Four graduate students honored with Sanderson Awards for Excellence in Undergraduate Mentoring

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  • Sanderson Prize
    The recipients of the 2022 S. Laurie Sanderson Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Mentoring are (left to right) Heather Baier, Harini Krishnamurti, Jennifer Traver, and Rebekah Planto.
    Courtesy pictures

by Joseph McClain

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April 21, 2022

The Office of Graduate Studies and Research at William & Mary has announced the 2022 recipients of the S. Laurie Sanderson Awards for Excellence in Undergraduate Mentoring.

The awards honor S. Laurie Sanderson, who served as Dean of Graduate Studies in Arts and Sciences from July 1, 2005 to June 30, 2012. They recognize master’s and doctoral students in arts and sciences programs who have demonstrated a high degree of commitment to in-class contributions to undergraduate student research and academic development.

URM badge“The responses I get from graduate students when they learn they’re going to receive a Sanderson Prize are the highlight of my day,” said Virginia Torczon, current Dean of Graduate Studies and Research. “They are truly honored to have been selected for this award. They report the pleasure it gave them to work with outstanding undergraduate students at William & Mary – one of the best parts of their graduate school experiences at William & Mary.

Sarah Glosson, director of the Arts & Sciences Graduate Center, noted that the purpose of the Sanderson Prize is to recognize the valuable “under the radar” contributions of graduate students.

“I myself received a Sanderson many years ago,” Glosson said. “And the undergraduate who nominated me now has a Ph.D. and a dozen publications and we’re still in touch. So that’s very meaningful to me, that’s for sure.

“As our graduate students prepare for the next steps in their professional careers, they recognize that the experiences they have gained from mentoring undergraduate students will serve them well as teachers, mentors and scholars,” concluded Torczon. “It really is a win-win situation for everyone.”


Heather Baier, PhD Student, Department of Applied Science

Heather Baier has been a mainstay of geoLab, the collection of data-rich, student-led AI-based initiatives at William & Mary. Dan Runfola, assistant professor and director of graduate studies in the Department of Applied Science, says Baier has provided a range of help, advice and support to undergraduate students involved in numerous GeoLab projects.

“Heather was instrumental in setting up a new data collection initiative called the Global Education Observatory, which collected information about school education and made it public – often through law enforcement on freedom of information,” Runfola wrote in his nomination of Baier for the Sanderson Prize. “She single-handedly helped motivate and mobilize a group of approximately six students to implement these activities, which enabled undergraduates to work hands-on with education departments around the world. .”

Undergraduate students who worked with Baier supported her nomination for the award: “All geoLab knows how to go to Heather with questions about how to make code work,” wrote Maeve Naughton-Rockwell ’22.

A data science major, Naughton-Rockwell cited Baier’s work with undergraduates having trouble with remote sensing packages such as the Google Earth Engine API.

“I know for a fact geoLab wouldn’t be as productive without Heather,” Naughton-Rockwell wrote. “She has played a key role in many geoLab articles and projects.”

Joseph O’Brien ’23 wrote that Baier helped undergraduate students write cloud masking scripts for satellite imagery collected by the Global Observatory Team GeoLab student researchers. education. His mentorship extended beyond helping him develop professional skills in machine learning and modeling.

“I believe my acceptance into an internship with the National Parks Service was helped in large part by the fact that Heather worked with me to write and edit cover letters and my resume.” O’Brien wrote.

Harini Krishnamurti, Masters Program, Department of Psychological Sciences

Catherine Forestell, an associate professor of psychological sciences, says she usually mentors 8 to 10 undergraduate students in her lab, as well as one or two graduate students. They work in teams to design experiments and collect data.

“I rely heavily on my graduate students to help me train and support undergraduate students in my lab,” Forestell wrote in nominating Harini Krishnamurti for the Sanderson Prize. “Nevertheless, Harini stands out from other female graduate students because she went above and beyond my expectations in supporting and guiding undergraduate students in my lab.

Forestell has written about Krishnamurti’s inclusion of undergraduates in research practices, fostering curiosity, a work ethic, and a sense of excitement among students. She cited Krishnamurti’s involvement in projects in which students collected data from nearly 500 participants, as well as collecting and analyzing the content of around 1,000 magazine articles.

