The Mentor of the Year Award acknowledges outstanding peer and faculty/staff mentors each year. MOTY winners have consistent contact with mentees; participate in significant activities and interactions with mentees; enrich mentees' understanding of culture, the arts, current events and campus resources; and have an overall positive impact on mentee's experiences at U of M. MOTY winners are revealed at the Mentorship Closing Celebration in December.
The Ronald G. Lai Memorial Scholarship was created in 2018 by the Lai family in memory of their son, brother, and friend, Ronald G. Lai. The scholarship will be awarded to the Peer Mentor of the Year recipient in recognition of their outstanding mentorship and positive impact on first-year students.
The Ronald G. Lai Memorial Scholarship
About the Scholarship
Ronald (Ron) George Lai, a University of Michigan graduate (B.S. Mathematics 2004), was a beloved son, brother, and friend who had a passion for life and believed in the value of mentorship. Ron was a lifelong learner who focused on continuous self-improvement and broadening his perspective. As a
Michigan undergraduate, he actively sought out ways to interact with diverse groups of people. He joined a multicultural fraternity, a South Asian dance troop, Toastmasters, and the wrestling team, and volunteered for a myriad of causes. Due to his charisma, natural leadership, and fantastic sense of humor, Ron was seen as a coach and mentor by his peers. Following graduation, Ron joined the youth Asian mentorship program, ASCEND, becoming one of their most visible young leaders taking the stage at national events. During this time, on a fortuitous subway ride in New York, Ron met and formed a lifelong relationship with Lou Grumet, a former lawyer, accountant and Executive Director of the New York State School Boards Association. Through Lou’s guidance, encouragement, and friendship, Ron strengthened his resolve to be a better mentor to others.
Ron’s dynamic career in mathematics and technology took him around the United States and internationally, including Boston, Chicago, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington D.C., Sydney, Australia, and Jakarta, Indonesia. Ron built a solid network of friends and colleagues everywhere he went. He was highly respected as someone who was reliable and selfless with his time. His capability, ambition, and work ethic led him to high-achieving circles, but he paid no attention to others' career or social status. If you were intellectually curious and caring like he was, you were in. Ron was happiest when he could bounce ideas off of others and help people achieve their full potential. His capacity to love, to learn, and to forgive was remarkable. He made the world a kinder and more interesting place. He maintained deep and long-term connections and was always there for anyone who needed him. He was a career counselor, startup mentor, tech investor, and business and social connector. Many friends and former colleagues credit his help with their admission into graduate school and/or securing their jobs.
The Ronald G. Lai Mentorship Memorial Scholarship will keep the spirit of Ron alive by honoring those who also dedicate themselves to the pursuit of helping others through mentorship.
Previous Mentor of the Year Award Winners
Congratulations to our Mentors of the Year!
Peer Mentor of the Year and Ronald G. Lai Memorial Scholarship Recipients, Michal Ruprecht (bottom row, middle) and Lara King (bottom row, right)
Faculty/Staff Mentor of the Year: Kendra Lutes (bottom row, left)
Peer Mentor of the Year and Ronald G. Lai Memorial Scholarship Recipient, Rosa Avilez
Faculty/Staff Mentor of the Year: Kevin Hughes
Peer Mentor Bhoomika Gupta (pictured above) and Faculty/Staff Mentor Jenna Long
Bhoomika deserved to be recognized for her commitment to her mentees and all that she has done to make the Mentorship Program great for her group. She constantly communicated with her mentees, and made sure that each mentee is involved with Mentorship. They each reached out to her for help, whether that is on advice on how to join the Couzens multicultural council or how to navigate classes. Even though she had an incredibly busy schedule, she always made an effort to come to each Mentorship event and always interacted with her mentees at events. Her international upbringing and perspective has also allowed her to help her international mentees who have reached out to her. She planned a variety of impressive events her mentees were able to enjoy, from dinners at One Bowl to a Glass Castle movie showing. Bhoomika is such a great energy to be around and she has gone above and beyond as a peer mentor.
