Graduate Division names six winners for 2017 mentoring awards

By Shawn Warner-Garcia, Assistant Director of Professional Development
Friday, July 14, 2017 10:07 AM

The Graduate Division is pleased to announce the ​winners for two awards ​honoring graduate students who have distinguished themselves in the area of undergraduate research supervision. The Fiona and Michael Goodchild Graduate Mentoring Award is available to students in the College of Engineering; Mathematical, Life, and Physical Sciences Division of the College of Letters and Science; and the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management. The Dean’s Graduate Mentoring Award is available to students in the Humanities and Fine Arts and Social Sciences Divisions of the College of Letters and Science and the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education.

The winners of the 2017 Fiona and Michael Goodchild Graduate Mentoring Awards are: 

  • Phil Ehret (Psychological & Brain Sciences), nominated by Prof. David Sherman
  • Mai ElSherief (Computer Science), nominated by Prof. Elizabeth Belding
  • Devyn Orr (Ecology, Evolution, & Marine Biology), nominated by Prof. Hillary Young

The winners of the 2017 Dean’s Graduate Mentoring Awards are:

  • Aubrie Adams (Communication), nominated by Prof. Norah Dunbar
  • Melissa Barthelemy (History), nominated by Prof. Randy Bergstrom
  • Baron Haber (English), nominated by Prof. Christopher Newfield

These students are recognized for their excellence in and contributions to undergraduate research supervision and for encouraging others to become involved in these research efforts. Each of the winning students receives a $1000 award. Read on to find out more about each of our awardees!

PHIL EHRET // Psychological & Brain Sciences

Research Interests

My research uses social psychological theory to explain why people engage in harmful behaviors. Specifically, I investigate how the self-concept can be both a barrier to and motivator for certain health and pro-environmental behaviors such as reduced alcohol consumption or greater water conservation behaviors.

Mentoring Experiences

Mentoring is a way for me to engage with undergraduates and bring them into the world of research, as well as an avenue for me to learn how to be a better researcher, leader, and future academic. I have had the wonderful opportunity to work with over 30 undergraduate research assistants over the last 5 years. By far, the most rewarding part is being able to help these students reach their personal goals. I have had undergraduates win awards for their honors theses, get accepted into graduate schools, and start their ideal jobs after graduation. Seeing their happiness at their own successes inspires me to continue to help undergraduates reach their dreams. For me, every student brings a challenge as I tailor my mentoring to their own goals and aspirations. This often requires me to go beyond my own knowledge and expertise to give them the resources they need to succeed.

What the Award Means to Him

I am honored to win this award. I know that many of my accomplishments are the result of the mentors I have had over ​the years. To be recognized as an effective mentor myself means the world to me as I know that I am doing my best to honor the time and effort of those who helped me by helping the next generation of students. ​

MAI ELSHERIEF // Computer Science

Research Interests

As a data scientist, I am interested in applying my data-analytic skills to understanding societal phenomena. I study how people interact on different social networking platforms such as Twitter and Facebook to reach a fundamental understanding of real-world phenomena. These interactions provide a measure of public opinion and as such are used to drive informed decisions. I get drawn to tackling problems that have a greater prevalence in communities including gender-based violence and hate speech. In essence, I do social computing for social good.

Mentoring Experiences

Mentoring an undergraduate is the best gift you can give to them and to yourself. It is not just about showing someone how to accomplish technical work but paving the road together, exploring different things, and optimally reaching creativity peaks. This past year, I mentored two undergraduate women majoring in Computer Science, and we worked on two projects pertaining to gender-based violence and hate speech. This mentoring journey has resulted in two of the best moments in my career. The first was when we got the acceptance of our gender-based violence study which was published in a top computer science conference with an acceptance rate of 14%. The second was when I read my undergraduate’s nomination letter for me. I felt that I made a long-lasting difference in her education experience.

What the Award Means to Her

This award strengthened my belief in the role of mentoring. Today and in the future, I hope to continue contributing to eradicating the barrier between women and computer science. By involving women during their early education phases with state-of-the-art research projects, we will be able to increase their self-efficacy and increase the percentage of women in the field of Computer Science. If there is one thing that I learned from this experience, it would be that having a great mentor makes you a great mentor. I learned by example from my adviser Elizabeth Belding. She played a huge role in redefining what mentoring means to me and showed me by real-life examples how mentoring creates an infinite resonance and culture of mentoring.

DEVYN ORR // Ecology, Evolution, & Marine Biology

Research Interests

My research focuses on how declines in wildlife (or "defaunation") can have cascading effects on numerous processes, including nutrient flux, energy flow within and across systems, carbon dynamics, and disease transmission. I'm working to better understand the relationship between defaunation and climate using a large-scale field experiment in south-central California, where I'm studying how the removal of deer and elk impacts plant and arthropod communities across a strong climate gradient.

