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Mentoring Program Creation Garners Praise for UW Professor

October 13, 2014
head portrait of woman
UW Associate Professor Mariah Ehmke shared the AAEA’s Presidential Recognition Award.

Creating a mentoring program for agricultural economists led to a University of Wyoming faculty member receiving the Presidential Recognition Award from the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association (AAEA).

Mariah Ehmke, associate professor in the Department of Agriculture and Applied Economics, is the co-recipient along with Kynda Curtis, an associate professor in the Applied Economics Department at Utah State University.

AAEA Past President Julie Caswell at the University of Massachusetts Amherst nominated the two. She says the award is based on the challenges and issues faced by the association and contributions a particular individual has made to address those challenges.

UW Agricultural Economics Professor Nicole Ballenger says her fellow faculty member “is incredibly committed and smart.”

“Mariah has always just impressed me as a person who is highly motivated,” says Ballenger. “She really cares about the advancement of women in our profession, and she goes out there and just gets things done.”

Perhaps this reputation led Curtis to approach Ehmke with the idea of a mentoring program to span AAEA, matching those new to academia with senior members to create a realm of professional development.

Caswell says Ehmke and Curtis, over the last four years, have “developed a truly excellent, annual, yearlong mentorship program for new professionals that includes cohort meetings and one-on-one mentoring.”

The program began in 2011. Developing mentor-mentee relationships has been coupled with professional development curriculum ranging from how to implement new teaching techniques in the classroom to developing one’s research capacity.

“We’ve had about 25 mentees go through each year, so we’re getting into having between 75 and 80 people who have been mentored now through the formal program,” Ehmke says. “Hundreds of people have been affected through the sessions and workshops through our association meetings.”

Participants attend workshops a day before annual meetings to bring them together and focus their mentoring goals, she says. “Through the next year, they’re in a relationship where, through phone, Skype and Internet, they’re interacting so the senior economist can mentor the junior economist. We do a mid-year energizer, and then they meet back for a final year recognition ceremony.”

Mentorship participants come from a diverse pool. Some are stationed at large universities with tens of fellow agricultural economists on staff; others are in departments composed of a sole agricultural economist. Mentorship programs offer the chance for new academics to learn how distinguish themselves through research and published papers, and also benefit university students through shared information about effective education and teaching.


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Chad Baldwin

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