Graduate Peer Mentor Awards

The Graduate Student Peer Mentor Awards recognize graduate students who exhibit stellar mentorship qualities. These graduate students are selected based on their ability to mentor undergraduate and/or graduate students, on or off campus.

Pictured left to right: Graduate School Assistant Dean for Diversity, Inclusion, and Funding Abbey Thompson along with 2023 Bucky Award winners Naomi Isenberg, Kiley McLean, and Paul J. Kelly.

Qualities of a good mentor:

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Willingness to share knowledge, skills, and expertise

A good mentor is willing to teach what he/she knows and accept the mentee where they currently are in their professional development. Good mentors can remember what it was like just starting out in the field. The mentor does not take the mentoring relationship lightly and understands that good mentoring requires time and commitment and is willing to continually share information and their ongoing support with the mentee.

Provides guidance and constructive feedback

One of the key responsibilities of a good mentor is to provide guidance and constructive feedback to their mentee. This is where the mentee will most likely grow the most by identifying their current strengths and weaknesses and learning how to use these to make them successful in the field. A good mentor possesses excellent communication skills and is able to adjust their communication to the personality style of the mentee. A good mentor will also provide the mentee with challenges that will foster professional development and a feeling of accomplishment in learning the field.

Personal interest in the mentoring relationship

Good mentors do not take their responsibility as a mentor lightly. They feel invested in the success of the mentee. Usually this requires someone who is knowledgeable, compassionate, and possesses the attributes of a good teacher or trainer. Excellent communication skills are also required. A good mentor is committed to helping their mentees find success and gratification in their chosen profession. Overall good mentoring requires empowering the mentee to develop his/her own strengths, beliefs, and personal attributes.

Values the opinions and initiatives of others

A mentor who values others is also someone who works well in a team environment and is willing to share his/her success. A good mentor appreciates the ongoing effort of the mentee and empowers him/her through positive feedback and reinforcement.

Motivates mentees through setting a good example

A mentor is usually highly motivated, dedicated, and has a strong work ethic themselves and by exhibiting these qualities, sets a good example for mentees.

Looks for ways to improve mentoring skills

A mentor strives to improve her or his skills by keeping up with best practices. Fortunately, at UW–Madison there are a number of resources that can help with this. For instance, programs like Delta offer mentor training opportunities. The Institute for Clinical and Translational Research offers resources for research mentors. Finally, faculty such as Prof. Angela Byars-Winston research quality mentoring habits and want to help more people take up these habits. These and many other efforts have led UW–Madison to be a leader of the National Research Mentoring Network.

Award Winners

Kenneth Martinez

Kenneth MartinezKenneth Martinez is a chemical engineering PhD candidate in the Avraamidou Circular Economy Systems Engineering Group. His research aims to elucidate the viability of sustainable chemical energy carriers—such as hydrogen, methanol, and ammonia—and their integration into powertrains for electromobility. This is achieved through comprehensive analyses incorporating circular economy, techno-economic, and life cycle assessments. With these assessments, he aims to make data-driven models from the most promising energy carrier supply chains. With optimization and machine learning techniques, Kenneth will optimize these interconnected supply chains and develop a robust decision-making tool that can provide tailored solutions for the transportation sector. This tool will take into consideration a holistic approach that includes environmental, social, economic, and technical aspects while achieving specific objectives of stakeholders and policymakers in facilitating data-driven decisions that can accelerate the transition to sustainable transportation fuels. Kenneth serves in the Graduate Education for Research Scholars (GERS) program by supporting underrepresented students to achieve their career goals. He also serves as a mentor through the Undergraduate Research Scholars (URS) program, preparing and guiding undergraduates in achieving fulfilling research experiences. His mentorship style is rooted in understanding his mentees’ unique backgrounds, interests, and goals by maintaining an open and supportive mentor-mentee relationship conducive to growth. Reflecting on his mentorship experiences, Kenneth finds great fulfillment in assisting his mentees with critical decisions that shape their academic and professional future. By sharing his personal experiences and employing structured decision-making analysis, he empowers them to make informed choices that align with their aspirations and goals.

Emily Nott

Emily NottEmily Nott (MEd, she/they) is a doctoral student in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. She is an educator, facilitator, artist, and musician. They are passionate about critical, youth-centered teaching and learning and community arts as a tool for social change. She instructs and co-instructs with Dr. Carl A. Grant for a course on Multiculturalism and Social Justice and with Dr. Erica Halverson for a course on Arts Integration. She is a member of the CALL to Equity Centered Leadership research project and a coordinator for the annual Play Make Learn conference in Madison. Previously, she served as the Director of Learning Communities at After School Matters in Chicago, where she developed teaching and learning supports for a community of hundreds of teaching artists across the city. They’re also a member and organizer with Teachers for Social Justice, and have installed multiple large-scale public arts installations throughout the Midwest. She holds an master of education degree in Instructional Leadership from the University of Illinois at Chicago, a bachelor of arts in Arts and Public Life from Michigan State University, and a bachelor of fine arts in Art Education from Michigan State University.

