Professor Imai’s extensive work on statistical methods for causal inference and development of computational algorithms for data-intensive research in the social sciences has been justly celebrated through multiple awards, and he has left an indelible imprint in the development of our field through a number of efforts, including as past president of the Society for Political Methodology. It is, however, his excellence as a teacher and as a mentor of unsurpassed ability to bring out the best traits in his students that the Excellence in Mentorship prize celebrates. Over a professional career spanning almost two decades at Princeton University and Harvard University, Professor Imai has reached out to an uncountable number of students in Political Science, Statistics, and Computer Science that have benefited from his clarity of exposition and his ability to communicate with people from many different backgrounds and with many different experiences. His textbook on Quantitative Social Science has become in four short years the go-to reference for introducing undergraduate students to statistical and computational methods. In their nomination letters, several of his mentees mentioned Professor Imai’s knack for understanding the exact level of proficiency at which they were when they first met him, and how he managed to instill and nurture in them organizational habits and a clear understanding of how to take the next most profitable steps in furthering their own research. Throughout the large number of endorsements that his candidacy elicited, we also recognized as an obvious thread that many individuals in and out of academia launched and sustained successful careers backed by Imai’s advice and guidance in professional and personal matters alike. The endorsements we received all speak fondly about Professor Imai’s role as a mentor, but especially as a trusted friend.
The committee was also struck by the diversity of voices writing on his behalf, all of whom invariably talk about feeling included and validated in his research group. As one of his supporters writes: “He has made his research group one of the most diverse and inclusive venues; a place where new ideas are always welcomed with constructive feedback – as he always says ‘here, we learn from each other.’ Kosuke has a way to see the potential in each of his students, something that transcends any type of boundaries.” This work of inclusion has especially benefited individuals who speak English as a second language, many of whom express how Imai helped them overcome lack of confidence in their ability to thrive in an English-speaking environment. Truly great mentors create opportunities that go beyond those offered by the standard curricular obligations of graduate programs, creating environments in which students (and junior colleagues) can feel supported and thrive. Letter after letter (and there were quite a few of them!) offered testimony that showed how Imai has built an inclusive infrastructure of mentorship --- a space where junior methodologists and applied scholars can learn from his experience and, most importantly, from each other. In celebrating Imai’s individual merits as a mentor, we recognize a scholar that understands the importance of building a community of learning that is both tightly-knit but also permeable to new voices and ideas. Please join us in congratulating Kosuke Imai for this award.