Provost's Award for Faculty Excellence in Undergraduate Research Mentoring
Professor of Theatre
Research Interests: Voice, Movement and Acting
"My work as a mentor goes hand in hand with my job as a teacher and a director in the performing arts. I believe my job is to offer opportunities for artistic and individual growth to all students that I teach, coach, direct, and those I work with in all areas of production. The path for success in the theatre is not clear. As a mentor, I strive to be a living example to my students of what a professional theatre artist's journey might be. I seek to challenge students to become the best kind of artist they can, to begin to recognize and cultivate strengths in their work that they may not be initially aware of, and to open students' eyes to the opportunities that are available to them so they can make choices that are best for them in pursuit of a life in the theatre or in television or in the film industry. I set high expectations for my students at the same time that I continue to encourage them to keep working towards their goals whatever they may be.
I am lucky in my role as a teacher and a director of theatre productions in that I work very closely with my students for long periods of time (27-35 hours/week for 6 weeks per show). I get to know them well, and as I work with each student, I continually encourage them to challenge themselves, to awaken their curiosity and to experiment (as any scientific researcher would) in order to begin to realize moments of truth onstage. Additionally, I share with my students my artistic goals as well as the challenges I have encountered in my work as a theatre artist.
I am constantly taking workshops to further my own artistry as a performer, a director and a teacher, and I share those experiences with the students. I believe acknowledging how much training I continue to seek and encouraging my students to do the same in their pursuit of excellence is essential. In every one of my classes, I speak about ways to get an internship or what summer actor training is available for both current students and graduates. I post these opportunities on the Theatre Dept. list serve whenever possible and I also maintain a list of graduates to whom I send emails about interesting professional classes or workshops.
I spend an enormous amount of time outside of class time coaching students for both summer stock auditions and graduate school auditions. I work with students on interview techniques for phone interviews they may have for internships. Often, I speak individually with students about what the next step might be for them in terms of graduate work, further training, how to pursue acting or directing or stage management work. If a face-to-face conversation is not possible, I exchange emails with students after they graduate. I am always available for extra help outside of class and productions to speak with students, to answer questions and to encourage their artistic and personal growth.
I provide students with opportunities to learn about the theatre in addition to their university studies by bringing theatre professionals to Binghamton to give workshops to our students as often a possible. I am also such a strong advocate of seeing professional theatre as a training method that on every syllabus I include two pages of ways students can see Broadway and off Broadway theatre in New York City for very little money.
Mentoring continues once students graduate. There are many alumni with whom I am still in contact and up-to-date on their achievements – I see their performances, and often meet with them and see a show together in NYC and chat about what the next step might be for them."
Professor of Psychology
Research Interests: Animal models of memory disorders, neurobiology of memory and reward
"Although neither of my parents went to college, I was familiar with the college experience from my brothers and sisters. In the late 1970's Native American college students were finally able to organize and have cultural celebrations (the American Indian Religious Freedom Act was passed in 1978) and I was recipient of their efforts and struggles to make college a meaningful place for Native American youth. As an undergraduate, they assisted me with mapping the finances and planning out a college degree.I was also fortunate to have outstanding faculty mentors throughout my undergraduate and graduate education. After my family guided me to undergraduate programs aimed for minority scientists (NIH funded programs of Minority Access Research Careers and American Indians in Medicine), I worked with several faculty members (Dr. Robert Pozo [University of Minnesota-Duluth] and Drs. J. Bruce Overmier and Travis Thompson [University of Minnesota-Twin Cities]) with a passion for research, teaching and training scientists.It is from these experiences that I emerged as a faculty member with a deep commitment for mentoring science students. I was fortunate to build my career at Binghamton University, as it was key to my career that I would work with students from diverse backgrounds. One of my greatest accomplishments is being a research mentor and co-director for the SUNY Upstate Bridges to the Baccalaureate training grant that bring underrepresents community colleges to Binghamton campus for a summer research experience.I hope to instill in students a passion for science. My 20 years of experience has shown me that grades and test scores are not the best predictors of success, but rather a deep interest, creativity and hard work produce the best students that then emerge into impactful educators, researchers and heath care providers.If I were to classify my mentoring philosophy it would be more of a "coach" style. I treat students as individuals and try to understand their unique perspective brought about by their past experiences and cultural identities.For many first generation college students, the idea of post-graduate education is foreign: The experiences that prepare and make a student competitive for further education is unknown to them. Thus a significant goal of my student-faculty interaction is to demystify the research experience: breaking it down to the creative elements as well as the practical and detailed experience of collecting data, and the excitement in the stories that data can tell us.I encourage students to expand their skills, and discuss their ideas with the research team made up of other undergraduate and graduate students and myself. A key rule is not to punish mistakes, as they can be productive examples of how we modify our behaviors and thinking. These practices nurture self-sufficiency.It is important to move students towards self-defined goals. Help them, but not push them, to find a career path that they will enjoy and be successful at. I track of their progress by asking questions and acknowledge their accomplishments. I always look forward to successes and the knowledge they can share with me as they evolve into professionals."