Jenna is very perceptive to issues the mentees might be facing. She is an academic advisor and definitely used these skills in her conversations with her mentees about what majors they are considering. She also showed a level of understanding of her mentees that few other F/S mentors showed. She knew specifically which organizations her mentees were involved in, which majors they were considering, and how they had adjusted to college. Additionally, she had a very positive attitude for the program and its events, and was not too let down when two of her mentees became inactive. Instead, she focused on the positive and got to know the mentees that were active very well. Jenna is a phenomenal mentor that truly cares about mentorship. She is extremely diligent and organized which was very helpful for planning events. She is an exceptional mentor!
Peer Mentor Courtney Klee and Faculty Staff Mentor Carla Maria Kayanan
Courtney has been a very impressive peer mentor. She went out of her way to emphasize that she would be happy to work with any mentee of any gender, nationality, or disability. Her inclusivity and sweet nature really make her an amazing peer mentor. She sends out regular emails to her core mentees. She’s also extremely flexible and understanding, and always makes sure to make it to each of the coffee hours she organizes with her Faculty/Staff mentor and all peer core meetings. Even though all peer mentors usually do a great job with this, she’s always gone out of her way to prioritize meetings – even when she has busy days. She’s had great ideas for her group, and her skills in organization and communication makes me believe that she’ll be a great source of support for all incoming students!
Carla Maria Kayanan
It’s easy to slip behind on the responsibilities of being a faculty/staff mentor when you’re busy, but Carla is absolutely amazing with making sure that she’s providing as much support as she can to her mentees. Despite having the responsibilities of raising her two children and writing her dissertation, she has always been responsive to her mentees and peer mentor. Carla and Courtney work tirelessly together to brainstorm ideas, coordinate biweekly communication, and execute events. She can name each one of her mentees and talk about how each individual is doing. Carla’s also taken steps to make sure that her mentees are included, such as by reaching out to me for extra help, and even offering to drive some mentees on the waitlist for the Cider Mill event herself to make sure everyone who wanted to go could attend. She is truly dedicated to her role as a faculty mentor and holds herself to an impressively high standard.
Peer Mentors Erin Similuk and Shivani Joshi & Faculty/Staff Mentor Stacey Scimeca
"Erin uses her positive spirit to make sure everyone, not just her group, obtains a beneficial experience out of the program. Since she started as a Mentor, we have seen Erin working with 110% enthusiasm, which can be seen with the activeness of her Mentorship Group. Erin has very much exceeded expectations. At Kickoff, she made goody bags for each of her mentees as well as her co-mentor as a welcome gift to the University. At our Stressbusters event, she offered to stay late at the event to help Mentorship staff with cleanup, which was something not required to do. She has gone out of her way to hold study sessions with her Mentees that were struggling with a Biochemistry class, so she would meet the girls and offer to tutor them in the subjects she was confident in, making sure that they felt comfortable in their classes. Erin made herself available as much as she possibly could, ranging from weekly emails to movie nights at her apartment. Erin has made it so that her mentees could feel safe around her while providing adequate advice when necessary."
"Shivani was always excited to come to meetings and attacked problems in a positive manner. She sent out weekly emails to her mentees and tried planning full group events. She exceeded expectations because she was always prepared, always enthusiastic, and always flexible. She came to a large majority of Mentorship events as well. Shivani sent out weekly emails to her mentees to plan events and let them know what events were going on around campus. She is always an available resource for her mentees, even though she herself had an extremely busy schedule! Her Faculty/Staff mentor said that Shivani always kept in contact with her and made sure she felt included in the process. It has been a pleasure to have Shivani serve as a peer mentor!"
"Stacey was once a Communication Coordinator so she completely understands the requirements of her job. She has attended so many Mentorship wide events including the law tour, pizza tasting and she even presented at the how not to waste your summer workshop. She makes a large effort to be involved in the program. She has seen her group many times, has a great relationship with Amy, her peer mentor, and has met with mentees individually. Stacey is a great addition to this program. She adds energy and experience. She is knows what it’s like to be an undergraduate, but she has experience as a graduate too and can be a great mentor to those feeling lost."
