Mentors in academic institutions spend considerable amounts of time and energy recruiting, training and advising students and faculty-especially those men and women from groups underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Most mentors would similarly characterize their work in this fashion. Paul Tchounwou takes a step further and introduces us to his ideal mentor as one who " ... is flexible, open-minded, and shows a sincere desire to make a difference in the lives of young people." Mentors, he says " ... are willing to take time to help their mentees, to learn new things that are important to the mentees, and even to be changed by their mentoring relationship." For 15 years at Jackson State, Paul Tchounwou has put that ideal into practice.
Dr. Tchounwou has made a significant contribution to the development of the STEM pipeline, providing the leadership for development of a highly successful Ph.D. Program in Environmental Science at Jackson State. His mentoring efforts have been directed at enhancing his trainees' research and career development experiences through robust and structured activities that are based upon a rather unique "agreement plan" defining mutual roles, responsibilities, and expectations-as well as an assessment plan with specific metrics to gauge progress and impact.
The majority of his mentees hold faculty positions at prominent institutions of higher education both in the U.S. and abroad (Dr. Tchounwou maintains a particular interest in the lack of proportional representation by minorities in the STEM faculty population at U.S. colleges and universities). Mentoring efforts by Dr. Tchounwou include junior faculty participation in structured research and professional development, and encouragement to write and submit to peer-reviewed publications. With support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Department of Defense (DoD), and other agencies, he has established eight core research facilities enabling junior faculty to fulfill requirements for promotion and tenure.
Seventy-three Ph.D. scholars have been mentored or co-mentored by Tcbounwou (32 of them receiving doctoral degrees in the Environmental Science program). Fifty-five are African American, eight are Asian American, four are White, and two are Hispanic. Forty-eight of the 73 are women! He has supervised thesis preparation for 12 M.S. students, as well. He has mentored 11 junior faculty members at Jackson State (six have been promoted from assistant to associate professors, and three have been promoted from associate to full professors).
In 2003, Dr. Tchounwou received the Millennium Award for Excellence in Research at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), and he was selected as the 2013 Mentor Award recipient by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Dr. Tchounwou is Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.