Outstanding Faculty Mentor Awards 2021-22

Outstanding Faculty Mentor Awardees reflect on mentorship

The Graduate College honored four ASU graduate professors at the 35th annual Outstanding Faculty Mentor Awards on Feb. 28, 2022. Nominated by their graduate student and postdoctoral mentees, this year’s awardees were Dr. Jeffrey Jensen, Dr. Heather Bateman, Dr. Carla Firetto and Dr. Janet Neisewander.

Awardees were selected after a rigorous review process by a committee that included faculty from across the university, previous OFMA recipients and the executive committee of the Graduate Faculty Mentor Academy. OFMA awards are given in four categories: Outstanding Postdoctoral Mentor, Outstanding Master’s Mentor, Outstanding Instructional Faculty Mentor and Outstanding Doctoral Mentor.

Outstanding Faculty Mentors 2022

Janet Neisewander, professor, School of LIfe Sciences

This year’s Outstanding Doctoral Mentor, Neisewander, is a behavioral neuroscientist who uses animal models to study mechanisms of drug abuse. Throughout her career, she has mentored high school, undergraduate and graduate students, as well as postdocs.

Neisewander says she has learned an enormous amount from her mentees and many of them have later become her closest colleagues and lifelong friends.

“Mentoring graduate students is the most enjoyable and rewarding part of my job, and it also is challenging at times and, as such, has been a tremendous part of my professional and personal growth,” she said.

Heather Bateman, associate professor, College of Integrative Sciences and Arts

Bateman, a field ecologist and conservation biologist, is this year’s Outstanding Master’s Mentor. She mentors undergraduate and graduate students in wildlife ecology.

She offered three pathways to engage students in the coproduction of knowledge: be inclusive, be flexible and be curious. In line with being curious, Bateman noted that wildlife ecologists often work in inspiring outdoor settings and study amazing organisms.

“These are remarkable memories and I allow students to be amazed and be curious, to be safe and to have a time they can fondly reflect upon later in their careers because these experiences that they’re having today wil be reminders of why they became biologists,” Bateman said.

Carla Firetto, assistant professor, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College

This year’s Outstanding Instructional Faculty Mentor, Firetto, is an assistant professor of education psychology. 

Firetto emphasized the importance of learning about her mentees, as each student brings a unique perspective and knowledge derived from their individual backgrounds and past experiences. From here, she can help students leverage their skills and interests, just as her mentors did for her.

“Working with the graduate students in Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College has been one of the highlights of my time here so far and to think that I now have the same honor and privilege of serving them in the same capacity that my mentors have served me is truly and deeply a humbling experience.”

Jeffrey Jensen, professor, School of Life Sciences

Jensen, a population geneticist, is this year’s Outstanding Postdoctoral Mentor. He has mentored over 20 postdocs as well as numerous undergraduate and graduate researchers.

He listed 10 guidelines that have worked well in his lab over the years. The guidelines are: invest in yourself, recruit the best people and work with them, always demand respect in both directions, be upfront about problems, accomplishments need to be celebrated, constant work is not the same as constant progress, mentoring usually is not a 2-3 year commitment — be in touch over the years, be open and honest about a career in academia, training people in your expertise does not make them a threat and lastly, don’t overcommit.

In regard to his last guideline, Jensen says, “be specific about what you want to invest your efforts into and one of those things should always be mentoring.”

Jenna Nabors