W.M. Keck Mentorship Award Winners 2022
The Office of Academic Affairs has established three mentorship awards through support from the W.M. Keck Foundation. These mentorship Awards have been established to recognize extraordinary mentorship activities that go above and beyond regular advising, for example by developing new mentoring initiatives, assisting those that face significant challenges or are vulnerable, or creating new pathways for growth and empowerment. The recipients receive a monetary award of $1,500 for mentoring or advising activities.
Mentoring Undergraduate Students:
Tom Williams, Associate Professor
Computer Science (CS)
Tom Williams is the founding director of the Mines Interactive Robotics Research Lab (MIRRORLab), where he mentors undergraduate students in hands-on research that merges Human-Robot Interaction (HRI), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Cognitive Systems, and Robot Ethics towards a goal of “developing genuinely helpful language-enabled intelligent agents.” In the 4½ years since Tom came to Mines and started MIRRORLab, he has empowered 52 Mines undergraduate researchers, with 19 now immersed in pending projects. Tom’s mentees gain valuable experience, co-authoring papers with him in respected HRI publications and presenting at professional workshops about their substantive research. Indeed, Tom has inspired several undergraduate students to graduate school (including two into PhD degree programs thus far) and some of Tom’s undergraduate student researchers are pursuing graduate degrees in related fields. Equally important, the welcoming environment that Tom fosters in MIRRORLab bolsters inclusiveness and offers students a sense of belonging. Additionally, throughout Tom’s 4½ years at Mines, he has mentored another 50+ undergraduates as Faculty Advisor to the Path Ambassadors to High Success (PATHS) Scholarship Program. PATHS provides funding and an on-campus community to selected high-achieving students who face financial, and often other, challenges, supporting their CS undergraduate studies at Mines. Tom eagerly participates in PATHS’s annual retreat and year-round programming; he often shares caring guidance with Scholars 1-to-1 on wide-ranging issues, at times while hiking or sharing a meal. Tom seeks to build community for all at Mines, as confirmed by initiatives he implements as Chair of CS@Mines’ Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Committee. As well, Tom serves as Academic Advisor for CS majors on the Robotics & Intelligent Systems track and for undergrads pursuing the interdisciplinary Bachelor of Science in Engineering: Robotics & Automation Focus Area – Tom helped design both those degree options. Moreover, Mines Robotics Club, with 100+ members, has Tom as Faculty Advisor. Tom’s mentoring also extends to the broader community, including, for example, to high school summer interns he hosts at MIRRORLab and to undergraduate researchers from other universities whom he mentors, by invitation, at international AI research events. Tom’s skillful and compassionate mentorship is life- enhancing to his many undergraduate advisees.
Mentoring Graduate Students:
Allyce Horan, Director
Allyce Horan, director of Mines Writing Center, has enlarged Mines’ Writing Center services for undergraduates and graduates so that Mines’ scholars are known for their clear and professional communication skills. The Writing Center has always helped both levels of scholars – and faculty as well – but in recent years Allyce has developed additional graduate writing support. First, she has initiated biweekly graduate writing groups led by an experienced writing consultant. Furthermore, each May, she has organized the Thesis Writers Retreat, a three-day intensive gathering that benefits the graduate students by providing a convivial space to convene, compose and talk about their writing, crucial for the progress of their projects. Allyce also provides professional development workshops for the Writing Center consultants so that they enhance their knowledge of writing and tutoring practices for a wide range of student levels and needs. Finally, now that the Writing Center is at 1700 Illinois, Allyce has expanded the use of the space for other groups’ activities on campus, such as NHV writing gatherings (with pizza!) and the above-mentioned graduate writing groups. More students attended both events this year, thus confirming that Allyce’s leadership of the Writing Center has promoted the professional communication and mentoring opportunities for Mines’ students as they progress through their classes and move into their careers.
Mentoring Faculty and Staff:
Angus Rockett, Professor
Metallurgical & Materials Engineering (MME)
During his time as Department Head, Angus successfully engaged in mentoring faculty and staff in the Metallurgical and Materials Engineering Department. He was committed to ensuring that his faculty developed and grew in their careers, making sure that they earned and were awarded with promotion and tenure. Likewise, he made sure that his staff were able to pursue continuing education opportunities, develop and use their talents, and grow as mentors of others. Angus assisted Assistant Professors and Associate Professors to develop successful promotion and tenure dossiers. He organized nominations for awards from professional societies for faculty members and encouraged other faculty members to work with him to identify honorific awards that faculty would be eligible for. Dr. Rockett encouraged the MME staff to participate in career development opportunities and off-site training to extend their skills. His mentorship had a major impact on the department through his efforts to hire and develop the faculty who will be leading for decades to come. Toward the end of his time as Department Head and since stepping down, Angus continues to work with his colleagues at all level providing advice and suggestions for their career development and personal growth. Angus has had an enormous impact on mentoring faculty and staff in MME.