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This story is from the Duke Graduate School

Mallory SoRelle, Ph.D.

Dean’s Award for Excellence in Mentoring
Assistant Professor of Public Policy


Mallory SoRelle is an assistant professor in the Sanford School of Public Policy. She received her Bachelor’s in government and sociology from Smith College and her Master’s in democracy, politics, and institutions from The Harvard Kennedy School. SoRelle also earned her Ph.D. in government from Cornell University.

Her research at Duke is focused on issues of consumer financial protection and access to civil justice. SoRelle believes that these are issues that shape the welfare of marginalized communities, though often overlooked by scholars.

She is the author of the book Democracy Declined: The Failed Politics of Consumer Financial Protection, which delves into policymakers’ responses to consumer credit and financial regulation. At Duke, SoRelle teaches classes like Public Policy, Political Power, and Social Change and Ethics of Public Policy.

Mallory SoRelle
Mallory SoRelle


What do you think are the most important qualities of a good mentor for graduate students? 

There are three main things I focus on to try and be an effective mentor. First, I try to meet students where they are. Not everyone has the same goals or needs from a mentor, so I collaborate with students to provide the type of support that is most useful to them. Second, I work hard to make visible all of the hidden, informal aspects of academia to help students make informed, strategic choices about their work and professional development. Finally, I treat graduate students as adults with lives that extend beyond their academic careers, helping them make choices that will see them thrive not only as scholars but as well-rounded humans.

How have you evolved as a mentor compared to when you first started mentoring? 

I'm sure a lot! As someone who is still early in my career, I constantly feel like I am still encountering new processes and learning how to navigate new professional challenges. Sometimes it can feel like mastering successive levels in a video game. And with each new level comes more information I can incorporate into my mentorship. So, I think my ability to be a productive advisor evolves alongside my own professional development.

The benefits of a mentoring relationship for the mentee are obvious, but what do you, as the mentor, gain from it? 

I learn so much from working with graduate students. In an interdisciplinary program, most of my students do research on topics that are less closely related to my own research than what might be the case in a more traditional department. So, in that sense, I quite literally learn new substantive things from my mentees all the time. I've particularly enjoyed the opportunity to work on research collaborations with graduate students who bring different expertise to the table. But I also benefit from learning how to articulate information about research, professional development, etc. in an accessible way. And, of course, I genuinely enjoy working with graduate students, so being a mentor positively shapes my quality of life.


Excerpts from SoRelle's nomination

“Mallory makes space for building up the essential skills her students will need in their graduate careers and beyond, including topics as varied as productive note-taking, conducting and learning from peer reviews, navigating the publishing market, successful conference participation, and managing power dynamics in academia.”

“She is welcoming to all of her students and works energetically to develop a sense of community within her classroom and beyond. Her syllabi are rich with diversity, offering exposure to the excellent scholarship of authors from a wide range of perspectives.”

“One of Mallory’s best attributes as a mentor is her openness. Not only does Mallory maintain an open door—she is eager to help any student, not just her advisees—but she is also very open about sharing her own processes, practices, and materials with students, especially when they are encountering a new challenge for the first time.”