Inaugural Covington Award Honors Outstanding Mentors

Published on May 13, 2014

Each year, while Mizzou students are going through the demanding process of applying for nationally competitive fellowships, mentors across campus are playing an important role in assisting those students.

Nicole Monnier and Sheila Grant have been recognized for their efforts as mentors by being named inaugural recipients of the Ann K. Covington Award. The award recognizes members of the University faculty or staff who have mentored an undergraduate applicant for at least one nationally competitive fellowship.

Students who have applied for nationally competitive scholarships in the past year were able to nominate a mentor for this award.

“There are a number of awards on campus that recognize teaching and advisement,” Monnier says, “but the ones that are driven by student nominations are especially meaningful.”

Monnier’s nominator was sophomore Sasha Gubina, an applicant for the Critical Language Scholarship and a recipient of the Boren Scholarship.

“Because of Dr. Monnier,” Gubina writes in her nomination letter, “I constantly learn many things relevant to my academic and personal life. I truly feel that Dr. Monnier cares about me, and wants to see me succeed at this university and later in life. This fact means so much to me, and there are no words to express how thankful I feel to have Nicole Monnier as my mentor, professor and friend.”

Monnier is an associate teaching professor of Russian and has been at Mizzou since 2000.

“It is an unmitigated pleasure to work with intelligent, motivated students,” Monnier says. “Of course, it's an amazing feeling when your student gets the fellowship, but getting to participate in the process itself, with all of its ups and downs, lets me get to know my students and their aspirations on a much deeper level.”

Gubina adds in the nomination: “I always look forward to taking classes with Dr. Monnier because her teaching methods actually make me feel excited to attend class.”

In nominating Grant, senior Claire Spradling calls her mentor “a friend, confidant, professor, principal laboratory investigator and, above all, my greatest source of encouragement.”

Grant is a bioengineering professor. She has been at the University of Missouri since 2001 and has had over 100 undergraduate students work in her lab over the last 13 years.

“Our students are wonderful students and I feel I just help them and give them directions,” Grant says. “The students deserve the credit for all of their hard work and success.”

Last summer, Spradling was offered four separate internships across the country. She credits her experience in Grant’s lab for leading to those offers. This summer, Spradling will enter medical school at MU.

“Without her, I would not have the incredible opportunities in front of me that I have now,” Spradling’s nomination reads. “I am thrilled to be a finalist for a nationally competitive fellowship, and without Dr. Grant’s interminable support, I would be lost.”

“It is exciting to help students pursue their goals and to help them achieve them,” Grant says. “I do all that I can to make sure that they succeed. You cheer for them and you support them.”

Covington, the award’s namesake, is a member of the UM Board of Curators, a former Missouri Supreme Court chief justice, the first woman to serve on the state's Supreme Court and a long-time champion of the University of Missouri.

“I am honored to be even remotely associated with the recognition of Professors Monnier and Grant who, as many others, dedicate themselves not only to teaching and research but, also to mentoring, advising, and in other ways guiding students,” Covington says. “The University of Missouri’s student leaders are strengthened and elevated by the commitment of faculty who care about students as persons and invest in them as they seek to better this world.”

Covington Award Winner Shelia Grant

Bioengineering Chair Jinglu Tan, College of Engineering Dean James Thompson, UM Curator Ann Covington, Bioengineering Professor Shelia Grant, Senior Claire Spradling and Director of Fellowships Tim Parshall.

Covington Award Winner Nicole Monnier

German and Russian Studies Chair Tim Langen, College of Arts & Sciences Dean Michael O’Brien, UM Curator Ann Covington, Russian Professor Nichole Monnier, Sophomore Sasha Gubina and Director of Fellowships Tim Parshall.