Earp receives Carolina Women’s Leadership Council Mentoring Award

February 26, 2008

Dr. Jo Anne Earp

Dr. Jo Anne Earp

Jo Anne Earp, ScD, professor in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, has been honored for her long history of mentoring students, staff and junior faculty.

The Carolina Women’s Leadership Council selected Earp to receive its 2008 Faculty Mentoring Award, particularly for her work with students. The accolade, which includes a $5,000 stipend, recognizes outstanding faculty members who “guide, mentor and lead students and/or junior faculty as they make important career decisions, embark on innovative research challenges, and enrich their lives through public service, teaching and educational opportunities.”

More than 20 current and former students and colleagues submitted nominations this year for Earp, who joined the School of Public Health in 1974 as one of its first female faculty members.

Cathy Melvin, PhD, MPH, research associate professor in the Department of Maternal and Child Health, was one of them. Nominating Earp, Melvin says, “provided many of us with the opportunity to share with others the impact of her outstanding leadership, support and encouragement of faculty.

“Dr. Earp champions each person’s strengths while constructively helping each of us develop skills to overcome our weaknesses,” Melvin says. “She is a true mentor who leads by example and provides support with a personal touch.”

Jessica T. DeFrank, MPH, predoctoral fellow in the Cancer Control Education Program at the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, agrees. “When I say Dr. Earp is the true definition of a mentor in every way, I speak on behalf of all students who have been privileged to benefit from her wisdom and kindness,” she said.

“One of the most refreshing attributes about Jo Anne’s mentoring style is that, for her, it is a way of life,” notes Elizabeth French, MA, manager of academic affairs in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education.

Earp “commits the same levels of dedication to master’s students, doctoral students, junior faculty and staff,” French says. “To her, the magic letters ‘PhD’ or ‘MPH’ matter less than whether a person has intelligence, commitment, creativity or a superb work ethic.

“She is truly democratic in that she invests the same level of energy in mentoring a staff member as a student or junior faculty member,” French says. “Because of this investment, her influence reaches across many boundaries.”

Many lauded Earp’s “tough love” in helping them confront dissertation chapters, research projects, career goals and life challenges, and they spoke of how she gives advice and assistance freely and instinctively.

“Mentoring to Jo Anne is like swimming to a fish,” wrote Jennifer M. Gierisch, MPH, doctoral candidate in health behavior and health education. “She [mentors] without hesitation in the most kind and thoughtful way. She just wants people to believe in themselves and become the best they can be.”

Barbara K. Rimer, DrPH, dean of the School of Public Health, called Earp an extraordinary teacher/scholar and said she was proud that Earp was selected for the important award.

“Mentoring is at the very heart of what faculty members do, whether it is mentoring students or other faculty members and staff,” Rimer said. “Dr. Earp is an exemplary mentor whose handwritten comments on students’ (and colleagues’) papers are legendary. It’s a mark of her intellect and commitment to learning but also a true indication of her positive involvement in her students’ career development that Jo Anne mentors with such care and caring.”

The 130-member Carolina Women’s Leadership Council is a nationwide network of women that supports the University of North Carolina and students’ educational experiences. Members donate time and provide funding for University goals and serve as advocates for the University in the regions in which they live.

The awards, funded through an endowment created by the Council, are presented annually to two faculty – one, in recognition of work with students, and one, in recognition of junior-faculty mentoring.

Earp will accept her award at a University ceremony on Feb. 29.


School of Public Health contact: Ramona DuBose, director of communications, (919) 966-7467 or ramona_dubose@unc.edu