UO professors earn mentorship awards for work with students

Students doing research

Great research is not limited to eureka moments, and inspiring such research isn’t done only by scientists in a laboratory. That’s clearly demonstrated by three faculty members who received the CURE Faculty Research Mentor Award.

During the 10th annual Undergraduate Research Symposium on May 21, the center honored associate professor of linguistics Melissa Baese-Berk, professor of international studies Yvonne Braun and associate professor of women’s, gender and sexuality studies Judith Raiskin for their support and guidance to their students. Each received an award of $2,500 for faculty development as they continue their mentoring work.

“The Undergraduate Research Symposium makes it crystal clear how important faculty mentoring is to our students, and there is no doubt that research of the importance that we see at the symposium cannot be done without faculty support and mentoring,” said Josh Snodgrass, associate vice provost for undergraduate research and distinguished scholarship.

Snodgrass, who co-chairs the symposium with Assistant Vice Provost for Undergraduate Research and Center for Undergraduate Research and Education director Kevin Hatfield, conceived the award three years ago to acknowledge that key support from faculty. The award is named for the center.

“We easily could have given 10 awards,” he said in this year's symposium speech.

A committee reviewed 24 nominations of tenure and non-tenure-track faculty members. Nominations can come from students, faculty members, administrators and other staff, though this year all came from students or alumni.

For each of this year’s award winners, mentoring represents one of the great joys of teaching. And learning is a “two-way street,” Raiskin said, because their students teach them so much.

“Mentoring students is one of my favorite parts of my job,” said Baese-Berk, who leads the UO’s Speech Perception and Production Lab. She also serves as the David M. and Nancy L. Petrone Faculty Scholar. “I constantly tell my undergrad team in the lab how lucky I am to work with them. The fact that they nominated me for the award makes it really meaningful.”

One student, Kayla Walker, described in her nomination letter the professional development days Baese-Berk planned into her lab schedule between research presentations. Walker called them life-changing.

“In particular, the meeting we spent talking about how to approach a daunting project gave me skills that I will carry with me for the rest of my life,” Walker said.

Gracia Dodds, a student of Raiskin’s, shared in her nomination how her professor encouraged her to pursue a research topic no other student in her course was interested in: the Southern Oregon Country Lesbian Archival Project. Raiskin and Dodds met weekly during office hours as the research progressed, further discussing the issues and poring over Raiskin’s personal collection of historic magazines.

“Many professors discuss having one mentor in their career that pushed them to continue their academic pursuits despite the barriers they experience, and professor Raiskin is that person for me,” Dodds said.

Raiskin also expressed delight at the award’s affirmation of her relationship with students.

“Their creativity and excitement inspires my own research, as well,” she said.

The third award, funded this year by Clark Honors College Dean Gabe Paquette, went to Braun for her work with students on their honors theses.

“As a first-generation college student, a few months ago I was unsure of what a thesis was,” wrote international studies major Abby Keep. “Without (Braun’s) mentorship, I could not have completed my thesis. Her support means the world to me.”

Another honors thesis student, Monica Silverman, echoed Keep’s thoughts about Braun in the context of the CODID-19 pandemic.

“Even during this stressful time of online schooling, she has made an effort to motivate me in continuing my thesis and has acted as a true academic cheerleader,” Silverman wrote.

As for the award money, all three said they plan to pour the funding back into their students. Raiskin will use it to build a digital exhibit allowing students to engage in self-directed primary research. And Braun and Baese-Berk will use it to hire students as research assistants.

“I spend a lot of time trying to find ways to fund my students’ research,” Baese-Berk said, “and so I’m really thrilled to be able to use this money to continue to support my students and their work.”

—By Anna Glavash, University Communications