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The Spotlight on a Mentor program highlights accomplished mentors within ABCT’s membership ranks. This article presents an interview with Dr. Gregory Stuart, our current spotlighted mentor. Dr. Stuart received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and his doctorate in clinical psychology from Indiana University. He completed his internship at the Brown University Clinical Psychology Training Consortium and a postdoctoral fellowship at the Brown University Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies. He is currently Arts and Sciences Excellence Professor and Sally and Alvin Beaman Professor at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. He is an adjunct professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University, and he is the Director of Family Violence Research at Butler Hospital. His work includes over 300 publications (most of which are coauthored with students) and approximately 40 collaborative grants. Dr. Stuart’s program of research has a particular emphasis on the role of substance misuse in intimate partner violence perpetration and victimization. His work has addressed a broad spectrum of factors that are relevant to the etiology, classification, assessment, prevention, maintenance, and treatment of intimate partner violence and addictive behaviors. His research on alcohol and intimate partner violence has been funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) since 2000. He previously served as the director of the Adult Psychopathology Track of the Brown University Clinical Psychology Training Consortium, and he was a Brown University internship rotation supervisor for 8 years. He has served as a mentor on postdoctoral training grants funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the National Institute of Mental Health, as well as on NIH-funded F31 and F32 NRSA grants, a fellowship grant funded by the Canadian Institute of Health Research, and career development awards funded by the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Stuart is a licensed clinical psychologist who supervises graduate students conducting therapy at the University of Tennessee and he teaches an upper-level undergraduate seminar on intimate partner violence. He also conducts group psychotherapy at a residential treatment facility for substance use disorders.
Many of the former trainees who nominated Dr. Stuart for the Spotlight on a Mentor recognition have continued to maintain active collaborations with him, illustrating the meaningful and far-reaching relationships Dr. Stuart establishes with his mentees. Dr. Jeff Temple, one of Dr. Stuart’s former trainees, described Dr. Stuart’s mentorship style this way: “He leads by example, is invested in and committed to his students’ careers, and is great to be around. There is no one I would rather model my career after than Dr. Stuart. If I am half the researcher and mentor he is, I will be elated and effective.”
Dr. Stuart is described by his nominators as gifted in his ability to strike an effective balance between encouraging his mentees’ autonomy while also providing them with appropriate guidance and oversight. For example, Dr. Julianne Flanagan, one of Dr. Stuart’s former mentees, commented, “Greg demonstrated confidence in me very early on, including times when my self-confidence faltered. I learned from him the most important lesson there is to learn in psychology training: that I was teachable, adaptive, and capable.” Several nominations also spoke of Dr. Stuart’s wonderful collegiality and the respect that he demonstrates for each of his trainees, catering his mentorship to each individual’s professional goals. As former trainee Dr. Todd Moore stated, “…working with Greg means working with a wonderfully caring person who is genuinely invested in helping others achieve their goals.”
In addition to Dr. Stuart’s dedication to research mentorship, Dr. Moore also commented on Dr. Stuart’s skill as a clinical supervisor at Brown, stating that “…the rotation [Dr. Stuart] supervised was typically rated as one of the most popular of over 20 rotations. He provides an excellent balance of positive reinforcement with constructive criticism, and he does both infusing empathy and appropriate humor to the difficulties inherent in conducting therapy. His feedback is tremendously concrete and easily incorporated into subsequent sessions, and he actively participates in role-playing exercises to demonstrate particular skills.”
Dr. Stuart responded to questions from ABCT’s Academic Training and Education Standards Committee about his experience and goals as a mentor, as well as his mentorship philosophy and mentorship practices.
For how long have you been a member of ABCT?
I joined ABCT almost 25 years ago (when it was AABT). My first ABCT annual convention was in Boston in 1992, and I believe that I have attended ABCT every year since. For how long have you engaged in the type of mentoring that you engage in now?
I started mentoring bachelor’s-level research assistants and undergraduate students in 2000 when I became an assistant professor at Brown University. In 2001 I began mentoring postdoctoral fellows at Brown University, and in 2002 I started mentoring psychology interns when I assumed the role of coordinator of the Adult Psychopathology Track of the Brown University Clinical Psychology Training Consortium. In 2008, I joined the faculty at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, where I began mentoring undergraduate and graduate students. Along the way, I also have had the privilege to mentor a cadre of incredibly talented junior faculty members.
