USU Eastern Faculty Member Named TEAL Graduate Mentor of the Year


USU Eastern Press Release

Rachel Turner, assistant professor in the School of Teacher Education and Leadership (TEAL), has been named as the 2023-24 TEAL Graduate Faculty Mentor of the Year. Turner, who teaches a variety of elementary education at USU Eastern, will now be entered for consideration for the Emma Eccles Jones College of Education & Human Services Outstanding Graduate Faculty Mentor of the Year award.

“This could not have happened to a more deserving person than Rachel,” said Doug Miller, associate vice president for USU Eastern. “Rachel works extremely well with many of our graduate students and is an excellent advisor in helping students prepare for their lives as they enter their professions. She is very deserving of this nomination.”

Turner began her educational journey at Sam Houston State University (SHSU), earning a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. After working as a third grade teacher in Texas, Turner returned to school and earned a Master of Education degree from SHSU. She would go on to earn a doctorate degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Texas A&M University. She would then join the USU Eastern faculty in 2020.

“I am extremely honored to have received this award,” Turner said. “As an early-career faculty, I appreciate the acknowledgement and recognition of my work with graduate students. I would especially like to thank Dr. Katherine Vela for her nomination and Dr. Steven Camicia, my department head, for their support. I’m looking forward to working with more graduate students in the year to come.”

As a recent doctoral graduate herself, Turner uses her experience to relate to those students with whom she interacts. She feels that her students teach her as much as she mentors them.

“Having lived through the graduate school experience, I understand how difficult it can be professionally, personally, emotionally, etc.,” Turner said. “I graduated with my Ph.D. in 2020, so I feel that experience is still really fresh for me. I do my best to relate to students and share things that I struggled with during that time. I strive to be a mentor that students can learn with, not only learn from.”

Turner immediately gravitated toward mentoring when she joined USU Eastern. Her favorite part of mentoring is the interaction with students. She uses the interactions she had as a graduate student at Texas A&M with her advisors as a blueprint and tries to emulate the mentors she had in her own experience.

“I enjoying being a person that they can come to with questions,” Turner said. “While I most certainly don’t have all the answers, I enjoy working alongside students to help them answer their own questions.”

The Outstanding Graduate Mentor of the Year recognizes faculty who have a record of excellence in graduate student mentorship. The award recognizes USU mentors who have done a notable job helping their graduate students prepare for a professional career. Nominees are effective advisors who facilitate degree completion, model sound scholarship and ethical behavior, provide emotional support, extend constructive criticism, involve students in publishing and other professional activities, and prepare students for their careers after they have completed their degrees.

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