Runze Li, Eberly Family Chair Professor of Statistics, is one of two members of the Eberly College of Science to receive the Distinguished Faculty Mentoring Award in 2023. The award was created in 2019 to honor faculty members in the college for their outstanding work in mentoring students, postdocs, and faculty.
Li was recognized for his dedication to mentoring students throughout and beyond their graduate studies. Nominators praised his commitment to understanding the goals and aspirations of each student to provide personalized mentorship.
“He has [provided] exceptional support and advice and is one of the kindest and most patient people that I have met,” said a student nominator. “He has always been there to answer my questions, help with problems I’m struggling with, or point me in the right direction when building my research plan. He has a packed schedule, but he always manages to squeeze out time to meet and answer my questions within a day, even late at night and on weekends.”
One graduate student noted that when they were tasked with teaching an undergraduate course, Li went above and beyond to share advice, audit the class, and provide useful suggestions. Students who have graduated from Penn State under Li’s mentorship have gone on to a diverse range of careers, with several citing his mentorship as important to their success.
“Without his mentoring, I couldn’t imagine myself being in an academic career and pursuing a profession in statistics,” said a former student in a nomination letter. “His mentorship helped me grow not only professionally but also personally.”
According to his students, Li has also solidified himself as an advocate for mental health, with several expressing their gratitude towards him for supporting them as people as well as scientists. His dedication to acknowledging accomplishments and building student confidence in their abilities has built a connected and supportive work environment.
“He is deeply committed to not only student success in their career, but also their well-being – those intangibles that are so important,” said one nominator.
One nominator said that in a group chat with current group members and alumni, they “see the warmth and support he has been delivering to people around him,” and that they are “deeply touched by the way everyone is taking the time to relay their gratitude.”
“Professor Li is the best mentor I’ve ever had,” said a nominator. “He has always been guiding me with his broad knowledge and inspiring me with his enthusiasm. His unwavering encouragement gives me strength, and his kindness has been the driving force that motivates me to strive for better.”