Despite finishing only her second year as an assistant professor of composition studies at California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB), Kelly Medina-Lopez was awarded with the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Center’s (UROC) Mentor of the Year award.
After receiving both of her bachelor’s degrees from New Mexico State University, Lopez left her birthplace of New Mexico to teach at CSUMB. Lopez double majored in English and Spanish, and has a master’s degree in Spanish language and linguistics, as well as a doctorate in rhetoric and professional communication – which she currently teaches at CSUMB.
UROC Director Dr. John Banks said, “We had an amazing pool of nominees this year, making the selection process for the committee very difficult, but we’re delighted that they chose to honor Dr. Kelly Medina-Lopez for her extraordinary work with students.”
“Faculty mentoring is critical to the success of all of our students at CSUMB and the UROC Mentor Award is our way of highlighting the amazing efforts put forth by faculty mentoring students engaged in undergraduate research,” continued Banks.
As a first-generation Chicanx college student, Lopez understood firsthand the necessity of mentorships. “The only thing that kept me in school – I wouldn’t have done a master’s, I wouldn’t have done a doctorate, I wouldn’t be here at all – was mentoring. At home, I didn’t have people or family I could rely on who knew how to navigate academia or going to school. The mentoring I received was really important to me. I wanted to give back and be apart of that,” said Lopez.
For Lopez, methods of mentoring depend on the student and their unique goals. While Lopez sought out students to mentor through UROC and her GWAR classes, her first mentee reached out to her during her first semester teaching at CSUMB by recommendation from another professor. Through UROC, Lopez and her mentees have been granted various opportunities to travel to places including New Mexico, Michigan and Hawaii.
One of Lopez’s larger-scale mentoring projects involved making a quilt as a method to understand the writing process, originating from her cooperative argumentation class last spring which Lopez instead taught as “cooperative quilting.” Some of her students and mentees involved with the project include Leslie Maldonado, Giana Hamilton and Alyssa Riley.
Riley is a third-year HCOM major whom has been mentored by Lopez since the summer of 2018 and plans to continue their mentorship throughout her graduation from CSUMB in Spring 2020. In terms of graduation, Riley explained, “Honestly, the only reason I plan on going to grad school after I graduate from CSUMB is because of Kelly. She is really helping me develop my future.”
“Kelly is the best kind of mentor. She isn’t mean or intimidating, so you’re able to freely talk to her about anything. Not only has she helped with my research, but she has become a friend and colleague that I will continue to talk with once I leave CSUMB. She has done so much for HCOM and CSUMB as a whole; no one else deserves it more than her,” said Riley.
Though humbled, Lopez accepted the award on behalf of the many people that helped her reach this point in her career, as well as those who have taken on her role as a mentee, “[Being awarded Mentor of the Year] is a recognition for all of the mentors that got me here … and a tribute to the students that I mentor and the amazing work that they’re doing. It’s not me doing the work, it’s them. [The award] is not something for me, it’s something for them.”