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Lester A. Kirkendall Outstanding Mentor Award

Any member of SSSS can submit a nomination for the award managed by the Student Co-Chairs, the Lester A. Kirkendall Outstanding Mentor Award.

The Student Co-Chairs use an established rubric for the review process. The Student Co-Chairs
submit their independent reviews for each nominee to the SSSS office. After the review process is complete and the SSSS office compiles the scores, the SSSS office will then inform the co-chairs of the results. The co-chairs will meet to discuss the results (if applicable) and confirm the recipient of the award. The Sr. Co-Chair will submit to the SSSS office the final decision for the award. The office retains the rubrics for at least two years. If there are questions about, or challenges to, the award decision, these records will serve as evidence of a fair and transparent review process.

To avoid a conflict of interest, current SSSS Student Co-Chairs cannot nominate a mentor.

A long-time SSSS member anonymously and generously endowed a substantial fund in honor of their great mentor, Lester A. Kirkendall. This award is designed to highlight individuals who, in the tradition of Dr. Kirkendall, are outstanding mentors. SSSS recognizes one individual per year for providing exceptional mentorship to students.

What is a mentor?
A mentor provides knowledge, assistance, encouragement, empathy and respect to a mentee. They often create a supportive environment that fosters networking/collaboration that assists with developing a mentee’s long-term career goals.

What is a mentee?
A mentee benefits from the mentor’s support, skills, and wisdom while pursuing the mentee’s own career goals.

Benefits of the Mentor/Mentee Relationship
Both sides benefit from the mentor/mentee relationship.

Individuals who have mentoring relationships (mentees) are more productive, more involved in their field, and more satisfied with the work that they are doing.

Mentors can acquire a fresh perspective in sexuality studies, or gain a reputation for identifying and developing top-notch talent. These benefits are passed on as good mentors promote a tradition of mentoring practices in their mentees.

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In the year the award is presented, the recipient receives: 

  • Commemorative plaque 
  • $500 for travel to attend the SSSS Annual Conference and to accept the award*
  • One night's accommodation at the conference host hotel*
  • Complimentary conference registration*

*If travel is not required to attend the conference (e.g., the winner lives in the conference city or SSSS holds a virtual conference), travel and hotel will not be provided, but complimentary conference registration will remain in place.

Nomination Period

The nomination period is open from January 1 - March 15 each year.

Nomination Guidelines and Process

A nominee (mentor) must be nominated by a mentee who receives, or has received, direct mentorship from the nominee by providing guidance to the student and/or professional in the field of sexuality.

The mentor/mentee relationship must exceed one year and may include a current or past mentorship.

The mentor (nominee) does not need to be a SSSS member, but the nominator (mentee) must be a current SSSS professional or student member.

Each mentee can only nominate one mentor each year.

The nominator must complete an online form and attach a letter (pdf), with no more than 1,000 words in length, to include:

  • Nature of mentor/mentee, e.g., advisor, internship coordinator, employer, etc.
  • Duration of mentor/mentee relationship
  • Qualities that the mentor possesses that make, or made, the individual a good mentor, and how the mentor exhibited these qualities.
  • Examples that set the mentor apart from other mentors, especially qualities that go beyond any requirements of the mentor's job

If more than one mentee is interested in nominating the same mentor, a separate unique letter must be written by each mentee. The unique letters must be merged as separate letters into one document so the nominator can attach one document (pdf) during the submission process. The number of mentees that submit a letter about a mentor will not be a criterion of judgment in the award selection process.

If there are multiple mentees nominating the same mentor, the nominator bears responsibility for collecting and submitting the complete evidence file for the nominee (mentor).

Review Criteria

  • Evidence of strong and sustained commitment to mentorship that goes beyond the nominee's job requirements
  • Evidence of mentorship that promotes knowledge and skill-building, and helps advance the mentee's career options and opportunities
  • Evidence of mentorship that is empathic, encouraging, and sensitive to mentee's needs and goals
  • Extent to which the nominee acknowledges, includes, values, and/or amplifies diverse voices and strengths in sex science


Questions? Contact SSSS at

Lester A. Kirkendall Outstanding Mentor Award Recipients


Rhonda Balzarini, PhD
Texas State University                                                                                                            

Laura Widman, PhD
North Carolina State University


Amy Moors, PhD
Chapman University


Kristen Jozkowski, PhD
Indiana University Bloomington


Robin Milhausen, PhD
University of Guelph


Karen Beale, PhD
Maryville College

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