UC Davis Today: Profs mentor Regents Scholars

Older man in a discussion with a young woman

Profs mentor Regents Scholars

By Dave Jones

The Regents Scholars Society held its annual Welcome Reception this week for freshmen and transfers who have arrived on campus with their own Regents Scholarships.

But this year’s reception, held Sept. 25 in the Shields Library courtyard, also included another special group of guests: faculty members who were invited to be part of a new mentoring program organized by the University Honors Program in coordination with the Office of Undergraduate Education.

More than 200 people attended the afternoon reception. They included many of the campus’s 120 newly enrolled Regents Scholars, other members of the society (previously enrolled) and almost all of the 48 faculty mentors who have been matched with freshmen Regents Scholars.

With the help of name tags, Kieran Wolk met up quickly with his mentor, C.P. “Case” van Dam, who holds the Warren and Leta Giedt Endowed Professorship in Mechanical, Aeronautical and Materials Engineering.

Van Dam, chair of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, said he hopes to make Wolk’s transition to college “less of a hurdle.”

Wolk, a mechanical engineering major from Half Moon Bay, was enthusiastic about the help. “People tell me I need to get involved in research, and I don’t really know how to do it.”

“This will be a nice segue,” he said.

Brynna Thigpen of Santa Rosa engaged in serious scientific discussion with her mentor, Michael Turelli, professor of evolutionary genetics and recipient of the 2012 Faculty Research Lecture Award.

“We were talking about his research with Drosophila,” said Thigpen, an undeclared major in the College of Biological Sciences. “We could only get into it so far, but I’m really looking forward to it.”

Turelli has been paired with two students: Thigpen and Lo Tuan of San Jose. “He told us to get in touch with him within a week,” Tuan said.

Regents Scholars are recipients of Regents Scholarships, the most prestigious of all financial awards given by the university. The awards, for freshmen and transfer students, are merit-based — that is, selection is based on academic achievement and personal accomplishments rather than financial need. Regents Scholars are generally within the top 4 percent of all admitted students.

“The state of California has expressed this degree of confidence in you and your future,” Carolyn de la Peña, professor of American studies and interim vice provost for Undergraduate Education, told the scholars.

“Just remember that you were picked by a state!” she said.

The Regents Scholars Society has social and academic programs. The latter include peer mentoring, and workshops on professional development and research.

Freshman Brynna Thigpen of Santa Rosa engages with her mentor, evolutionary genetics professor Michael Turelli. Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis photo

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