Peer Mentor Bing (Sunny) Sun and Faculty/Staff Mentor Nicholas Rine
Bing (Sunny) Sun
Sunny has been an active Peer Mentor for almost three years now. Her dedication to Mentorship and relationship with not only her mentees but also her Faculty/Staff mentor, Nick Rine, is impeccable and deserving of recognition. She worked hard to make sure her group was engaged and present at nearly all Mentorship events. She contributed to the core group and did everything we strive for Peer Mentors to do. Sunny is a wonderful mentor, and we were very lucky to have our in our program for four years! We wish her the best for her upcoming graduation.
Nick Rine has been a faculty/staff mentor with our program for many years, and is a truly exemplary man. With his wit and kindness it is easy for us to see how mentees are quick to warm up to him and are able to approach him with any questions or concerns. He has a vast amount of knowledge and is always willing to make time for Mentorship. His relationship with Bing Sun, his peer mentor, is also very strong; they’ve known each other for 4 years now! They held weekly coffee hours for their group, which was one of the many ways in which they helped develop a strong source of community for their mentees. Nick has served as a mentor, friend and role model to many mentees and peer mentors over the years.
Peer Mentor Stacy Lecznar and Faculty/Staff Mentor Pete Batra
Stacey Lecznar supported her mentees beyond what was required, and we are thankful for her participation as a mentor. She formed friendships with her mentees and welcomed them by creating Welcome to Michigan bags for each of them. A returning mentor, she continually came up with new ideas and went out of her way to plan events for her group. We appreciate her work this year!
Pete Batra has been a faculty/staff mentor for several years. He is extremely dedicated to Mentorship and always sends along images of group outings, and clearly enjoys the time he spends with his mentees and co-mentor . He provides useful feedback and is always helping improve the program, and has been great at coming up with new ideas for Mentorship, as well as encouraging his groups to attend events we host. He formed a great partnership with Angie, his Peer co-mentor. One of the things we love about Pete is that he always invites his group over for a dinner with his family every year!
Peer Mentor Aaron Loo and Faculty/Staff Mentors Deb Masten and Dr. John Mansfied
Aaron Loo had one of the most positive attitudes that our staff has seen in a mentor. He was always encouraging his mentees to get involved and make the most out of Mentorship! He always emphasized their importance and influence on the program’s success. He also always expressed his personal interest in his mentees well-being, seen in a series of encouraging, supportive and thoughtful emails he sent to his group regularly. , Aaron is a very positive and energetic mentor who truly cares about his mentees and the program! He exceeded expectations in the following ways: He attended almost all Mentorship events, and even swung by ones that he was really too busy to attend. He established a positive relationship with his f/s mentor Andrea that honestly exceeded the relationships I saw by most of my other mentors.He worked fluidly as both a mentor and a friend to his mentee, which made his group very successful. He was very proactive about planning activities and events outside of Mentorship planned events, such as the corn maze and--his group did the photo scavenger hunt and met multiple times for that which demonstrates a lot of effort. Aaron brought an extra spark and played a key role in making his group great!
Deb Masten and Dr. John Mansfield (John pictured above with awards for himself and Deb) are partners who combined their mentor groups in order to optimize their time and energies, to amazing results. This worked effectively this year as they personally shuttled their large group of mentees and mentors to various activities and events. In the past they have traveled abroad and connected with a mentee living in Asia! Committed to their roles as mentors, they particularly enjoy working with international students and have provided much support to students with backgrounds in the sciences as they have much advice and support to give due to their respective professions. Deb planned and coordinated all her group's events including the photo-scavenger hunt (3+ trips to collect photos), basketball game, invited group over for Thanksgiving dinner, ice cream and more! Deb was responsive, a pleasure to meet and chat with. She would always send emails to her group updating them on Mentorship events and activities on campus. As a team, they are valuable and enthusiastic mentors.We need more Deb and Johns!
Peer Mentor Lauren Bondarenko and Faculty/Staff Mentor Tommaso Pavone
Lauren Bondarenko and her mentees made it to quite a few Mentorship planned events including: Pizza Tasting, Law School Tour and Kickoff. Her and her F/S also organized fantastic individual events. They met weekly for coffee (every Friday at 10am). They also had dinner at their F/S mentors house. Lauren always seems really interested in helping her mentees at a more personal level. So while the events aren't always what they are interested in, they still maintain weekly contact with each other. Lauren was an excellent mentor. She really put in a great effort this semester and genuinely cared about her mentees and the program. She truly fulfilled her role as mentor to her two mentees (Sunny and Danny). She also had a great relationship with her F/S mentor Nick Rine and the two of them worked really well together.