Mentoring Experiences

I chose to pursue a research career because I wanted to make a real and lasting difference in the world. Current environmental problems and social justice issues are inextricably bound, and so I see educating and inspiring the next generation as a critical component of my mission as an ecologist and conservation biologist. Since beginning my graduate studies, I have mentored 2-5 students each year, both independently and through participation in campus programs such as Eureka, Gene Lucas Scholars, and UC Leads. My primary role as a mentor is to guide undergraduates through the research process – from brainstorming questions and crafting projects that are interesting and achievable to teaching them necessary lab, field, and analytical skills. Five of my students have presented their work at research colloquiums, and four of my mentees are currently co-authoring manuscripts with me. So far, all of my mentees who have graduated have continued to pursue research careers through internships, private industry jobs, or graduate school.

What the Award Means to ​Her

I am very honored to receive this award, but the biggest reward is in working with these wonderful undergraduates! They truly deserve all of the credit. I know they are going to go on to achieve great things, and I just do my best to keep up with them. Personally, I never would have arrived at this point in my career were it not for the strong mentors who have supported me; I know firsthand that such support can be radically transformative for a student’s career. I feel unbelievably fortunate to have found my academic family.

AUBRIE ADAMS // Communication

Research Interests

My research focuses on the intersection of Interpersonal Communication and New Media. More specifically, I use mixed methods to study computer-mediated communication, text interaction, video game research, game-based learning, and social media.

Mentoring Experiences

I work to promote hands-on research, collaboration, and one-on-one mentoring for individuals enthusiastic about academic inquiry. The most rewarding part of mentoring is collaborating on projects together. I've had the opportunity to closely mentor 6 students who worked with me as collaborators on papers accepted for presentation at communication conferences in Puerto Rico, Japan, and San Diego. It’s been wonderful to show students how their class projects can move to real-world projects presented for an international academic audience.

What the Award Means to ​Her

Winning this award is amazing! I’ve always felt a great responsibility to inspire students to get more involved in research – not only so they can become educated citizens, but so they can plan their own research projects and become scholars in their own right. Winning the award is a happy bonus! It makes me feel like the time and energy I’ve invested in inspiring undergraduates isn’t only something that I find meaningful, but it’s also explicitly encouraged and valued by the University. It gives me a great feeling of pride and support from UCSB! ​

MELISSA BARTHELEMY​ // History

Research Interests

My dissertation looks at the ways that politics and memory have been mobilized in the wake of mass violence, such as school shootings. Much of my research looks at the Isla Vista Tragedy of May 23, 2014, when six UCSB students were killed and another 14 individuals were injured. I am also working at a national level to help develop a better system of support for archivists and historians who end up managing condolence projects when their community suffers a public tragedy.

Mentoring Experiences

In the wake of the May 23, 2014 tragedy, I mentored a team of students through the process of collecting, archiving, and curating a memorial archive. This project would not have been possible without these students! Several interns have continued to stay involved in the project even after graduating, and I've been able to help them in references for competitive graduate programs and job positions. It is great to see their hard work pay off. The most challenging aspect has been the intensely emotional nature of the work we've done together, but that's also what has made it so valuable and meaningful. For me, a true mentorship relationship should involve reciprocity, openness, and trust.

What the Award Means to ​Her

Mentoring by graduate students is a crucial responsibility that frequently goes unrecognized as it often occurs during the spaces of office hours, responses to emails late at night, writing letters of recommendations for past students, giving advice on grad school and career prospects, and helping refer students to support services. I have benefited from fantastic mentors in my life who have done many of these things for me, and it is deeply meaningful to be acknowledged for my role in doing the same for others. I applaud the Graduate Division for recognizing the value of mentorship in fostering deeper relationships and building a healthier community, which contributes to the success of our students.

BARON HABER // English

Research Interests

I research British and Global Literature, with a special emphasis in literature and the environment and gender/queer theory. Presently, I'm completing a dissertation discussing representations of metamorphosis in twentieth-century fiction, discussing writers such as Virginia Woolf, E.M. Forster, Salman Rushdie, and Indra Sinha. These stories excite me because they speak to the anxieties as well as the opportunities that changes to our bodies and environments present.

Mentoring Experiences

Working as a Graduate Fellow for the Arnhold Undergraduate Research Program has been a transformational experience for me, as I have had the opportunity to work closely with over 30 high-performing and self-motivated English majors who are completing their capstone projects. I've seen these students' projects grow from acorns to oaks, and their final products are mighty oaks indeed. I'm proud to say that I've mentored students whose papers have already been accepted at top academic conferences, ​as well as students who have gone on to medical school, law school, and interesting careers in the creative professions.

What the Award Means to Him

I see this award as celebrating not just my own work in setting up and running this program, but also the work of the undergraduate fellows, who have amazed me with the tenacity, intellect, and endurance that they brought to their projects. These are exceptional, inspiring students, and I hope that their time in the Arnhold Program has been half as transformative and rewarding as it has been for me.

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