Nathan Petersen

Nathan PetersenNathan Petersen is a PhD candidate in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. His research investigates advanced electric motor technology and spans motor design, modeling and analysis, control algorithms, and real-time embedded system deployment. He has worked as a student member of the Wisconsin Electric Machines and Power Electronics Consortium (WEMPEC) for the past six years. As part of WEMPEC, he has had the opportunity to mentor over 15 undergraduate and graduate students on lab projects and independent studies. Nathan takes a keen interest in helping students gain a foundation of lab-related skills that will propel them in their educational and professional journey. His mentorship style is “student first” where projects are uniquely designed to match the students’ interests and abilities, while always pushing them forward in skillset. After graduation in May 2024, Nathan plans to start a company to commercialize his PhD research.

Naomi IsenbergNaomi Isenberg

Naomi Isenberg is a social psychology PhD candidate in the Department of Psychology. Her research focuses broadly on examining different mechanisms of promoting inclusion. Her dissertation specifically aims to understand the misperceptions individuals have about their peers’ support for diversity, equity, and inclusion and using social norms messaging to correct these misperceptions and improve intergroup attitudes and behaviors. Throughout graduate school, Naomi has served in her department’s Climate and Diversity Committee and Graduate Student Social Events Committee. She also designs and facilitates diversity training workshops for groups in and outside UW–Madison. Naomi has a keen interest in mentoring students who are first-generation college students and students from historically marginalized groups. Her mentorship style is to be a source of support for whatever academic and career goals her mentees have, and to help them identify and pursue opportunities available to them.

Paul J. KellyPaul J. Kelly

Paul Kelly is a PhD candidate in the Department of Philosophy. Paul holds an MA in History & Philosophy of Science from Indiana University Bloomington and an MA in Philosophy from Tufts University. His research concerns how models in cognitive science represent and explain. He has over 10 years of teaching experience at a variety of different educational institutions. Paul also works as a mentor through the Undergraduate Research Scholars (URS) program, helping undergraduate students develop the skills necessary to conduct research, compose scholarly articles, and present at academic conferences. Additionally, Paul is Secretary of the Graduate Student Council (GSC) of the American Philosophical Association (APA), a position that enables him to advocate for policies and practices that advance the interests of all students of philosophy, graduate and undergraduate alike.

Kiley McLeanKiley McLean

Kiley McLean will be graduating this May with her PhD in Social Welfare from the Sandra Rosenbaum School of Social Work at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She currently works in the Aging and Health Equity in Autism and Developmental Disabilities (AHEADD) lab. Her research focuses broadly on improving the health, social, and economic well-being of adults with developmental disabilities as they transition into adulthood and age, through inclusive and comprehensive policies. Kiley is also currently teaching her fifth course as an independent instructor. Over the past semesters, she has taught courses in Macro Social Work, Social Policy, and Issues in Developmental Disabilities to social work master’s students. Kiley has served in numerous informal and formal mentorship roles to other graduate students and TA’s throughout her five years in the doctoral program. She is incredibly passionate about Universal Design and maximizing access to higher education for every type of learner.

Alexandra Lakind

Alexandra LakindAlexandra Lakind is a joint PhD candidate in the School of Education and the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. In addition to working on a dissertation focusing on the politicization of the child in climate activism, Lakind has initiated numerous public-facing arts and humanities projects both on and off campus. This work has been supported by Water@UW–Madison; the Wisconsin Center for Education Research; the Center for the Humanities; the Holtz Center for Science and Technology Studies; and the Center for Culture, History, and Environment, among others. Within these projects, Lakind devised pathways for undergraduates, masters, and doctoral students to engage. A dedication to mutual respect and enjoyment bolstered meaningful peer mentorship that allowed these projects to flourish and evolve.

Christopher Hulshof

Chris HulshofChris is a PhD student in the Department of History at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. His research focuses broadly on Cold War History, Empire, Southeast Asia, and U.S. Foreign Relations. Chris holds an MA in Southeast Asian Studies from UW–Madison, an MA in History from UW–Madison, and a BA in History from the University of California, Berkeley. He has held several RAships and PAships in Madison in addition to his work with multiple academic organizations both on and off campus. He is also the UW–Madison representative for the Graduate Education & Training in Southeast Asia (GETSEA) consortium. Chris is currently TAing his fifth course for the Department of History and has acted as both a Graduate Student and a TA mentor for numerous incoming students in the department. Prior to graduate school, Chris worked in numerous fields including politics, entrepreneurship, K-12 education, and corporate management.

