2020 Thomas Undergraduate Research Mentor Awards

Dr. Tyreasa Washington and Dr. Blair Wisco, of University of North Carolina at Greensboro, are recipients of the 2020 Thomas Undergraduate Research Mentor Awards. 

Dr. Tyreasa Washington is the recipient of the 2020 Thomas Undergraduate Research Mentor Award for Tenured Faculty.

Dr. Washington joined the Department of Social Work at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro as an Assistant Professor in 2011. She was promoted to Associate Professor and appointed Faculty Affiliate to the UNCG Gerontology Program in 2017.

Dr. Washington is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) who has worked in child welfare and mental health settings. She is a distinguished scholar who examines the impact of family-level factors on African American children’s social, academic, and behavioral outcomes, especially those who reside in kinship care (e.g., grandparents raising grandchildren).

An extension of Dr. Washington’s work on African American kinship care families in the United States is the exploration of the historic and contemporary use of kinship care among African American and Black families in the USA, Ghana, and South Africa. She has presented her research and led discussions at the Aya Centre for Intercultural Awareness and Development and the University of Ghana in Accra, Ghana and at the University of Kwazulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa. Her research agenda also includes the examination of fathers’ roles on children’s positive outcomes.

Dr. Washington has received various research and teaching awards for her scholarship including a Council on Social Work Education Minority Fellowship Alumna, a National Institute of Health (NIH) Loan Repayment Program recipient, as well as, a Teaching Excellence and Research Mentor Awards recipient. Currently, Dr. Washington is the Principal Investigator of an Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) funded study, entitled: “Development of African American Children in Kinship Care.”

Former undergraduate student researcher, Christian Zik Nsonwu (pictured in main article photo with Washington), said of his relationship with Dr. Washington, “During all of my successes and failures, she has always been there to support me. I can say for an absolute fact that I would not be where I am today without her support and mentorship.”

Dr. Washington served as a McNair Faculty Research Mentor to Kenya Downing and Tamika Smith. Kenya stated, “It was not until I met this influential individual that I realized how much exposure, representation, teaching, research, and mentoring matter.” Tamika recalled that, “Dr. Washington has supported me in all aspects, both domestically and internationally. She exemplifies the traits of a compassionate and determined mentor who believes in her mentees and will go above and beyond to support them. Dr. Washington is one of the few professors that I
encountered who made a conscious effort to individually connect with students beyond academics.”

Shelton Young explained, “Dr. Washington is not only a colleague in the Social Work profession, but she once served as my professor and undergraduate research mentor during my undergraduate experience. She provided me and countless others with an understanding of the importance of using research to inform social work practice and practice to inform research.”

The Undergraduate Research, Scholarship and Creativity Office at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro established this award to recognize faculty who engage students in projects that contribute to the expansion of knowledge and understanding in their discipline, while demonstrating excellence and innovation. Dr. Tyreasa Washington demonstrates role modeling as a professional, with personal integrity, high ethical standards, and achievable standards for personal excellence. We are privileged to recognize her with the 2020 Thomas Undergraduate Research Mentor Award.

Dr. Blair Wisco is the recipient of the 2020 Thomas Undergraduate Research Mentor Award for Early Career Faculty.

Dr. Wisco joined the faculty at UNCG in 2013 as an Assistant Professor of Psychology in the Clinical Psychology Program. Since then, she has mentored many undergraduates—nearly 25 in her PSY 433: Research Experience in Psychology course alone.

The results of her mentorship speak for themselves. Three of her students have been awarded UNCG Undergraduate Research and Creativity Awards funding, four have worked with her on honors theses or independent research projects, and 10 have presented posters at major regional and national conferences. In one distinguished case, Dr. Wisco and a student collaboratively wrote and published an article in Cognition and Emotion (Normansell & Wisco, 2017), an important peer-reviewed journal in the behavioral sciences. Furthermore, her students have done well after leaving UNCG. Seven are in competitive, nationally prominent graduate programs.

In her teaching and research statement, Dr. Wisco remarked, “I am passionate about undergraduate research mentoring” and that she has consistently involved undergraduates in her research since joining UNCG. Her students are exposed to all stages of the research process, from the original conception of an idea to eventual dissemination of findings. Dr. Wisco’s receipt of an R15 grant from the National Institutes of Health, an award that aims to increase opportunities for student participation in research, reflects the high quality of her work and the unique training opportunity that her lab provides. One student wrote of Dr. Wisco, “She considers the individual interests of research assistants in her lab and supports them. Time is taken to ask students what experiences they hope to gain from working in the lab, what they wish to learn. Dr. Wisco makes those opportunities available.”

Another student wrote, “Dr. Wisco encourages her lab members to read and think critically about current literature, learn new skills, and develop their own research ideas” and that she has been “one of my biggest supporters as a budding scholar.” Students agree that their time with Dr. Wisco benefited them greatly and helped them become more confident and skillful researchers. One student noted that Dr. Wisco is a “life-long mentor and amazing ally.”

The Undergraduate Research, Scholarship and Creativity Office at UNCG established this award to recognize faculty members who engage students in projects that contribute to the expansion of knowledge and understanding in their discipline, while demonstrating excellence and innovation in doing so. Dr. Blair Wisco has managed to do this in exemplary fashion, and we are honored to present her with the 2020 Thomas Undergraduate Research Mentor Award.

Text courtesy of UNCG Undergraduate Research, Scholarship and Creativity Office

Please visit https://research.uncg.edu/spotlight/2020-thomas-undergraduate-research-mentor-awards/ to view the original article.

Founded in 1978, the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) focuses on providing high-quality and collaborative undergraduate research, scholarly, and creative activity. Among the many activities and networking opportunities that CUR provides, the organization also offers support for the professional growth of faculty and administrators through expert-designed institutes, conferences, and a wide-range of volunteer positions. The CUR community, made up of nearly 700 institutions and 13,000 individuals, continues to provide a platform for discussion and other resources related to mentoring, connecting, and creating relationships centered around undergraduate research. CUR’s advocacy efforts are also a large portion of its work as they strive to strengthen support for undergraduate research. Its continued growth in connections with representatives, private foundations, government agencies, and campuses world-wide provides value to its members and gives voice to undergraduate research. CUR is committed to inclusivity and diversity in all of its activities and our community.

CUR focuses on giving a voice to undergraduate research with learning through doing. It provides connections to a multitude of campuses and government agencies, all while promoting networking and professional growth to its community.