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April 26, 2018

MSU undergrads honor faculty with Mentor of the Year Awards

Daniel Menchik, assistant professor of sociology and history, philosophy and sociology of science, and Patricia Norris, professor of community sustainability, were both recent recipients of the annual Undergraduate Research Faculty Mentor of the Year Award.

Two awards are given each year – one to a faculty member representing science and engineering, which was given to Norris, and one to a faculty member representing the social sciences and humanities, which was given to Menchik.

Rachel Nanteza, an undergraduate student in the Department of Community Sustainability in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and one of Norris’ mentees, nominated her for the award.

“Dr. Norris’ mentorship approach has given me ownership of my research, and also made me feel that I am progressing as an independent researcher,” Nanteza said. “Dr. Norris’ commitment to my success as an undergraduate researcher has inspired me to pursue graduate school in water resource management and use my personal experiences and knowledge to extend her mentorship model of professionalism, open-mindedness and inclusion, to inspire young girls and women in higher education.” 

David Lawlor, an undergraduate student studying Human Biology in Lyman Briggs College, and one of Menchik’s mentees, nominated him for the award.

“From my first meeting with Dr. Menchik, I was struck by his willingness to listen to my interests and concerns and tailor my research experience to what I was most interested in. He placed full trust in my capabilities,” Lawlor said. “Under his guidance, I have become extremely well-versed in the field of medical sociology and have presented our work at the American Sociological Association’s annual conference this past summer in Montreal.”

The Undergraduate Research Faculty Mentor of the Year Award recognizes MSU faculty members who have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to mentoring undergraduate researchers. The award is completely student-driven, as only undergraduate researchers can submit nominations and the University’s Undergraduate Research Ambassadors review and select the finalists. 

“A great research mentor is one of the most critical components to a student’s undergraduate research experience," said Korine Wawrzynski, assistant dean for academic initiatives and director for Undergraduate Research. "Research mentors bridge the gap between theory and practice as they show students how research works and evolves in very real settings.

"Our research mentors play a very formative role in impacting students’ potential career pathways and overall educational experiences at MSU."

The awards were presented during the annual University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum Award Ceremony on April 18.  For more information about undergraduate research at MSU, visit

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