Caroline Hensley

Caroline HensleyCaroline Hensley is a PhD candidate in the English program in literary studies. Her research examines how contemporary transnational literatures engage with notions of health and disability in the context of ongoing colonial and imperial relations. She serves as the co-chair of the English Graduate Student Association, which aims to support graduate students’ professional goals and inclusive community-building. Additionally, in both a past role as the Mellon-Morgridge Fellow for the Constellations program on “Health and Inequality,” and in her current role as the Career Advisor for the English major, Caroline closely mentors undergraduates. Her advising practice is centered around encouraging interdisciplinary thought and making employment pathways more accessible and equitable. She is deeply energized by these conversations with students about how they envision using their humanities training to address social concerns and embark upon fulfilling careers.

Ariel Borns

Ariel BornsAriel Borns is a PhD student in the Department of Educational Policy Studies (EPS) in the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. With a concentration in Comparative and International Education, her ethnographic research focuses on the various intersections of migration, international development, youth, and gender. Ariel has supported graduate and undergraduate students in the EPS department as an instructor, teaching assistant, and a graduate student representative. She holds an MA in EPS from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, an MA in Teaching from Clark University, and BA in International Development and Social Change and Spanish from Clark University. She is a Graduate Research Fellow for the Institute for Research on Poverty and a Latin American, Caribbean and Iberian Studies Program affiliate. She is currently a Project Assistant for the Center for Research on Early Childhood Education. Prior to graduate school, she was a middle school teacher in the United States.

Annaliese Grant

Annaliese GrantAnnaliese Grant is a PhD candidate in the Sociology Department at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She broadly studies relationships, responsibilities, and media use among low- and middle-income families in the U.S. using both qualitative and quantitative methods. She has spent the last two years acting as the chair of the Sociology Graduate Mentoring Committee in her department, matching incoming first-year students with graduate student peer mentors and hosting mentoring events throughout the academic year. She cares deeply about information-sharing and community-building in graduate programs and has sought to foster those relationships among peers across the department.

Taylor L. Watterson

Taylor WattersonTaylor is a PhD Candidate in the Health Services Research in Pharmacy (HSRP) program at the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Pharmacy. Taylor’s research focuses on describing fatigue in pharmacists—developing ways for health care practitioners to work at the top of their licenses. In addition to academic and research roles, Taylor also works as a pharmacist at several independent community pharmacies throughout the Madison area. Taylor’s mentoring philosophy involves valuing the individual, encouraging mentees to best the best versions of themselves, and creating an environment where mentees are excited to learn and motivated to apply what they are learning. She had the opportunity to mentor and advise junior graduate students as they enter the HSRP program, professional pharmacy (PharmD) students interested in research, as well as the UW–Madison Chapter of Kappa Psi Pharmaceutical Fraternity.

Beau Burdett
Civil and Environmental Engineering

Beau Burdett“Winning this award is a reminder to me of the importance of mentorship and education,” Beau says. “This award will not only renew in myself an interest in mentoring and educating others about my field, but also encourage me to continue investigating and learning, about both my field and education.”

Caleigh Guoynes

Caleigh Guoynes“Mentoring undergraduate students is one of the most rewarding experiences of my graduate career,” Caleigh says. “Winning this award is a symbol of the dedication to hard work and teamwork that my undergraduate students and I have accomplished. Over the past five years, 28 different students have worked with me in the lab, and this has led to the successful completion of eight different research projects. Because of my team, I am able to do more experiments and answer more scientific questions. I am forever grateful for these students and for the recognition of my work as their team leader and mentor.”

Leah Steuer
Communication Arts

Leah Steuer“It’s a privilege to work with and learn from my peers every day in Communication Arts, where I’m surrounded by so many curious, driven, and talented graduate students,” Leah says. “The process of building our media scholarship forum Playback has been especially rewarding. It’s become a space that keeps us inspired and committed to our research: the staff develops networks, uplifts one another’s projects, and experiments with new modes of scholarship like video and audio essays. There’s so much diverse work happening in my division (Media & Cultural Studies), and I’m honored to help build our strong system of friendly ties.”

Caroline Hardin

Caroline HardinCaroline D. Hardin is a PhD candidate studying Computer Science Education at the University of Wisconsin–Madison where she teaches introductory CS courses. Her research interests are centered around broadening participation through non-traditional CS education, such as hackathons, e-textiles, hackerspaces, and informal infosec education. Before joining the UW’s Complex Play Lab, she spent 3 years in the Peace Corps in Ghana teaching computer literacy and mentoring other volunteers in educational technology tools. She volunteers with a number of campus and community organizations around increasing diversity in tech, including MadHacks, the Bodgery Makerspace, DaneNet, and Microsoft TEALS.

