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Casting a Wider Net for 2017 PAESMEM Nomination Season

Posted on July 1, 2015
Dr. Sylvia M. James, Director  NSF Division of Human Resource Development   Photo credit: NSF
Dr. Sylvia M. James, Director NSF Division of Human Resource Development Photo credit: NSF

Open nomination period competition coming soon

The nomination period for the 2017 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM) is expected to open in early January. Now is the time to identify STEM mentors, both individuals and organizations, in your midst that deserve this distinguished honor. Self-nominations also are accepted.   

The National Science Foundation (NSF), which administers the awards on behalf of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, says the first step is to send names of potential nominees to NSF and the agency will email the potential candidate with information on the nomination process. If you are nominating yourself or your organization, NSF recommends that you carefully review the eligibility requirements.  

Choosing a winning nominee

Nominators who consider colleagues or organizations for PAESMEM nominations should take into account the basic criteria that will be used to evaluate an individual or organizational nomination. Given the PAESMEM criteria, nominators should first determine if the potential nominee qualifies for the award based on eligibility. The nominee should have a track record of sustained STEM mentoring for at least five years. In addition, a nominee also should have qualitative and quantitative data to support the impact of the STEM mentoring endeavors.

Dr. Sylvia James, Director of the NSF Division of Human Resource Development (HRD), says successful PAESMEM nominees have three key qualifications in common: dedication, innovation and long-term commitment.

“When compared to others, they are national exemplars in terms of mentoring. There must be a substantive demonstration of mentoring. They must explain how their mentoring activities meet the needs and interests of their mentees, who could be students or they could be early career scientists. The mentoring also has to be innovative. It’s going beyond just being an advisor or giving students suggestions for courses to take or career direction. It’s supporting them [mentees] over a longer period of time,” says James.

After a review of the potential nominee’s mentoring track record, NSF advises nominators to communicate directly with the individual or organization about the PAESMEM nomination.  If the potential nominee chooses to submit an application, nominators may consider writing one of the required letters of support or recommendation for the nomination package. Nominators may also send contact information about potential nominees to and NSF will follow up to encourage the individual or organization to submit a nomination package.

Seeking help to expand outreach for the upcoming nomination season

A continuing goal of OSTP and NSF for PAESMEM is to expand the pool of potential nominees from “non-academic” sectors.  Nominations also are sought from the U. S. Territories and other jurisdictions not currently represented among PAESMEM alumni.

“We want to be able to open it up to as many mentors as possible. That includes not only the academic environment, which is what we have always been getting, but also the different branches of the government, military, and other federal agencies as well as organizations that are responsible for mentoring students in STEM. We are definitely focusing on getting more diversity in it,” says Dr. Jermelina Tupas, Deputy Division Director of NSF HRD.

Tupas and James say that PAESMEM alumni can play a valuable role in reaching out to colleagues and their communities. PAESMEM alumni can best communicate the importance of STEM mentoring to diverse individuals and groups. “We want representation of not just the population of the country, but also the great mentors that reflect all types of diversity: gender, geographic, institutional and organizations,” says James. 

James says outreach is an important first phase of the PAESMEM program in advance of the Call for Nominations for PAESMEM. “We want to have as much coverage and dissemination about this great opportunity as possible. So the challenge is getting the word out. Once you get the word out, people may be nominated by colleagues or they can self-nominate. Then they have to prepare and submit their nominations.”  

Preparing nominees for the process

Completing the PAESMEM nomination application has some challenges, particularly for some non-academic individuals and organizations.  But James and Tupas say those challenges are not insurmountable. For instance, they advise nominees to set aside adequate time to assemble the documentation required for the application, including the description of the nominee’s activities that demonstrate extraordinary influence and impact as a STEM mentor.

Registration for PAESMEM nominations is required on FastLane and  James recommends that candidates who are not familiar with FastLane or should contact the FastLane Help Desk  at 1-800-673-6188.

Nominators also should advise nominees that NSF provides support during the nomination period. Technical assistance to help candidates navigate the nomination process includes “how-to” webinars, “Ask an “Awardee” question-and-answer live session and dedicated FastLane and assistance. In addition, the online community features a searchable database of all previous PAESMEM recipients. Nominees may also find it useful to research PAESMEM alumni in their region or city and reach out to them for support.

If you know someone or an organization mentoring in STEM that should be recognized at the highest level, consider nominating them. If you have not yet subscribed to, sign up now to receive notification when the 2017 Call for Nominations for PAESMEM is posted at 

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