A mentor who “listens, reflects and meets people where they are”: MSU Sociology professor stef shuster named 2023 Outstanding Faculty Mentor

June 11, 2024 - Karessa Weir

MSU Sociology associate professor stef shuster has been named the 2023 Outstanding Faculty Mentor from the MSU Graduate School. 
dr. stef shustershuster has a joint appointment with Lyman Briggs College.  
“A faculty member that co-chaired a dissertation committee with stef and saw their mentoring style firsthand stated, ‘stef listens, reflects, and meets people where they are without judgement and goes above and beyond to promote their ideas and ensure their success,’" said Kirsten Tollefson, Associate Dean of the Graduate School. 
“Many students, both current and former, from across several different programs supplied testimonials demonstrating how stef exemplifies MSUs Foundational Values for graduate student and faculty mentoring relationships. The statements demonstrated how Dr. shuster helped them obtain jobs, publish their research, make informed career decisions, and led by example on how to be a good mentor,” she wrote. 
In honor of the award, the Graduate School will provide with a $1,500 award to support shuster’s mentoring activities and an engraved plaque. 
“It is an absolute joy and honor to have been recognized with this award for mentoring students. I have benefitted in countless ways from my own mentoring networks and am compelled to ‘pay it forward’ by helping early career scholars navigate the hidden curriculum of academia and job market while activating a publication pipeline so that all students, especially underrepresented students, can thrive in their chosen careers,” shuster said. 
“I’ve had the distinct pleasure of watching stef mentor both students and colleagues and am ceaselessly impressed with their patience, tact, and ability to provide rigorous and generative feedback in a supportive and uplifting way. stef is truly working to build the next generation of scholars who, I hope, will pay it forward in their own ways,” said Sociology Chair Carla Pfeffer. 
shuster was nominated for the award by MSU Sociology graduate student Gerald Nowak, who wrote that when he first met stef, they stood out as being “sincere, empathetic and present during our conversations.” Nowak also submitted a wide variety of testimonials from other students shuster has impacted. 
“stef has offered invaluable expertise, opportunity, and scientific training to many students across the full social scientific research cycle and helped dispel the hidden aspects of professionalization into academic and alt-academic jobs, with compassion and integrity. They have helped people obtain jobs, publish work in high impact journals, make informed career decisions, and consistently invests in mentoring and training graduate students – both at MSU and institutions around the country. Not only do these testimonials demonstrate that impactful mentorship was offered by stef, but each of these stakeholders has detailed how they personally benefitted from this level of attention from a faculty member who helped them thrive in their careers. What makes stef’s case for this award particularly strong is that mentoring each of their mentees involved a substantial time commitment for an assistant professor at an R1 doctoral institution – a place where research productivity is valued above all else. “Yet somehow, despite the need to ‘publish or perish,’ stef managed to lift up the lives and careers of others,” Nowak wrote. 
Additionally, MSU Sociology Associate Professor Stephanie Nawyn and Sandy Marquart-Pyatt, Professor of Geography, Environment and Spatial Sciences wrote to support shuster’s nomination for their work with students at the Center for Gender in Global Context (GenCen). 
“stef shuster is an exceptional mentor and colleague who is fully invested in promoting student success and doing good science. They are able to navigate difficult conversations and situations with ease, always focusing on what the optimal outcome should be and how to reach that goal collaboratively,” Nawyn and Marquart-Pyatt wrote.