The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) is honoring Jackson State University’s associate dean Dr. Paul Tchounwou with a presidential award for his role as a mentor in the College of Science, Engineering and Technology (CSET).
The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM) is a program administered by the National Science Foundation (NSF).
Tchounwou, a presidential distinguished professor, said, “This award validates JSU’s commitment to excellence. The support of all faculty, staff, students and administrators makes this presidential honor possible. I am also very appreciative of the mentors who guided me throughout my professional career.”
Furthermore, he said, “We are grateful to the White House and the National Science Foundation for this coveted honor. Although there’s a nationwide shortage of minorities in STEM, Jackson State University is full of possibilities and helping to fill an important gap. My role is to continue mentoring future leaders of the 21st-century – faculty and students – who are destined to make a difference in the world.”
Tchounwou is among 41 individuals and organizations nationwide receiving honors for excellence in mentoring in STEM. Among these 2018 PAESMEM awardees, he is the only one from Mississippi. For 15 years while at JSU, Tchounwou has mentored dozens in an effort to improve their future. He describes the ideal mentor as one who “is flexible, open-minded and shows a sincere desire to make a difference in the lives of young people.”
Tchounwou is also noted for making significant contributions to leadership and the development of the STEM pipeline. He established JSU’s highly successful Ph.D. program in environmental science. A matter that he’s particularly concerned about is the small percentage of STEM faculty at U.S. colleges and universities.
His mentoring efforts include enhancing trainees’ research and career development through robust and structured activities. This process involves an “agreement plan” that defines mutual roles, responsibilities and expectations. As well, there’s an assessment with specific metrics for gauging progress and impact. Today, a majority of Tchounwou’s mentees holds faculty positions at prominent institutions of higher education in the U.S. and abroad.
“My role is to continue mentoring future leaders of the 21st-century – faculty and students – who are destined to make a difference in the world.” — Dr. Paul Tchounwou, CSET associate dean/presidential distinguished professorFurthermore, Tchounwou encourages his junior faculty to participate in structured research and professional development by submitting proposals to relevant funding agencies and publishing their research in peer-reviewed journals. With support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Department of Defense (DoD) and other agencies, a state-of-the-art research infrastructure that enables junior faculty to conduct high quality research and helps them to fulfill the requirements for promotion and tenure.
He has mentored or co-mentored 73 Ph.D. scholars (32 of them received doctoral degrees in the environmental science program). Of those, 55 are African-Americans; eight are Asian-Americans; four are white; and two are Hispanics. And, of those 73 scholars, 48 are women.
As if that’s not enough, Tchounwou also supervised thesis preparations for 12 Master of Science students. In addition, he’s mentored 11 junior faculty members at JSU (six have been promoted from assistant to associate professors; and three have been promoted from associate to full professors).
Tchounwou’s previous honors and acknowledgments include a 2013 Mentor Award by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). As well, he’s editor in chief of the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
In 2003, Tchounwou received the Millennium Award for Excellence in Research at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).