Associate Professor Jessica Schiffman, the interim head of the Chemical Engineering (ChE) Department, was recently honored with a UMass Amherst ADVANCE Mentoring Award. Schiffman was nominated by 13 of her faculty colleagues from several different departments in the College of Engineering and beyond.
This award recognizes the vital role faculty play in mentoring their colleagues. Faculty mentoring can take many different forms: mentoring relationships can be informal or formal, can occur through workshops or professionalization seminars, or through one-on-one meetings and mutual mentoring groups. All of these forms of faculty mentoring are eligible for the mentor award.
As Schiffman’s nomination letters made clear, her mentoring included all these forms and many more.
According to Schiffman’s congratulations letter from the UMass ADVANCE Program: “It is clear that the work you are doing makes an enormous difference to the success of your colleagues and has made the university a more inclusive and equitable place.”
Schiffman’s widespread mentoring activities are evident from the numerous examples and descriptions provided by the 13 faculty members who nominated her.
As one statement said, Schiffman “consistently plays an especially tremendous role in mentoring a diverse group of junior faculty in a broad range of STEM fields, which extends throughout every professional stage from faculty recruitment, to starting at UMass, and navigating the tenure process. Through her mentoring activities, she provides informal and formal mentoring to many faculties across the College of Engineering and other colleges at UMass, as evidenced by the signatories of this letter.”
One nominator recalled that Schiffman “has been a constant resource, actively reaching out to check in on me when different shocks to the system occurred.”
Another nominator observed that Schiffman “has played an integral role in my adjustment to the role of assistant professor at UMass.”
Yet another said that Schiffman’s “advice and mentoring have spanned many areas of the faculty career: from setting up a lab, mentoring research trainees, managing a research team, grantsmanship, excelling in teaching, introducing me to faculty across campus, writing collaborative research proposals together, and managing research collaborations together.”
As another nominator said about Schiffman, “She serves as a role model as an excellent teacher-scholar who truly excels in research, teaching, and service, while consistently committing large efforts to advancing the inclusivity of UMass and the college.”
One of Schiffman’s colleagues commented on her reaction to taking over the role of interim ChE department head this fall: “She took on this duty, with all the attendant responsibilities and time commitments, and without any release from her normal teaching, research, or service workload. She has done a tremendous job in this tough position, and, despite this, she has continued to provide a profound level of mentorship to so many faculty across UMass.”
Another nominator explained that Schiffman’s “mentoring has involved conversations, emails, and texts about everything from improving teaching scores to reviewing specific aims on grants, etc. The breadth of her involvement and ability to support so many of us is truly remarkable and strongly deserving of recognition.”
One nomination statement summed up all the others very succinctly: “Professor Schiffman represents the archetypal faculty mentor, dedicated to ensuring the full success of her colleagues through her consummate leadership and unrivaled combination of compassion and wisdom, thus serving as a standard-bearer of diversity, equity, inclusion, and excellence across campus.”