What type of mentor do you aspire to be? Do you have a mentorship philosophy?
Mentoring undergraduate students, research assistants, graduate students, psychology interns, postdoctoral fellows, and junior faculty is an essential part of my core professional mission. My overarching mentoring philosophy encompasses a few primary objectives. First, I strive to teach mentees to think critically, as I believe that critical thinking can be transported to virtually every academic and nonacademic domain of our lives. I encourage my mentees to question assumptions and to seek alternative, parsimonious explanations. Second, I strive to teach students and mentees the importance of respecting all others. My goal is to treat students, trainees, mentees (and all others for that matter), as I would like myself and my family to be treated. I have found that this leads to great success in mentoring. Third, I strive to get my junior colleagues to believe in themselves. I believe in them-and I show it in every way that I can. I try to normalize the “imposter syndrome” that most all of us feel at some points in time. I also aspire to motivate my mentees to just try their best. When we do our best, we can be happy with the outcome, no matter what it is. Also, in my experience, the most effective mentoring relationships are the ones that are the most interactive and bidirectional. This also affords me the wonderful opportunity to get to know and learn from my mentees, and to learn from them how to become a better mentor.
What practices do you engage in that foster your mentorship style?
One critical thing that I try to do is to thoroughly assess the career goals and aspirations of each mentee. I recognize that each mentee has her/his own unique skills and aspirations, and these skills and goals change over time. Thus, my mentorship of each mentee needs to be tailored to the individual. On the basis of their evolving goals, I make every effort to unite my mentees with the resources, connections, and opportunities that will maximize their success.
What are your strengths as a mentor?
I believe in my mentees. I am an optimist, and I have confidence that they will be able to achieve anything that they focus their attention on. I make every effort to take a positive approach in my interactions with them, which is generally consistent with my worldview.
I also know my own limitations. If I cannot deliver something that meets the needs of my mentee(s), then I seek out resources and opportunities from others who carry that skill set.
Whom do you perceive to be your most influential mentors? Describe the main lessons that you have learned from your mentors.
I have/had many mentors! I have enormous gratitude for Amy Holtzworth-Munroe (my graduate school mentor), Timothy O’Farrell, Ken Leonard, Don Baucom, Deborah Welsh, Anthony Spirito, Richard Brown, Larry Price, and many others. They have taught me more lessons than I can articulate here, but they all made significant contributions to the kind of mentor I am today.
My most important and influential mentor is my father, Richard Stuart. I credit (and blame) him as being largely responsible for who I am today. As a Past President of ABCT (from 1974-1975), my Dad was a big fan of Social Learning Theory. I am proud to say that he has been the best role model imaginable. He taught me how to be warm, positive, expressive, and kind; he showed me how to balance career with family; he loved me even when I made it challenging; and he inspired me to go into psychology and pursue my love of science, teaching, and mentoring.
What do you tend to look for in potential mentees?
Every mentee I have ever had is an incredible talent. It is my job is to help each mentee elicit their best performance, typically using a positive, encouraging approach. The overwhelming majority of my mentees are smarter and more capable than I am, which makes my job pretty easy.
What advice would you give to other professionals in your field who are starting out as mentors?
First, I would tell other professionals that mentoring is an incredible gift and a rewarding experience. I would also want to help them recognize that they have likely achieved their career goals to date in large part from standing on the shoulders of their mentor(s). Providing positive mentoring experiences is an opportunity to pay it forward, while improving the quality of their mentees’ lives and making positive contributions to the field.
What do you enjoy doing for fun/relaxation?
I enjoy watching University of Michigan football (my alma mater). I hesitate to admit this, but I have been known to play hooky from the annual ABCT convention on Saturdays to watch Michigan football with my friends and mentees. I always cross my fingers when the schedule comes out in hopes that our ABCT presentations will not conflict with the football game. I’m also a runner. When ABCT was in Philadelphia, I ran the Philadelphia marathon and some of my graduate students ran the half marathon. This year, I ran the Knoxville marathon and all of my awesome graduate students either ran the full or the half marathon. It’s been a nice lab bonding experience.