‘Amazing mentor’ Heather Smith honored with de Silva Award

Friday, March 31, 2017

Heather Smith, professor of geography and earth sciences and director of the doctorate in Geography and Urban Regional Analysis, is the 2017 recipient of the Harshini V. de Silva Graduate Mentor Award. She was honored at a special ceremony Thursday, March 30, at the Harris Alumni Center at Johnson Glen.

During the ceremony, University leaders noted Smith’s commitment to enhancing graduate student success at UNC Charlotte. 

“While one-on-one interactions will always be the cornerstone of the mentor-mentee relationship, Dr. Smith’s ability to merge her exceptional research expertise with her thorough understanding of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg community have been integral to her success as a graduate mentor,” said Provost Joan Lorden, vice chancellor for academic affairs. “Through her community research, she guides students to understand better the processes required to engage with the community through thoughtful endeavors that build community trust.”

Colleagues regard Smith’s knowledge of geographic information systems and their applications to community health as a central focus for researchers within the discipline. Her ongoing efforts continue to inform and influence student initiatives.

In 2005, Smith, along with Owen Furuseth and Michael Dulin, cofounded the Mecklenburg Area Partnership for Primary Care Research (MAPPR). This research network works to understand the primary care needs of disadvantaged communities in the greater Charlotte area. In her role as leading social scientist, Smith provides qualitative research and helps graduate students interested in health services build research skills and develop expertise while supporting community-engaged activities.

As the primary supervisor for Master of Arts in Geography students at UNC Charlotte, Smith is committed to creating opportunities for these graduate students.

In a letter of nomination, Ph.D. candidate Elizabeth Morrell wrote, “Heather has been an amazing mentor in respect to my research … She provides just the right amount of direction – providing framework for research, while at the same time allowing students to make their own unique contribution to our discipline.”

After earning a bachelor’s degree in geography from UNC Chapel Hill, Smith completed a master’s degree at Queens University at Kingston (Canada); her doctorate in geography is from the University of British Columbia.

The Harshini V. de Silva Graduate Mentor Award honors its namesake, an exceptional teacher, brilliant scholar and researcher and devoted servant of her profession and community. The award is given annually to the faculty member whose commitment to students, research and scholarly inquiry most closely exemplifies the spirit of de Silva.