Mesa College Professor Jaye Van Kirk Receives 2007 Distinguished Professional Mentor Award

San Diego Mesa College Professor Jaye Van Kirk has received an award from the Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS).  The national SACNAS organization annually recognizes individuals who have dedicated themselves to science, education, and mentoring. Professor Van Kirk was honored with the society's 2007 SACNAS Community/Tribal College Mentor Award.  She will be receive the award at the 2007 SACNAS conference in Kansas City in October. 

To be selected for this Distinguished Mentor Award, Jaye was nominated by faculty, staff, and students, and was selected based on her commitment to teaching and mentoring students, particularly students from underrepresented backgrounds. She is also honored for her commitment to minority education activities at the local, national and global levels.

In his nomination letter, Mesa College Professor Emeritus Yoshito Kawahara reflected on Van Kirk’s ability to motivate students from working class poor ethnic families where academic success was seemingly not an option. “She is immensely talented as a teacher….She not only educates her students in scientific pursuits, but she does it in the context of the need for more ethnic perspectives and discoveries. She educates her students to understand their ethnic identity and to be proud of their roots.”

Professor Van Kirk has taught Psychology in the Behavioral Sciences department at San Diego Mesa College since 1990. She is program director of the National Institute for Health funded Bridges to the Baccalaureate program and is faculty advisor for the college’s psychology honors club, Psi Beta.

Under the direction of Van Kirk and Kawahara’s direction, the two-year-old Mesa College/UCSD Bridges to the Baccalaureate program has achieved a level of success that is unmatched by similar programs across the country. The majority of Bridges scholars come from disadvantaged backgrounds and many are first-generation college students that Van Kirk has personally mentored, and continues to mentor.

Her passion for mentoring students is also reflected in the success of  the Psi Beta scholars Professor Van Kirk has worked faculty advisor for Psi Beta for the past 15 years. Her students have won national awards for their research and all the students gain by the variety of activities planned for the honors students. More than 200 Psi Beta members have gone on to attain four year degrees. Three have gone on to M.D. programs, and 21 students have gone on to pursue Ph.D. programs in Psychology/Neuroscience/Cognitive Science or other science areas. One former mentee is now a post-doctoral fellow.

She has served as president and other leadership roles in the national Psi Beta National Honor Society organization, and has won the faculty advisor of the year award on two occasions.

Professor Van Kirk is also active in professional organizations such as the Asian American Psychological Association, the Western Psychological Association, the American Psychological Association and the Association for Psychological Science organization. She was named in the 2006 list of Who’s Who of American Women and in the 2004-2005 list of Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers. She was named Mesa College “Teacher of the Year” in 2000-2001.