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January: National Mentoring Month

Posted on December 28, 2016
Imari Walker Karega, (left) a marine science-environmental engineering major at University of California, Berkeley, with her mentor, Dr. Sheila Humphreys (PAESMEM 2012). Photo credit: Diana Lizarraga
Imari Walker Karega, (left) a marine science-environmental engineering major at University of California,Berkeley, with her mentor, Dr. Sheila Humphreys (PAESMEM 2012). Photo credit: Diana Lizarraga

President Obama this month issued his annual proclamation for all Americans to observe January as National Mentoring Month. Since 2002, January has been designated as the month to celebrate mentors who provide countless hours of guidance, advice and support to help students at all levels achieve success.

Sponsors of National Mentoring Month—the National Mentoring Partnership (MENTOR), the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Corporation for National and Community Service—are continuing the theme “In Real Life” to accentuate the program’s 15-year history of forming real life mentoring relationships that have impacted the lives of mentees and mentors.

To celebrate the observance, the 2017 toolkit may be downloaded to find suggestions for activities throughout the month. Suggestions range from a selfie photo contest with mentees and mentors to social media mentoring stories on “Thank Your Mentor Day” on Jan. 19.  

Exemplary STEM mentors are among the more than 240 individuals and organizations that have received Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM). Within the PAESMEM community, science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) mentoring successes took center stage throughout the past year. PAESMEM alumni kept the goals of diversity and excellence in STEM education at the forefront of their endeavors, especially during National Mentoring Month. National Science Foundation also highlighted those efforts with social media posts during the month.

From the archives from 2016, the examples are many.

Dartmouth’s success with encouraging women to pursue non-traditional STEM careers drew national attention with an article in USA Today about the Women in Science Project (WISP). For a quarter century, WISP (PAESMEM Organizational 1996) combined mentoring with laboratory research as part of early academic requirements. The result last year was more women than men earning baccalaureate degrees in engineering.

Dr. John Matsui (PAESMEM 2013) and Dr. Murthy Kambhampati (PAESMEM 2012) described strategies for helping biology students persist in their STEM studies. At Southern University in New Orleans, Kambhampati works to help students with their financial stresses, while engaging them in hands-on laboratory work and summer job opportunities. He went beyond most mentors and donated his PAESMEM monetary award of $10,000 to start an endowment fund for his students. At the University of California, Berkeley, Matsui organized a conference to help demonstrate to faculty throughout his university that the mentoring strategies of his Biology Scholars Program can increase the academic success of disadvantaged students in other STEM disciplines, university-wide.

The work of Dr. Juan Gilbert (PAESMEM 2011) at the University of Florida (UF) and fellow computer engineering PAESMEM honorees—including Dr. Maja J. Matarić (PAESMEM 2009) at the University of Southern California (USC) and Dr. Karen Panetta (PAESMEM 2010) at Tufts University—is part of a movement toward systemic educational change to make computer science integral to student learning. All are engaged in successful practices in computer science mentoring, ranging from research laboratory experiments, such as the brain-drone race at UF last year, to the ongoing teacher training workshops at USC.

Interviewed for the video gallery, “In Their Own Words,” Dr. Tilak Ratnanather (PAESMEM 2012) at Johns Hopkins University describes how students with hearing loss—similar to his own—can excel if they follow his advice to take a proactive approach to undergraduate education in STEM. The videos also feature PAESMEM alumni who provide other mentoring tips, including: 

Dr. Lorraine Fleming (PAESMEM 2013) at Howard University discusses the importance of engineering role models for minority youth;

Dr. Christine Grant (PAESMEM 2003) at North Carolina State University talks about how to transition from a mentor-to-colleague relationship; and

Dr. Juan Arratia (PAESMEM 2006) at the Universidad Metropolitana, Puerto Rico, stresses the importance of engaging K-12 students to study STEM.

During National Mentoring Month, share these efforts by your PAESMEM colleagues with other STEM education advocates and mentors by encouraging them to subscribe to our newsletter. Anyone may join the PAESMEM community to learn more about exemplary mentoring. Visit

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