Mentor Awards in Research, Scholarly and Creative Activities

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.

Congratulations to the 2022 awardees: Sue Robinson, Nicole Werner, Pajarita Charles, Ksenija Bilbija and Patricia Tran

2022 Awardees

Sue Robinson

Professor, Journalism and Mass Communication

Sue Robinson holds the Helen Firstbrook Franklin Professor of Journalism endowed research chair in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Dr. Robinson has mentored over 75 students as the faculty advisor and mentor to the Black Voice publication as well as the National Association of Black Journalists. Further, she has mentored eight students who participated in the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program or the McNair Scholars Program. Sue works to be an ally and her mentorship is long lasting. One student said, “with Professor Robinson, I found a mentor and teacher who was actively working on how to provide a space for Black students to learn, vent and develop as people.” Another student said, “Sue is not the type of mentor to accept mediocrity or disappear once the tassel is flipped.”

Nicole Werner

Associate Professor, Industrial and Systems Engineering

Nicole Werner has mentored nearly 30 undergraduate students in industrial and systems engineering approaches for improving health and well-being. Professor Werner’s research is in care transitions across health care systems. Her undergraduate mentees have received more than 40 awards including the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, the Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Grant, the Harvey Meyerhoff Undergraduate Excellence Award and the Discovery to Product (D2P) Commercialization Award. She uses a team-based approach in her lab, where a small group of students from all levels work together to conduct a research project and disseminate the results as conference presentations and papers. The success of this approach is demonstrated by her students’ writing productivity. A recent undergraduate she mentored who went on to do their MS, graduated two years ago and now works in a hospital system wrote, “I wouldn’t be in this position if it wasn’t for what I learned while in your lab.”

Pajarita Charles

Assistant Professor, Social Work

Dr. Charles has mentored undergraduate students in her Lab for Family Wellbeing & Justice since 2018. She has mentored 19 undergraduate students from social work, legal studies, public policy, and human development and family studies. She has weekly lab meetings with thoughtful agendas that include opportunities for all lab members to report progress, plan new goals and discuss hot topics in the field. Beyond the weekly lab meeting, she also has a separate weekly meeting with each undergraduate student to focus on their specific goals and growth. One student said, “ during my time in the lab, Paja has gone above and beyond her mentoring role: she has supported my individual curiosity and questioning, provided me with learning opportunities that cater to my interests and taught me invaluable lessons regarding professional development.”

Ksenija Bilbija

Professor, Spanish & Portuguese

Ksenija has mentored undergraduates throughout her career where she specializes in cultural studies, gender criticism and post-traumatic memory, with interest in Spanish American Literatures. Professor Bilbija has guided more than thirty students through the Hilldale Collaborative Grant since 1996. She has also mentored several students through the Sophomore Research Fellowship Grant, supported the research of Undergraduate Research Scholars and has served as director for one senior honors thesis. In the fall of 2018, five of her students received prizes in the essay competition held by the Human Rights Program. A student described their experience, “Ksenija’s influence on my academic and personal growth extended beyond the Hilldale Grant’s experience both performing boots-on-the-ground research in Santiago, Chile and our final 25-page thesis. Ksenija fostered my intellectual curiosity, the same drive that helps me approach complex patient care as a medical student at the University of Michigan.”

Patricia Tran

PhD Candidate, L&S Freshwater & Marine Sciences

Patricia is a PhD student in the Freshwater and Marine Sciences program focusing on microbial ecology in freshwater, marine and human environments. One of Patricia’s mentee’s summarized Patricia’s impact saying, “when I first came to the lab, I had never taken a college-level biology course nor ever worked in a lab, but Patricia immediately began working with me to increase my scientific literacy, proficiency in computational and experimental lab work and scientific writing ability. Having that support was instrumental to not only my experience in undergraduate research but also in shaping my desire to have a career in research.” Patricia also employed high-impact and evidence-based practices when recruiting a new undergraduate student. Her advertisement, candidate review rubrics and interview questions were crafted to minimize implicit bias and to highlight multiple dimensions of diversity. Practices that will have a lasting impact.