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University of Iowa News Release

Feb. 13, 2006

Nominees Sought For Award Recognizing Graduate Students Who Mentor

Working on an undergraduate or graduate degree can be daunting, even for the most confident and intellectually capable students.

To help smooth the way, a number of senior graduate students at the University of Iowa serve as mentors to newer students. Having "been there and done that," mentors are in an ideal position to offer advice, guidance and encouragement to less experienced students while they learn, study and conduct research.

Starting this year, the UI Iowa Graduate Student Senate is inaugurating an award to formally recognize graduate students in every discipline who have demonstrated outstanding work as mentors to undergraduate and junior graduate students.

The award, funded by the UI Graduate College and the Office of the Vice President for Research, offers a cash prize of $250 for first place and $100 for second place. Awards will be presented to winners during Graduate Student Recognition Week on Saturday, March 25 at the Jakobsen Conference Awards Ceremony.

Nominations are due by 5 p.m. Feb. 24 at 205 Gilmore Hall and can be submitted by faculty advisors or Department Executive Officers. A complete nomination form is available online at

Sarah Vigmostad, president of Graduate Student Senate and a fifth-year graduate student in biomedical engineering, estimates that 25 percent of senior graduate students have mentored students in some capacity.

"We wanted to have an award that emphasized the importance of mentoring as part of senior graduate students' academic careers," said Vigmostad, who has mentored senior design students. "There are teaching assistant awards for students who excel at teaching. We wanted something equivalent for those who go the extra mile as mentors and dedicate time and energy toward helping students succeed."

She said mentors are expected to motivate other students, lead by example and devote time toward answering questions and allaying junior students' concerns.

"Because senior graduate students have already gone through much of what the other student is facing and have learned a lot along the way, they can help them get through the bad days and not feel as though they're going through all of it alone," Vigmostad said.

She said mentors also benefit from the mentoring experience, especially those who plan to become the kind of faculty members and researchers who can keep students engaged and motivated.

"It's a good way to see if you're really cut out for academics," Vigmostad said.

For more information about the mentoring award, call 319-331-1899, or email

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Stephen Pradarelli, 319-384-0007,