Faculty Members Recognized for Mentoring Excellence

By: Graduate Studies on

Each year, UCF honors two faculty members for their dedication and guidance in the mentorship of doctoral students. Graduate faculty or recently graduated doctoral students nominate faculty members for these awards. In Spring 2014, the university honored Kevin Belfield, PhD and Eduardo Salas, PhD, as recipients of the Excellence in Faculty Mentoring Award.

Chemistry Professor has the Right Formula for Mentorship

Kevin Belfield, PhD is the department chair and a professor of chemistry. He was honored as a Pegasus Professor in 2011 and elected as AAAS fellow in 2013. Multiple students advocated Dr. Belfield for the Faculty in Mentoring award this year. His nominating students benefitted from weekly meetings as part of Dr. Belfield’s diverse research group and guidance informed by a broad knowledge of the field throughout his students’ research. The weekly meetings provide consistent input and encouragement when the research becomes challenging as well as opportunities for advice from and collaboration with other experts in the field.

One student notes the personal interest Dr. Belfield invests in his students. At a difficult impasse in his research, the student reached out to Dr. Belfield as their paths crossed in the Student Union, “I expressed my concern to him, and his words of encouragement were helpful and timely.” Dr. Belfield’s research group consists of students from all over the world. His international students find a second family in the research group fostered by the warmth and support from Dr. Belfield.  Dr. Belfield goes above and beyond as he takes on the challenge of balancing work, life, and the significant time commitment of mentorship. 

Dr. Belfield approaches his responsibilities “to be a mentor, both in and out of the research laboratory, and lead by example. I have high expectations of my students and myself and set our sights on professional achievement at the highest level in our field.” Of the research group meetings, he says, “during this time, I belong to the research group. There are no phones ringing, no knocks on the door, no interruptions or distractions…each individual has the opportunity to present their research progress, pose problems or challenges, and propose new ideas…My efforts are geared to bring a new level of excitement about science to students and significantly enhance the student’s educational experience…It is a true privilege to mentor students, and continually learn with them, and play an influential role in shaping their professional pursuits.”

Faculty Mentor “C”s Students to Success

Eduardo Salas, PhD is a University Trustee Chair and professor of Psychology. He has accumulated an impressive list of credentials including over 450 journal articles and book chapters, presentations numbering in the thousands, millions of dollars earned in grant funding, and proven success in research (documented by his numerous awards, editorships, and role as President in two national organizations). His outstanding reputation in the field and as a mentor draws students to the University of Central Florida. His simple, yet powerful 5 Cs approach guides students to opportunities to excel. As a mentor, Dr. Salas sets the Conditions for learning, experimenting, and educating with each student in mind. He develops the Competencies needed above and beyond the classroom to be successful scientist-practitioners in the field: how to collaborate, how to be adaptive, how to think on your feet. He acts as a Coach when students face challenges, and recognizes their abilities, providing opportunities to further their strengths and improve upon their weaknesses.  He promotes Critical thinking and ensures that his students leave as Confident professionals.

Dr. Salas says in his mentorship philosophy, “At the end of the day, what matters most after several years in graduate school is that they are confident.  Confident about themselves, about what they do, feel, and think as scientist practitioners in our field.  They need to have the confidence to conquer whatever dream they have…and with the help of some compassion (another important C), they get there.”

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