2021 Mentor Awards




The Office of the Provost offers awards to recognize the important role mentors play in fostering undergraduates’ intellectual, personal and professional growth through participation in high-impact practices including research, scholarly and creative endeavors. These awards provide faculty members, academic staff,  graduate students and post-doctoral fellows with recognition for their excellence in mentoring undergraduates and their contribution to our students’ Wisconsin Experience. The awards provide $2,000 of university expendable funds.

Mentoring awards are presented annually in April at the Undergraduate Symposium. Due to COVID-19, we are happy to provide this digital presentation to celebrate the 2021 Mentor Award recipients. Awardees will be recognized at the 2022 Undergraduate Symposium.

Congratulations 2021 awardees: David Abbott, Claudia Calderon, Liza Chang, S.E. (Frankie) Frank, and Sasha Sommerfeldt!

David Abbott


Professor David Abbott joined the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the UW Primate Center in 1992. During his time as a mentor, Abbott has published co-authored work with 17 undergraduates. He has a consistent and impressive record of mentoring undergraduates throughout his nearly 30 years on campus. Abbott meets weekly with each of his mentees, supporting them on an individual basis, in part by challenging them to continue to deepen their understanding and practice of science. He convenes a weekly Journal Club, exploring the most recent literature with his students in a welcoming atmosphere with lively discussions. One of his mentees describes Abbott as “a compassionate mentor who loves teaching and encourages his students to pursue their research interests and to never stop asking questions.”

Claudia Calderón


Claudia Calderón is an Associate Faculty Associate in the Department of Horticulture. Calderón’s colleagues and students praise both the mentoring relationships she develops with students in the various classroom courses she teaches and the continuation and deepening of many of those relationships in study abroad programs she has developed. One student recalls frequently hearing Calderón emphasize in her Tropical Horticulture course that “a teacher can engage with and learn from a student in the same way that students learn from instructors.” The same student went on to participate in Calderón’s two-week field experience in Costa Rica, describing it as “an inspiring experience and a pivotal moment in my educational career.” Through such experiences, which include diverse groups of students, Calderón helps her students and mentees explore new fields of knowledge, develop skills as researchers and as citizens of the world, and grow in confidence.

Liza Chang


Liza Chang received her Ph.D. in Psychology from UW-Madison in 2019 and is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow in WISCIENCE. In her current role in WISCIENCE, Chang coordinates and implements a variety of programs, both helping undergraduates explore and engage in STEM research (she is currently working on co-authored papers with 9 of them) and training other students and colleagues to be better mentors themselves. Chang’s students praise her clear communication, her compassionate support and her ability to challenge them to pursue continual growth and development. One mentee writes that she has “an amazing ability to connect with student no matter their background by sharing her knowledge, passion and love for helping and making everyone feel safe but most importantly, accepted.”

S.E. (Frankie) Frank


S.E. (Frankie) Frank is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Sociology. Frank leads her own research group (“Menstruation Nation”), which is notable for the diversity of its members, including students from diverse ethnic and racial background, LGBTQ+ students, and students from programs as different as social work, pre-med and pre-law. Her current and former mentees say that she makes students feel seen, heard and included (for example, by learning how to pronounce the name of every student – whether in the research group or in a 100 person class). After graduation, she helps them find jobs, guides them in pursuing graduate student, and supports them on an ongoing basis. One of Frank’s mentees writes that “her endless trust and respect helped me grow immensely as an academic and as a person.” Not surprisingly, Frank serves as a role model for other mentors and teachers in her department and serves on the department’s committee on teaching professional development.

Sasha Sommerfeldt


Sasha Sommerfeldt is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Psychology and a Principal Investigator in the Center for Healthy Minds. Each semester, she works 15-20 undergraduates working on the Stress-physiology Coherence, Interoception, and Mindfulness study. Her students laud her ability to balance guidance and independence, “fostering a welcoming and supportive community” while “implementing rigorous standards and high-quality education.” When the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted work-life, Sommerfeldt adapted to virtual meetings and renewed her focus on students’ development, creating Individual Development Plans for each of her mentees. In response to the ongoing struggle for racial and social justice, she created an anti-racism study group among her mentees, which read and discussed work on the influence of racism on health and well-being.