Pictured: Erika Dyck in the Arts and Science Building at the University of Saskatchewan (Photo credit: Allain Esquival)

Mentorship builds community: Dyck awarded Distinguished Graduate Mentor Award

The Distinguished Graduate Mentor Award recognizes the University of Saskatchewan (USask) graduate faculty who are exceptional mentors to graduate students.

At the Congress of Social Sciences and Humanities, USask faculty, students, and alumni gather for a group photo at the Canadian Society for History of Medicine.

The College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (CGPS) is proud to award Dr. Erika Dyck (BA’98, MA’00, PhD) with the 2023 Distinguished Graduate Mentor Award.

Dr. Erika Dyck is a professor in the Department of History and a Canada Research Chair in the History of Health and Social Justice. As a medical historian, Dyck primarily studies the history of medicine, psychiatry, and drugs.

Since joining USask 16 years ago, Dyck has played a part in mentoring countless graduate and undergraduate students. For Dyck, introducing incoming students to Saskatoon is a highlight of the job.

“I’m so lucky to work in a place that is part of my home community,” said Dyck. “I get to show it off to students who are coming here.”

In 2022, USask hosted "MOMS" - the Manitoba-Ontario-Minnesota-Saskatchewan regional history of medicine meeting. To kick off the event, USask organizers had bunnyhugs designed using icons from paper titles and hosted a reception at Dyck's house to welcome travelling guests.

Throughout Dyck’s own academic journey, her experience with mentors and colleagues were what grew her confidence and pushed her out of her comfort zone. These experiences have helped Dyck develop her own approach to mentorship in her work.

“There are a couple of people I have worked with over the years who really inspired me and opened a door for me,” said Dyck. “I try to do that, meet people where they’re at and help them achieve the goals that they’ve set for themselves.”

There’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ design for mentorship, Dyck has learned. It takes a commitment to getting to know each graduate student and their individual skill level, to understand how to best support them in their academic journey.

“One of the hardest things about graduate school is believing in yourself and believing you can actually do it,” said Dyck. “Finding that confidence and analytical voice is not as easy as flipping a switch. It’s about trying to find ways to work with people’s strengths and gently confront the weaknesses, so that they feel like independent thinkers and can take ownership of their ideas.”

Relocating to Saskatoon can be daunting. Dyck hosts potlucks to welcome new students and postdocs in an effort to create community.

Dyck’s approach to mentorship works by building community among researchers and encouraging a positive environment.

“Mentorship is not just about individuals one-on-one, but there’s community formation and a culture of support. I’m eternally grateful to my many students who have also mentored one another and really embraced that spirit of support.”

Dyck’s advice to graduate faculty and other aspiring mentors at USask is to keep your mind and door open.

“You never know who or what might come through.”

On behalf of CGPS, Dyck will be nominated for the Canadian Association for Graduate Studies Mentorship award, a national award recognizing faculty members with a record of excellent mentorship of graduate students under their supervision.

Article originally published at https://cgps.usask.ca

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