UCAR > Communications > Staff Notes Monthly > January 2002 Search

January 2002

SOARS wins presidential award for mentoring

SOARS, the UCAR mentoring program, was one of ten institutions
in December to win the annual Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring.

The award will likely be displayed in the Mesa Lab lobby. It honors SOARS “for embodying excellence in mentoring underrepresented students and encouraging their significant achievement in science, mathematics, and engineering.”

NSF director Rita Colwell (left), SOARS director Tom Windham, and White House Office of Science and Technology Policy director John Marburger at the 12 December ceremony at which SOARS was honored

“I feel honored,” says SOARS director Tom Windham, who attended the awards ceremony on 12 December in Washington. “I’m excited for UCAR and all the people who’ve supported the program over the past six years, especially the mentors who volunteer so much of their time and the very dedicated protégés.”

It was the third time SOARS had been nominated for the award—and this time proved to be the charm. Nominating the program were two former protégés: Christopher Castro, a doctoral candidate in atmospheric science at Colorado State University, and Stephanie Rivale, who is teaching as an adjunct in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Science at the Metropolitan State College of Denver.

President Bush announced the 2001 recipients on 4 December. The presidential award, administered and funded through NSF, recognizes people and institutions for promoting participation among women, minorities, and persons with disabilities in scientific and engineering careers.

“The president views these programs as essential to our nation’s future. All barriers must be removed because research is enriched when the broadest possible range of people participate,” says NSF director Rita Colwell. “Especially in times of national crisis, we need all of our best minds working together to bring science and technology to bear on

urgent issues.”

Now in its sixth year, SOARS (which stands for Significant Opportunities in Atmospheric Research and Science) is designed to interest students from traditionally underserved communities in academic degrees and careers in atmospheric science and its related fields. SOARS is a year-round program that includes a ten-week paid internship each summer. Protégés have come from over 40 participating colleges and universities.

Approximately 70 volunteers pitch in with scientific research, scientific writing, or community life mentoring each year. Most of the mentors are drawn from UCAR and NCAR staff, but some also come from other national labs.

UCAR president Rick Anthes, who with former HR director Edna Comedy conceived of the program and wrote the first proposal to NSF in 1995, praises Tom and the UCAR staff who have made SOARS so successful. However, Rick points out that the job is far from over. “The issue of diversity in the geosciences remains a formidable one,” he says. “SOARS and programs like it will be necessary for many years to come. I am very pleased to see it recognized so prominently after only six years.”

Since the inception of SOARS, nine protégés have earned master’s degrees (three of whom have passed Ph.D. qualifying examinations) and numerous others are attending graduate or undergraduate schools.

Tom is looking forward to helping more young people in the years to come.

“The award is not only an honor, but also a responsibility,” he says. “Once you’re identified as a model program by the president, that calls for continued excellence. There’s no relaxing.”

•Zhenya Gallon
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Edited by David Hosansky, hosansky@ucar.edu
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Last revised: Thu Dec 20 17:08:40 MST 2001