Tommaso Pavone has been very involved in planning activities, sending out google docs, and other ways to plan and organize events and activities on behalf of his mentees. He took his group on trip to Detroit on his own, and planned bowling party won from raffle at Kickoff. He sent frequent emails planning weekly meetings. His CC describes him as "Great! Super involved, very eager to plan events." His Peer co-mentor, Kurt, himself a dedicated and committed mentor had nothing but great things to say about him. To Kurt, Tommaso felt a lot like a friend and that did a lot to support the group.
Peer Mentor Danielle Canter and Faculty/Staff Mentor Liese Hull
Danielle Canter has been involved with Mentorship for three years now and was recently hired to be a Communication Coordinator due to her outstanding work as a Peer Mentor. In Danielle’s group (6 mentees and a f/s mentor) every person has come to every event or meeting that she has put together for her group with the exception of one event due to the great relationship she has nurtured. Since Kickoff, she has made it a priority to make sure that they all meet up at least once a week. ONCE A WEEK. That is huge! Danielle has absolutely exceeded her role as a peer mentor. She has created a relationship with each one of the mentees individually, meets up with one of the girls on a regular basis, and gets dinner with them all every Sunday. Right from the beginning, Danielle made and effort to make the mentees feel so comfortable around each other, and now they are friends outside of mentorship. Basically, Danielle has molded her group into a “mentorship model” group – one that staff absolutely love to see. Danielle also has a good relationship with her f/s mentor, Jon, who lives about an hour away from Ann Arbor so he hasn’t been able to come to any of the events that are held at night/evening and he typically can’t meet up with them during the week because of the conflicts at work. However, he has relayed how wonderful he thinks Danielle is because even though he cannot come to a lot of the functions, Danielle always includes him in emails and asks his opinion. He has even forwarded me emails that Danielle sends to the group because he wanted to show me how amazing, charismatic she sounded and how effective the emails were at getting the mentees to response and participate. Time and time again he tells me that all the credit for their great group should go straight to Danielle because she is the one facilitating all of the meetings and emails. Danielle really encompasses what a Peer Mentor stands for and what the Mentorship Program looks for in its volunteers and participants.
Liese Hull has been involved in Mentorship for consecutive years and has developed strong and supportive relationships with her mentees, many of whom look up to her and feel comfortable sharing their concerns and worries as new students, as well as their successes in adjusting to college life. This year, Liese sustained a great relationship with her peer mentor and actively participated in group gatherings, even offering assistance and support to students she was not assigned, who attended events on their own. Liese's friendliness, openness and vast knowledge of campus resources (from academic to wellness) has complemented and enhanced the work of each mentor she's been paired with in recent years. Liese always makes an effort to get to know her mentees, has been able to meet with several of them individually, and has been a great mentor to her assigned peer mentor as well, sustaining a friendly and open relationship that continues beyond the fall semester. We greatly appreciate her contribution and look forward to her participation in future years!
Peer Mentor Kyle Nowels (and Faculty/Staff Mentor Heather Piegza
Kyle Nowels was named Peer Mentor of the Year due to his great communication with his mentees, openness and the energy he devotes to keeping records about his group progress. According to Kyle, "I would describe my relationship with my mentees as a new friendship." He really showed that he cared about his mentees and the success of his group when instead of giving up when his mentees did not answer his emails, he moved on to texts and facebook, which garnered more response. He also realized that his F/S mentor was an asset not a burden and continuously included her in all of his plans, even the facebook thread he started with his mentees. He planned a lot of events for his group including attending Kickoff, attending the Mentorship soccer and pizza tasting events, and planning events on his own including ice skating, a comedy night at the Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase and going out for ice cream. Kyle also lended advice to staff as an invited guest to the annual Mentor Summit, where he weighed in about his experience with the program. We appreciate all Kyle does for Mentorship!
