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University of Minnesota

Helga Leitner: Intercontinental mentor

August 27, 2009

Helga Leitner is a professor in the Department of Geography and the Institute for Global Studies in the College of Liberal Arts.

Helga Leitner is a professor in the Department of Geography and the Institute for Global Studies in the College of Liberal Arts, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.

Photo: Patrick O'Leary

In a global classroom, geography professor Helga Leitner is a constant meridian

By Deb Parker

Geography professor Helga Leitner not only is "an inspiring teacher" but also "has created a vibrant international intellectual community and support network." Apart from mentoring students in a wide variety of fields, she has played an important role in the Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change, working with graduate students from all over the world.

One advisee describes Leitner as "extremely demanding and tirelessly committed to her students, always pushing for greater depth, precision, and creativity, but simultaneously providing support, reassurance, and guidance." That support stretched across the ocean for another student in South Africa who was trying to finish a dissertation.

Students describe Leitner's courses as "exciting," "motivating," "engaging," and "thought provoking." A former graduate student writes, "Any graduate course that Helga is involved in will undertake an exhaustive exploration of current research and relevant literature in that area."

"Perhaps even more than the books and articles we write, it is the students we teach and mentor, carrying living traditions of scholarship into the future, that are our lasting legacy."

Helga Leitner is a 2009 recipient of the Award for Contributions to Postbaccalaureate, Graduate, and Professional Education.

One student who took two of Leitner's graduate seminars described her as being a "full participant in discussion, but [she] did not lead the students to a preordained position or conclusion." She also writes, "I had the impression that Helga simultaneously knew the material inside-out and that she was reading it for the first time." A former student who is now teaching at the college level found in Leitner a mentor "passionate about her research and teaching, but also one who cares deeply about graduate students."