(Houston, Texas, United States) – Greek American Professor Lydia Kavraki is the 2016 recipient of the Presidential Award for Mentoring at Rice University in Houston, Texas. Kavraki is the Noah Harding Professor of Computer Science and Professor of Bioengineering. The award is given to a faculty member at Rice University each year who continually demonstrates his or her devotion to mentoring both graduate and undergraduate students. Kavraki, who currently lives in Texas, was actually born and educated in Greece. She graduated from the University of Crete for her undergraduate work and she eventually went to the United States to complete her PhD at Stanford University in California. She’s been on staff at Rice University since 1997.
Kavraki has said that both mentoring and teaching go hand in hand. She says, “I think it is very important to mentor students while you teach. Mentoring and teaching are not separate activities, it is one thing. And I enjoy it, I like it. I think I can make a difference for some people.” Kavraki has also said that she understands the value of having strong mentorship while establishing yourself in both life and career. She has said that her family played a big role in mentoring her. She also credits her mentor at Rice University, Moshe Vardi. He was responsible for encouraging her to join the staff at Rice University and continually work to help her grow in her profession. She believes that having strong mentors has enabled her to do the same for others.
For her, mentoring is all about empowerment. “I believe mentoring is empowering people to do things, to find what is best for them and how they can be happy and productive,” she said. “I don’t tell them what to do, I guide and empower them to find out for themselves what they are good at and how to achieve their goals.” She says that Vardi has certainly done the same thing for her. “He has helped me both directly and indirectly along the way in many different instances. Moshe opens new directions of thinking and helps you discover things you have not thought about. Most importantly, Moshe helps you get to a place you didn’t consider and didn’t even think you could do.” She makes a special effort to connect with her students and even young faculty members on a personal level. It’s this commitment that has helped her win this award.