been possible without Samyn. I can’t say this about any other professor in my life.” 

A colleague stated that “thanks to Professor Samyn’s mentoring and guidance,” her students have published their own award-winning books and secured excellent jobs in their field. Several letter writers recounted the now tradition of one or more students reciting a poem at the final graduate student reading “composed entirely of quotes that Mary Ann said during workshop” – the only faculty member that students choose to honor in this way. 

The Distinction in Graduate Research Mentoring Award, which the University awards annually, requires nomination from current and former graduate students, faculty or staff. The selection committee reviews nominations and solicits a full application from semi-finalists. Finalists are identified from the following disciplinary categories: Physical Sciences and Technology, Behavioral and Social Sciences, Biosciences and Health Sciences, and Humanities and the Arts.

In addition to Samyn, who was the Humanities and the Arts finalist, the other finalists for 2022 were:

  • Dan McNeil (Behavioral and Social Sciences)

  • David Klinke (Biosciences and Health Sciences)

  • Derek Johnson (Physical Sciences and Technology)

Samyn will receive a $5,000 honorarium and will be honored by President Gordon Gee and Provost Maryanne Reed at the annual Faculty and Staff Awards Celebration. 

For more info, contact Page at