Heather Piegza went above and beyond the role of mentor and has done a great job of making the program fun and useful for the students. Holly (her peer mentor) mentioned that she has an excellent relationship with Heather and that she helps both her and the mentees with their concentrations, majors, minors, employment opportunities, and social opportunities on campus. She also said that she is an “excellent resource and very approachable and accessible.” Beyond her great relationships with her peer mentor and assigned mentorship staff member, Heather had creative ideas for activities to do with the group that all of her mentees were excited about. One expressed an interest in applying to the business school, which her current partner had attended, so she offered to set up a meeting for the two of them so that they could discuss the application process and academic environment. She also had two mentees that had never been apple picking (one was from Alaska) and so they planned a trip to expose the student to a typical fall Michigan activity. Heather works in the Museum Studies department, so she arranged a behind the scenes tour of the museum so that the students could see the store rooms in the basement and got to see real dinosaur bones. Originally from the Detroit area, Heather knows a lot about Detroit and Ann Arbor and really wanted to share that experience with her mentees, which was a great idea to help them get acquainted with the area. Along with her father, who lives in the Detroit area, Heather planned tour of Detroit with her mentees to show them all that the city had to offer, and they also made a stop at the DIA museum and a restaurant for dinner. Heather has been an outstanding addition to Mentorship and we are proud to count her as a mentor!
Peer Mentor AJ Pinney and Faculty/Staff Mentor Allison Friendly
AJ Pinney is always extremely enthusiastic when talking about his mentees, and does whatever he can to ensure their success here at Michigan. He brings his great energy with him to all of his peer core meetings as well as Mentorship Events. He is pro-active, friendly, engaging, and creative in finding ways to benefit his group. He and his f/s created a CTools site where they can post updates, information, plan events, and shares information with his mentees in power points including "top 10 places to eat” or “favorite study spots”. The main thing he has done is to set himself apart from the other mentors is really take an active approach in working with his faculty/staff mentor. They come up with monthly ideas that include other peer groups so more mentees can interact, and they can meet the mentees of their fellow friends/mentors. He is personally invested in the program and really hopes for the best with all that they do! AJ is now a mentorship staff member (Communication Coordinator) for the 2010-2011 academic year.
Allison Friendly is a Faculty/Staff Mentor of the year because she has gone above and beyond expectations on behalf of her mentees; she gives them personal attention and offered assistance ranging from driving mentees to the airport and figuring out residence hall room changes! Her assigned mentorship staff also enjoyed their interactions and she also offered assistance to staff the Mentorship Course Backpacking event which was a success and showed her dedication to the program. We are fortunate that Allison is continuing as a mentor for the 2010-2011 academic year.
Peer Mentor Laura Heinrich and Faculty/Staff Mentor Nancy Kelly
Laura Heinrich is Peer Mentor of the year because, despite having a busy schedule as she applies to medical school, she has maintained active contact with her CC, F/S mentor and mentees. She helped plan a pre-kickoff dinner, a registration coffee hour, a community service event, and various other activities. Laura makes students feel comfortable to talk to her, and as a result of her conversations with her CC Christine Beamer, she helped initiate our Commuter Coffee hour, which occurred in 2007 and 2008. Laura has been involved with Mentorship for three years and we have found her to be reliable, enthusiastic and sensitive to the concerns and needs of her mentees. For this reason, we are happy to announce that she is Peer Mentor of the Year!
Nancy Kelly has worn many hats as a staff mentor this year. She has driven her group to various places when they’ve needed transportation, has given them home-cooked meals and has been a great resource for students; she’s answered questions about her mentee’s individual interests and if she doesn’t know an answer, she finds it! Nancy has gone above and beyond as a mentor, using her own resources for groupactivities and meets mentees where they are. On many occasions, she has met in the residence halls, attended concerts and sporting events and looks forward to staying in touch with them for winter semester when Mentorship officially ends. Finally, she’s accessible and has taken an active interest in the lives of her students and her CC, Megan Mitrovich. We appreciate her continued involvement and great effort, which is why she has been selected as Staff Mentor of the Year!