“I worked closely on content analytics and saw first-hand the excellent quality of work. In addition to dramatically improving research productivity and quality, Harini’s efforts have instilled a strong sense of community among students,” Forestell wrote. “My students and I are grateful for his willingness to share his time and positive energy.”

Matt Siroty ’23 is one such student. He wrote in support of Forestell’s nomination that Krishnamurti welcomed him into the Child Development and Eating Behavior Lab. He was interested in Krishnamurti’s own research, which is to assess the expression of prejudice against vegetarians.

“Harini invited me into his office to discuss what it would be like to work on his project,” Siroty wrote. “Throughout the Fall 2021 semester working with Harini, I got to know her on a personal level; she gave me advice on higher education and careers, we talked about our personal lives and we discussed our shared passion for psychology.

Another undergraduate student, Leah Kappel ’22, also wrote in favor of Krishnamurti. Kappel is another member of the Eating Behavior Lab and has found Krishnamurti to be a friendly, approachable and valuable resource.

“From the start, she was my go-to person if I had lab-related questions and she was always eager to help and guide me,” Kappel wrote. “When I was considering doing an honors thesis, she was a helpful support in the process and provided me with wisdom that only Harini can give.”

Rebekah Planto, PhD Student, Department of Anthropology

Rebekah Planto conducted doctoral field research at Bacon’s Castle, the 17th-century site rich in history and artifacts. Audrey Horning, Forrest D. Murden Professor in the Department of Anthropology, notes that Planto included undergraduates in her work.

“Working with Rebekah, the students – including several she had formally mentored as part of the W&M and Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Summer Archaeological Field School – gained additional archaeological experience and expertise at this important site in primitive Virginia,” Horning wrote, naming Planto.

Through Planto’s mentorship, undergraduates learned skills in field, laboratory, and archival methods, “all of which contribute to career development and employability,” Horning wrote.

“Concretely, Rebekah had a decisive influence on Matt Forcier’s decision to pursue his master’s degree in historical archaeology. The archival training he received with Rebekah also supported his contributions to a grant-funded project with colleagues in the Department of Anthropology.

Lacy McLain ’23 was one of the students Planto mentored during an archaeological field study. Planto taught undergraduate scholars “things that cannot be taught in textbooks,” McLain wrote.

“She helped each of us succeed in a course that relied almost entirely on hands-on experience,” McLain wrote. “She used her experience working at Bacon’s Castle to help us understand the rigorous and demanding physical work involved in archaeological discovery. As a direct result of his mentorship, I not only received an A in the course, but I actually fully understood the ins and outs of the field upon completion of the course.

Jennifer Traver, Masters Program, Department of Psychological Sciences

Danielle Dallaire pointed out in her nomination letter that Jen Traver graduated in 2019 from the undergraduate program in the Department of Psychological Sciences and came right back to enroll in the master’s program in 2020.

“I think maybe because Jen was a W&M UG, she really has a better understanding of W&M UG students,” Dallaire, a professor in the department, wrote. “Although our lab was mostly online during the 2020-2021 academic year, she went out of her way to mentor the 9-10 UG students in my lab.”

Dallaire notes that Traver has helped undergraduate students prepare posters for presentations at conferences as well as a number of papers submitted to peer-reviewed journals. She said Traver also worked with students to design an in-person study that launched last year and has mentored several undergraduate honors theses.

Grace Phillips ’23 wrote in support of Traver’s nomination, recounting that the two met through the Healthy Beginnings research lab. Phillips said Traver has been more than helpful in another project, one that uses EEG to study neurological biomarkers of stress resilience in college students.

“None of this would have been possible without Jen. Although it was easier to conduct herself, she chose to fully include me in the research from start to finish,” Phillips wrote. tirelessly to ensure that every member of our research lab feels included, understands our project goals, and can voice their ideas at our meetings.”

Dallaire said Traver has been “an outstanding role model” for Phillips and a number of other undergraduate students in the psychology department.

“She helped them prepare graduate school applications, she worked with them on data analysis,” Dallaire wrote. “I’m impressed with how patiently she works with them to analyze their data, so they understand how to do it themselves.”

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