University of Vermont

Office of Undergraduate Research

Office of Undergraduate Research Grants First Faculty Mentoring Awards

Faculty mentoring winners
Mentoring Award winners Robert Hondal (left) and Denise Youngblood with student mentees who nominated them, Connor Payne (far left), Benjamin Shefner and Kate Lipman. (Photo: Hailey Kline)

The Office of Undergraduate Research has announced the first two winners of its new Mentoring Award: Robert Hondal, associate professor of biochemistry and chemistry, and Denise Youngblood, professor of history.

“Both faculty members have been outstanding scholars, teachers and mentors for many years,” said Ann Kroll Lerner, director of the Office of Undergraduate Research. “It’s a privilege to be able to give them this recognition.” Hondal came to UVM in 2002. Youngblood began at the university in 1988. She is retiring this year. 

Faculty were nominated by student mentees who presented at the April 27 Student Research Conference, where the announcements were made.

Earlier in the semester, students filled out a questionnaire asking them to describe their mentoring relationship and rate their faculty advisor across a range of criteria, how well they created a sense of community with students, for instance, and how effectively they taught needed skills and allowed students to freely practice them. Students also submitted an essay on why they believed the faculty member should be recognized.

A team of faculty and staff in the Honors College scored the forms. Fifteen faculty in all were nominated.

Both Hondal and Youngblood received high praise from students in the essays they submitted. After teaching him in the “ways of the literature search,” “helping me understand the scientific method that I did not yet comprehend,” and passing on technical knowledge of the many scientific instruments his research requires, wrote Connor Payne, a senior Chemistry major in the Honors College who will begin a Ph.D. program at Harvard next fall, Hondal “allowed me to freely express and pursue my own ideas in the lab. He was an outstanding mentor, advisor and friend throughout my undergraduate career.”

“Professor Youngblood has taught me numerous skills throughout my college career,” wrote Kate Lipman, a senior Russian major, history minor and member of the Honors College. “These skills include writing concisely, writing effectively, citing sources correctly, identifying scholarly sources … and of course how to write a thesis … my love and passion for Russian and Soviet history has grown significantly thanks to her course and to the passion she puts into her teaching.” Lipman will work for an education non-profit in Arlington, Virginia after graduating and plans to apply to law school in the fall. 

The Mentoring Award program was created to underscore the importance UVM places on undergraduate mentoring, said Kroll Lerner, and to bring to light the strong mentorship skills possessed by many UVM faculty.