UTEP BUILDing SCHOLARS Mentorship Awardees Share Their Motivations for Mentoring

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Contact Info: jpgarza@utep.edu

By John Garza

BUILDing SCHOLARS at the University of Texas El Paso (UTEP) annually recognizes faculty members from each of the colleges for their excellence in mentorship. Awardees are selected from competitive applications in which they demonstrate their dedication to mentoring at all levels, from postdoctoral fellows and graduates to undergraduate students engaged in their first research activities. The award winners for 2021 were selected from four colleges at UTEP. 

Alvaro Gurovich, Prof of Phys Therapy, UTEP
Alvaro Gurovich, PhD, is a
professor of physical therapy 
and rehabilitation sciences

Alvaro Gurovich, PhD, is a professor of physical therapy and rehabilitation sciences and studies how exercise and blood flow positively impact health. 

Wen Yee Lee, PhD, is a professor of chemistry and biochemistry in the College of Science who studies wastewater and environmental and health impacts of organic pollutants. 

From the College of Liberal Arts and Creative Writing Department, Andrea Cote Botero, PhD, is an award-winning author of multiple poetry anthologies and nonfiction prose, whose works have been translated into multiple languages. 

Finally, Yirong Lin, PhD, is a professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering who develops multifunctional material

Wen Yee Lee, Prof of Chem & Biochem, UTEP
Wen Yee Lee, PhD, is a
professor of chemistry and
biochemistry in the College
of Science


Notably, Gurovich and Lee both have mentored BUILD trainees at various times over the course of the program.

BUILDing SCHOLARS alumna Jozelyn Rascon graduated in Spring 2020 with a major in rehabilitation sciences under Gurovich’s mentorship. 


Reflecting on his mentor-mentee relationship with Rascon, Gurovich said, “It was great. Not only was it great to see her growing and being

more independent every semester, but to know that she fulfilled her dreams of becoming a physical therapist.”

Gurovich further reminisced how the mentoring relationship was bidirectional. 

“I learned a lot about El Paso and this community. I started mentoring Jozelyn when I just got here and she, being local, showed me the hidden treasures of this community,” Gurovich said.

Lee shared what she found most fulfilling about mentoring: “Mentoring is a privilege which allows me to witness the growth of our next generation into mature scholars. Many of our undergraduate students do not have the opportunity to figure out what they really want to do for their next step. We, as the mentors, will play an important role to provide them the guidance and training that can prepare them for their future.”

“In addition to the hard skills that we can teach them, I realize that soft skills are equally if not more important to ‘equip’ our mentees. Among all soft skills, I consider critical thinking and communication are most needed for our students. I encourage my mentees to think independently, discuss opinions openly and honestly, and find passion in their research.”

Lee mentored BUILD alumna Fernanda Lugo, a Spring 2018 graduate who majored in biological sciences. She spoke of how she applied this philosophy to Lugo’s unique situation.

“(Lugo) joined my group wanting to know what analytical research was about, even though she ‘thought’ that she wanted to get a MD/PhD degree,” Lee said. “Our ‘soul searching’ discussion and experience sharing, along with Fernanda’s research experience, helped her realize that her passion is in human sciences, and now she is in the PhD program for biobehavioral health at Penn State.”

All four awardees demonstrated outstanding dedication to mentoring, overseeing the graduation of multiple graduate and undergraduate students, and fostering their research training. 

“I consider myself fortunate to have the opportunity to share my experience and guide our mentees through their journey,” Lee said.

The Diversity Program Consortium Coordination and Evaluation Center at UCLA is supported by Office of the Director of the National Institutes of Health / National Institutes of General Medical Sciences under award number U54GM119024.
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