Mary Dueñas

Mary Duenas

Mary Dueñas is a doctoral student in the Department of Educational Leadership & Policy Analysis. Mary’s research agenda is concerned with equity issues in higher education specifically focused on access and success for Latinx first-generation college students attending predominately white institutions. As a critical scholar, her focuses on retention strategies of Latinx students in college, educational and psychological processes have Latinx and critical qualitative methodology. Mary’s previous roles include being an Academic Enrichment Seminar (AES) instructor and Chican@ and Latin@ program coordinator. She is currently a Posse Mentor. Mary has also trained students to conduct and complete research projects as part of the summer education research program.

Allison Murrow

Allison Murrow

Allison Murrow is a fourth-year doctoral student in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction with a literacy focus in the School of Education. Her research interests are in the mitigation of invisible disabilities, including classroom anxiety for teachers and students. Her dissertation focuses on giving pre-service teachers a voice to communicate how they feel as they progress through the fieldwork requirements. Each semester, she facilitates courses in Curriculum and Instruction for the professional teacher education preparation programs. She aspires to support inquisitive learning communities of care where everyone feels valued and welcome, recognizes their agency, and has opportunities to exercise it.

Read the 2019 Peer Mentor Awardees’ full bios >>

The 2018 Peer Mentor Awards recognized students whose mentorship has supported students from underrepresented backgrounds. Read more about the 2018 Peer Mentor Award winners.

Folagbayi Arowolo

Peer Mentor Award winner Folagbayi ArowoloFolagbayi is a PhD candidate in Molecular and Environmental Toxicology, researching the impact of dietary oxidized lipids on gastrointestinal immunity and chronic disease risks. He serves as a mentor for first-year graduate students through the SciMed Graduate Research Scholars (GRS) Community. Folagbayi also mentors high school students through the Critical MASS (Multicultural Advanced Science Students) club, which encourages students to pursue STEM fields. He helps promote diversity initiatives on campus as a member of the Black Graduate Professional Student Association (BGPSA) and Wisconsin Association for Black Men (WABM).

Liza Chang

Peer Mentor Award winner Liza ChangLiza is a PhD student in Psychology, studying behavioral neuroendocrinology. Her research in Anthony Auger’s lab focuses on the role of the endogenous opioid system in social behaviors and the development of juvenile psychiatric disorders. In the Auger Lab, Liza has mentored 12 undergraduate students, many of whom have completed independent projects, earned co-authorship on research manuscripts, or continued on to graduate school or post-graduate research positions. Liza is also a Mentoring Fellow with the Wisconsin Institute of Science Education and Community Engagement (WISCIENCE).

Amelia Cuarenta

Peer Mentor Award winner Amelia CuarentaAmelia is a PhD student in Psychology. She has a passion for understanding how someone’s experiences can affect not themselves, but future generations. She studies epigenetic mechanisms, seeking to enhance understanding of how life events shape people’s futures. She has trained a number of undergraduate students in several research areas in Anthony Auger’s lab.

Sarah Stefanos

Sarah StefanosSarah is a joint PhD candidate in Sociology and Environment and Resources, researching land deals in Ethiopia and biofuels in Uganda. In parallel to her academic interests, Sarah co-founded and has served as CFO of W2E Ltd, a waste-to-energy research company in Uganda that specializes in biogas systems and technological and business innovations at the intersection of energy and agriculture. She has mentored undergraduate students at UW–Madison and Makerere University in Uganda, as well as a master’s student and a high school student. Sarah is also a member of the UW–Madison chapter of the Bouchet Graduate Honor Society.

Maria VelazquezMaria Velazquez

Maria is a PhD student in Educational Policy Studies, researching educational environments that directly and successfully address opportunity gaps and create additive learning experiences for minoritized and low-income youth. She is a graduate student advisor for the UW Posse Program, an Accessibility Assistant for the McBurney Center.

Peer mentor awardees
2017 Peer Mentor Award Recipients. Back row left to right: Shahrose Rahman, Kevin Cope, Johnny Uelmen. Front row: Hannah Graham, Meena Syamkumar.

Hannah Graham

Shahrose Rahman

Kevin Cope

Meena Syamkumar

Johnny Uelmen

Dantrell Cotton

Fatemah Panahi

Leona Yi-Fan Su

Valyncia Raphael

Angie Umaña

Richardson Addai-Mununkum

Majid Aksari

Hsun-Yu Chan

Angela Forgues

Stacey Kigar

Mark Mederson

Kristin Michels

Claudia Pereira da Conceicao

Irene Ann Resenly

Douglas Ryddner

Kegon Teng Kok Tan

Jake Walsh

Yi-Cheng Wang

Kaitlin Whitney

Dallas Wulf

Hong Yan

Trevor Young-Hyman

Megan Zuelsdorff

Jess Clayton

Mahtab Ghazizadeh

Vijay Limaye

Somayeh Sardashti

Kegon Teng Tok Tan

Keith Thraen-Borowski

Qiwei Wang

Caro Williams