Mimi Recker Named USU's 2013 Graduate Mentor of the Year
Thursday, Mar. 21, 2013
Utah State University’s Office of Research and Graduate Studies announced that Mimi Recker, department head and professor of instructional technology and learning sciences, has been named the 2013 Graduate Mentor of the Year.
“Over her 13-year career at Utah State University, Dr. Mimi Recker has taken a keen interest in helping students make the transition from beginning graduate students to successful graduates in ways that help launch them in productive careers,” said Brian Belland, assistant professor in the Department of Instructional Technology and Learning Sciences.
In her years at USU as a faculty member, she has served as the advisor of 10 completed doctoral students and as a committee member of 10 more graduated doctoral students. Recker also advised 38 non-thesis master’s students.
“The committee was in unanimous agreement in our recommendation for Dr. Mimi Recker as this year’s awardee and the first female recipient of this award,” said Timothy Gilbertson, professor of biology and committee chair. “In our opinion, she had the strongest application and history of graduate student mentoring.”
Since 2000, Recker’s hallmark has been to convene a bi-weekly research group meeting for her graduate students and colleagues, which provides a critical forum for discussion and peer mentoring.
“During the meeting, Dr. Recker has provided advice to graduate students individually and helped us with our course and research plans,” said Min Yuan, a doctoral student of Recker’s. “These meetings have also helped students to get involved in ongoing projects, become familiar new topics, and identify interesting topics that we want to explore in the future.”
“The time I spent meeting with the team and watching Mimi’s direction of the research inspired me to be a kind and careful researcher,” said Bart Palmer, former doctoral student who is now a research and evaluation coordinator at the LDS Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah.
Recker has also been recognized for her supportive yet driven approach to mentoring graduate students.
“It is a difficult position that a chair has in balancing a relationship with a graduate student,” said Kristy Bloxham, a doctoral graduate of Recker’s. “On the one hand, they must be able to look critically at the work the graduate is doing and be able to correct them when required. On the other hand, they must continue to motivate and inspire them to get through the unending hoops they must jump through. Mimi does this very well. She never made me feel that I was a bother to her and she was always very prompt in getting feedback to me.”
Andrew Welker is an associate professor in the Department of Instructional Technology and Learning Sciences and Recker’s colleague.
“As faculty, I think we often fall into the trap of wanting to display expertise rather than works in progress, and we do our students a disservice,” Welker said. “Mimi does not fall into that trap, and, as a result, I think her students are far better prepared and have many more opportunities to conduct their own work.”
Recker has also been proactive in promoting student scholarship and intellectual growth by co-authoring 12 journal articles, seven book chapters and 11 articles in refereed conference proceedings with her graduate students.
“Dr. Recker’s research is done from her own desires to help others grow,” said Palmer.
Recker has received eight grants from the National Science Foundation since 2000, which have provided graduate assistantships for 13 graduate students and one post-doctoral fellow, and resulted in several completed dissertations. She has also funded student travel to national conferences and meeting to support students in presenting their research, networking and preparing for the job market.
“Beyond supporting students with money, she supports them with a well-organized research group, tasking students at first with introductory milestones while they read background literature and get up to speed on the project but quickly transitioning them into leadership roles for areas of the work,” said Walker.
Recker’s students have won “outstanding graduate student” and “outstanding research assistant” awards from the department and college. After completing their degrees, Recker’s students have been very successful in finding jobs in their chosen careers and have praised her support and dedication of their pursuits.
“Dr. Recker fosters collegiality among the students she has hired,” said Linda Sellers, a doctoral student in the department. “Many have remained friends and have generated networks within educational and work environments.”
“When I came here, my English was not good,” said doctoral student Min Yuan. “Dr. Recker slowed down her pace of speaking and made notes for me when she talked to me. She also provided me positive feedback to increase my confidence.”
Recker received her bachelor’s in computer mathematics from the University of Pennsylvania and worked as a software engineer in Silicon Valley for several years before earning her doctorate in education from the University of California, Berkeley. She came to USU as an associate professor in 1999, after holding positions at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand.
Recker’s research focuses on helping educators and students reap the benefits of cyber-learning through access to high-quality, interactive and free online learning resources.
“Graduate mentorship is vital to our students,” said Mark McLellan, vice president for research and dean of the School of Graduate Studies. “To be competitive for the best positions, graduates need to be well-rounded, great communicators, managers and researchers. It takes a great faculty mentor to help students realize this and achieve those skills. Mimi Recker has demonstrated that she is exceptional at doing both.”
“When others ask me what they can do to get through the process as well as I did, I simply tell them, ‘choose Mimi Recker as your chair,’” said Bloxham.
Recker will be honored at USU’s Research Gala Monday, April 8, at the Riverwoods Conference Center. The gala is part of the ninth annual Research Week, with five days of events highlighting USU’s best faculty, graduate and undergraduate researchers. More information is online.
Contact: Mark McLellan, vice president for research and dean of the School of Graduate Studies, 435-797-1180, firstname.lastname@example.org
Writer: Anna McEntire, director of communications, Office of Research and Graduate Studies, 435-797-7631, email@example.com