ASU Graduate College Announces 2021-2022 Outstanding Faculty Mentorship Awards

February 21, 2022

On February 28, the Graduate College will honor four graduate professors from Arizona State University with Outstanding Faculty Mentorship Awards. Now in its 35th year, the Outstanding Faculty Mentorship Awards recognize outstanding faculty members for their service to graduate students and postdoctoral researchers through excellence in mentorship.

Active and engaged mentors not only provide coaching, modeling and feedback in academic and professional development, but also provide essential psychosocial and interpersonal connection and support.

The four Graduate College Outstanding Mentorship recipients (left to right): Carla Firetto, Heather Bateman, Janet Neisewander and Jeffrey Jensen.

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“Mentors are critical to graduate students’ success in their academic endeavors and in their professional careers,” said Elizabeth Wentz, Vice Provost and Dean of ASU Graduate College. “Not only is faculty mentorship one of the most important parts of being a graduate faculty member, it can be one of the most rewarding.”

Nominated by their graduate students and postdoctoral mentees, fellows come from all levels of faculty – tenure-track, tenure-track, non-tenure-track, clinical, academic, and postdoctoral advisors.

This year’s event will take place virtually. Register to attend the Outstanding Faculty Mentorship Awards.

Outstanding Faculty Mentors 2021-22

Outstanding Postdoctoral Mentor
Jeffrey Jensen, Professor, School of Life Sciences

Jensen is a population geneticist and a professor in the School of Life Sciences, Center for Evolution and Medicine, and Center for Mechanisms of Evolution. Over the years, Jensen has mentored 22 postdoctoral fellows and numerous undergraduate and graduate researchers.

“I have been fortunate to have recruited many talented and highly motivated lab members, and have maintained a strong focus on mentorship and inclusion over the 12 years of my lab’s existence,” said Jensen said.

The Jensen Lab studies theoretical and computational population genetics and evolutionary genomics, with research funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the United States Department of Defense, the European Research Council, and the Swiss NSF, and, more recently, by established NIH Mira Prize researcher.

Parul Johri, a postdoc who has worked in Jensen’s lab for the past three years and is one of his mentees, points to Jensen’s investment in his students’ future. She notes that he provides thorough and constructive feedback and has been a constant source of motivation and support throughout her application process.

“I’ve never seen a better mentor throughout my college career, Johri said.

Jensen holds a bachelor’s degree in ecology, evolutionary biology and biological anthropology from the University of Arizona. He received his Ph.D. in Genetics from Cornell University and later conducted postdoctoral research as a National Science Foundation Fellow at the University of California, San Diego and the University of California, Berkeley.

Throughout his studies, Jensen was mentored by many prominent evolutionary researchers, including Charles Aquadro, Doris Bachtrog, Brian Charlesworth, and Rasmus Nielsen. In turn, he recognizes the importance of mentorship and hopes to inspire and guide his mentees, just as his mentors did for him.

Outstanding Master Mentor
Heather Bateman, Associate Professor, College of Integrative Science and Arts

Bateman is a field ecologist and conservation biologist with research interests in wildlife responses to habitat alteration, with a particular focus on amphibians, reptiles and birds. In addition to teaching herpetology and ornithology at ASU, Bateman mentors undergraduate and graduate students in wildlife ecology.

“Heather is a comprehensive and supportive advisor who goes out of her way to make the college experience great for her undergraduate and graduate students,” said Brett Montgomery, one of Bateman’s mentees.

Montgomery was a student in Bateman’s lab as an undergraduate at ASU, and six years later completed a master’s degree under Bateman’s supervision as part of a sponsored project. He said Bateman was always ready to help navigate “the tricky terrain of academia.”

Bateman acknowledges that graduate school can be very stressful, but also notes that it can be a time of great joy.

“As wildlife ecologists, we work in some of the most inspiring outdoor environments, studying fascinating and rare organisms,” Bateman said. “You never forget the first time you see a Gila monster in the wild or experience monsoon storms while summer camping!”

Bateman holds a BS in Ecology from Idaho State University, an MS in Biology from Eastern Washington University, and a PhD in Biology from the University of New Mexico.

Outstanding Teaching Faculty Mentor
Carla Firetto, Assistant Professor, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College

Firetto is an assistant professor of educational psychology in the division of teacher preparation at Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. His research aims to facilitate learners’ high-level understanding of complex texts and content through the use of small group discussions. Firetto’s passion for teaching and education has shaped his approach to mentoring.

“A constant in all my mentoring relationships, from undergraduate students to postdoctoral fellows, is my goal to better prepare those I mentor to think deeply and critically, which can ultimately serve them academically, professionally and personal,” Firetto said.

Emily Starrett, one of Firetto’s mentees, said Firetto gave advice on narrowing her focus for future research and career paths. Starrett is currently conducting an independent study with Firetto to gain experience teaching an online undergraduate course.

“All of this work, along with the support she gives me as a Ph.D. supervisor, helps guide me towards a successful academic career,” Starrett said.

Firetto earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and sociology from Thiel College, a master’s degree in educational psychology from Pennsylvania State University, and a doctorate in educational psychology, also from Pennsylvania State University.

Outstanding Doctoral Mentor
Janet Neisewander, Professor, School of Life Sciences

Neisewander is a behavioral neuroscientist who uses animal models to study the mechanisms of drug abuse, focusing primarily on cocaine and nicotine. She has taught at ASU for over 20 years and has mentored many undergraduate and graduate students.

Neisewander is a passionate, caring and supportive mentor, according to Mark Namba, a doctoral candidate in neuroscience and one of his mentees.

“I have never felt more welcome in science than in Dr. Neisewnader’s lab,” Namba said. “Dr. Neisewander has a unique way of making everyone in the room feel heard, seen and respected by always listening to his interns and making sure their needs are met.

Namba describes Neisewander as a “staunch supporter of (his) career”, and since joining his lab he says his graduate career has blossomed.

Neisewander received a bachelor’s degree in biology and psychology from Rockford University, a doctorate in behavioral and neural studies from the University of Kentucky. She also completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. She is grateful for the mentors she had throughout her college career.

“I deeply appreciate that my mentors have generously helped me grow professionally and personally,” Neisewander said. “The ability to serve my graduate students in a similar capacity is extremely rewarding. Our mutual growth, accomplishments, and even disappointments allow us to form bonds that extend beyond their days at ASU.

Join the Graduate College in celebrating outstanding 2021-22 faculty mentors. Register for the virtual reception today.

Written by Jenna Nabors

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