Professor of Psychology
Research Interests: Utilizing neuropsychological techniques to better understand cognitive/behavioral factors
"Since I joined the faculty of Harpur College and began my longtime collaboration with Dick Burright, I (we) had one goal- to provide a fertile ground where our students would flourish. They often lead us in new directions in the laboratory and provided insights to our work that we had missed. Our job was to establish boundaries between the feasible and the impossible, the rational and irrational. In the earliest years, competent graduate students were rare but innovative undergraduates common. From my earliest publications to my most recent, undergraduate and graduate students were coauthor and commonly first authors. We encouraged students to present at national and international conferences. And when our lab was not the best fit for the individual, even though we valued the student in our lab, we actively worked to help them find the better match.
In the classroom, like the laboratory, no comment or question (other than the one not asked) was viewed as stupid. I have always encouraged students to ask when clarification of what I have said was needed. I encourage students to contribute to the conduct of the course when they know more than I on a given topic. As such, periodically an undergraduate has taken over part of a lecture, and even taught a class on a specific topic.
I believe that a faculty member's obligations extend beyond the laboratory and classroom. Trying to be present to the individual is primary to me. Frequently they need advice about courses to be taken, careers to be pursued and, yes, about how to negotiate a troubled relationship, financial difficulties, conflicting career goals of theirs and their parents. At times I've encouraged students to reach higher and at other times, I've needed to say that their grades, skills, and perhaps their abilities, do not meet the criteria for their next desired step.
My students have given me a life. In words attributed to Da Vinci, it is a poor student who does not surpass his teacher. And I have been honored by the many, many students who have gone on and have contributed richly to this world."
Research Interests: Molecular biology, biochemistry and physiology of plants
"Part of learning science is about working in the laboratory. Because of the student to faculty ratio in our department (Biology), we can't expect all students to work in a research laboratory but we can give all students the opportunity to do inquiry-based laboratory work in our classroom laboratories. Students apply a basic set of techniques that they just learned to answer a question for which there are no known answers.
With grants from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) and the National Institute of Health (NIH), I have enabled a good number of students to do research with other faculty mentors. At any given semester, I also mentor three to five undergraduate students in my own laboratory. I try to select students for whom it would make the most difference. I give specific instructions at the start but as the student progresses, I let students write out the details of their own experiments. My research is on plants where methods are not as well developed. So students in my lab often find themselves adapting techniques that had worked out in better studied species to their specific organism. It is definitely a challenge for students but at the same time a valuable experience in problem solving. The part of mentoring I enjoy most is troubleshooting, analyzing and interpreting data together, making conclusions and planning the next step. I can always tell when a student begins to "own" the project and I know that he/she has reached this important goal, which is different from obtaining a publishable result. Maturation as a scientist is the more valuable goal, whether or not the undergraduate student becomes a co-author on a paper. Finally, mentoring a research student is also about helping the student develop career goals, and helping him or her reach that goal. The rewards of being a mentor go far beyond the college years. I like it best when students keep in touch and let me know of their progress- not just in their career but also as they have families of their own."