CHS Professor Selected for University Mentorship Award
Published September 1, 2022
By Darlene Muguiro
UTEP College of Health Sciences
Dr. Gabriel Ibarra-Mejia, assistant professor in the Department of Public Health, has been selected to receive a 2022-23 Mentoring Award. The award, co-sponsored by UTEP’s academic colleges and the Building Scholars Program, is open to all full-time faculty members on campus who have served in a mentorship role to undergraduate and graduate students. Ibarra-Mejia was selected as the College of Health Sciences’ awardee this year and will be recognized at the fall Research Forum, hosted by the Office of Research and Sponsored Projects.
Over his 22-year history at UTEP, Ibarra-Mejia has demonstrated his commitment to student learning and professional development through his participation as a longstanding member of the advisory committee for the Interdisciplinary Health Sciences PhD Program as well as his mentorship of undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students. In the last six years, he has served as a committee member or chair for 21 doctoral students and 28 master’s students across several academic programs, including Biomedical Science, Environmental Science and Engineering, Interdisciplinary Health Sciences, Kinesiology and Public Health. Several of these students are from the Universidad Autonoma de Ciudad Juarez. Additionally, as a participating faculty member for the Minority Health International Research Training (MHIRT) Program, he also supervised 25 undergraduate students conducting various research projects in minority health disparities at partner institutions in Central and South America.
Despite his already full schedule of teaching and student mentorship, Ibarra-Mejia welcomes new students seeking assistance. He says that methodically scheduled meetings with each student, in which he and the students reference goals/expectations set out each semester in individualized contracts, allows him to keep track of their progress. He also has a plan for moving students to another mentor when necessary.
“I allow students to pursue their own research agenda, and to identify their strengths and weaknesses and build on their strengths,” he said. “In cases where they have identified a research topic that is absolutely outside my expertise by the first semester, I allow them to change advisors.”
Ibarra-Mejia says that while he is honored to have been selected for the mentorship award, his focus has always been on impacting the lives of his mentees. He is most satisfied when they come back to UTEP to visit him and talk about their accomplishments. Many have come full circle, beginning as undergraduates and continuing through to their doctoral degrees. Two students now hold post-doctoral positions at Stanford University.
Ibarra-Mejia attributes his strong mentorship skills to a simple practice he follows, proposed by the Chinese philosopher Confucius: “Tell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I will remember. Involve me, and I will understand forever.”