Collage of portraits of four ASU faculty members who are recipients of the Graduate College Outstanding Faculty Mentor Award.

ASU Graduate College announces 2021–22 Outstanding Faculty Mentor Awards

On Feb. 28, the Graduate College will honor four Arizona State University graduate professors with Outstanding Faculty Mentor Awards. Now in their 35th year, the Outstanding Faculty Mentor Awards recognize outstanding faculty members for their service to the graduate student and postdoctoral scholar communities through mentoring excellence.

Active, committed mentors not only offer coaching, modeling and feedback in academic and career development, but provide essential psychosocial and interpersonal connection and support.

“Mentors are essential to the success of graduate students in both their academic pursuits and their professional careers,” said Elizabeth Wentz, vice provost and dean of the 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 student and postdoctoral mentees, awardees come from all levels of faculty — tenured, tenure-track, non-tenure-track, clinical, instructional and postdoctoral advisers. 

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

2021-22 Outstanding Faculty Mentors

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

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

“I have had the good fortune to have recruited many talented and highly motivated lab members, and I have maintained a strong focus on mentorship and inclusion in the 12-year existence of my lab,” Jensen said.

The Jensen Lab studies theoretical and computational population genetics and evolutionary genomics, with research funded by the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Defense, European Research Council and Swiss NSF, and, most recently, by an NIH Established-Investigator MIRA award.

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

“I have never seen a better mentor throughout my academic career,” Johri said. 

Jensen earned bachelor’s degrees in ecology and evolutionary biology and biological anthropology from the University of Arizona. He earned his PhD in genetics at Cornell University and went on to conduct postdoctoral research as a National Science Foundation Fellow at the University of California at San Diego and the University of California at Berkeley. 

Throughout his studies, Jensen was mentored by many prominent researchers in the field of evolution, 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’s Mentor
Heather Bateman, associate professor, College of Integrative Sciences 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 well-rounded and supportive adviser 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 undergrad at ASU and, six years later, is completing a master’s degree under Bateman’s supervision through a sponsored project. He said Bateman is always willing to help with navigating “the tricky terrain of academia.”

Bateman recognizes 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 settings, studying fascinating and rare organisms,” said Bateman. “You never forget the first time you see a Gila monster in the wild or experience monsoon storms on a summer camping trip!”

Bateman has a bachelor’s degree in ecology from Idaho State University, a master’s degree in biology from Eastern Washington University and a PhD in biology from the University of New Mexico.

Outstanding Instructional Faculty Mentor
Carla Firetto, assistant professor, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College

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

“A constant across all of my mentoring relationships, from undergraduate students to postdoctoral scholars, is my goal to better prepare those I mentor to think deeply and critically, which can ultimately serve them academically as well as professionally and personally,” Firetto said.

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

“All of this work, along with the support she is giving me as my doctoral adviser, is helping guide me toward a successful academic career,” Starrett said. 

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

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

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

Neisewander is a passionate, thoughtful and supportive mentor, according to Mark Namba, a neuroscience PhD candidate and one of her mentees. 

“I have never felt more welcomed in science than I have being 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 her trainees and making sure their needs are met.”

Namba describes Neisewander as an “unwavering supporter of (his) career,” and since joining her lab, he says his graduate career has flourished. 

Neisewander earned bachelor’s degrees in biology and psychology from Rockford University, a PhD 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 academic journey. 

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

Join the Graduate College in celebrating the 2021-22 Outstanding Faculty Mentors. Register for the virtual reception today.

Written by Jenna Nabors

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