Capturing the “Unlimited Potential of an Individual”

Melissa Heath received the 2015 Mentoring Award from the BYU Faculty Women’s Association.

Students working on a thesis or dissertation look forward to the opportunity to publish a manuscript in a respected academic venue. It is a particular privilege when they are listed as the primary author.

Due to her skill and dedication in mentoring students through their early publication experiences, Melissa Heath, a McKay School professor in the Department of Counseling Psychology and Special Education, received the 2015 Mentoring Award from the BYU Faculty Women’s Association. Students mentored by Heath average two publications and are usually listed as the primary author.

“Whenever students take on a project, it becomes their project,” Heath said. “I am supporting them in accomplishing their goal. They are much more invested if they are the lead person. It is their thesis and it is their responsibility.”

Heath begins her mentoring cycle by helping students find a thesis topic that will engage not only their own interests but also those of future readers. Her students gain a vision that they are not merely writing a thesis to fulfill a degree requirement, but eventually turning the research from the thesis into professional publications.

“You try to fit their project with who they are,” Heath said. “It is important that they choose a topic they are interested in and then find a way to make a valuable contribution to practitioners. The practitioners then improve practice, which benefits schools, children, and families.”

In her relationship with her students, Heath prefers to act as a mentor instead of a professor. “I think the best way to work with someone is in a mentoring, rather than in a professor-student, role,” Heath said. “Being a mentor is more than merely a professor-student relationship. We are learning from each other, and we are working on something together, in unison, rather than having the academic distance of a professor teaching a student.”

The strength of the mentoring provided by Heath and her colleagues in the School Psychology program is evident in the program’s unusually low dismissal rate. Since Heath became involved in 1999, only two of over 200 students have been advised out of the program.

“I always try to tell the students when they enter the program that it’s like a marriage and we are in this together,” Heath said. “I think our faculty provides a tremendous amount of support and guidance not just in the technical research way, but in a personal way.”

Heath mentors undergraduate and graduate students in the School Psychology, Counseling Psychology, and Special Education programs. In working with students, she recommends seeing the impact students will have in the future.

“Remember who this person is,” Heath said. “Remember the unlimited potential of an individual.”

Writer: Lindsey Williams

Contact: Cynthia Glad (801) 422-1922