AAAS Lifetime Mentor Award Honors Saundra Yancy McGuire for Promoting a Diverse Chemistry Workforce

Saundra Yancy McGuire of Louisiana State University, winner of the AAAS LIfetime Mentor Award  | LSU

For promoting a diverse Ph.D.-level workforce in the field of chemistry, Dr. Saundra Yancy McGuire, Director Emerita of the Center for Academic Success and retired Assistant Vice Chancellor and Professor of Chemistry at Louisiana State University, will receive the Lifetime Mentor Award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Dr. McGuire previously received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring during a 2007 White House Oval Office ceremony.

At Louisiana State University (LSU), Dr. McGuire mentored 32 African-American doctoral students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, AAAS noted. She mentored another nine African Americans at the bachelor’s level who went on to earn Ph.D. degrees at other institutions.

Her career, spanning more than 40 years, has encompassed teaching chemistry as well as work in the area of learning and teaching support. The author of Teach Students How to Learn: Strategies You Can Incorporate into Any Course to Improve Student Metacognition, Study Skills, and Motivation (Stylus Publishing), Dr. McGuire spent eleven years at Cornell University, where she received the coveted Clark Distinguished Teaching Award. She joined LSU in 1999, and has delivered her widely acclaimed faculty-development workshops on teaching students how to learn at more than 200 institutions in 40 states and seven countries.

In a nomination letter sent to AAAS, Dr. McGuire’s LSU colleague, Dr. Isiah M. Warner, Vice President for Strategic Initiatives, lauded her “truly exceptional mentoring ability,” which he likened to “magic.” Dr. McGuire’s strategy for helping students improve their academic performance involves teaching them about cognitive science and the learning process, and then “empowering them with the confidence to aggressively attack their learning obstacles,” said Dr. Warner, who also serves as LSU’s Boyd Professor, Philip W. West Professor of Analytical and Environment Chemistry, and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor. He was so inspired by Dr. McGuire’s approach, in fact, that he designed the LSU HHMI Professors Program, which now trains students to serve as mentors so that they can help others achieve academic success, too.

Three other colleagues as well as five of Dr. McGuire’s former students submitted letters of support for her Lifetime Mentor Award.

One of those former students, Dr. Algernon Kelley, now a lecturer at State University of New York at Brockport and an adjunct Chemistry Instructor at Monroe Community College, recounted how he had struggled with his graduate studies. As a student with dyslexia who lost his mother a year before graduate school, Dr. Kelley said that he was skeptical of his chances for success. Yet, Dr. McGuire helped him pass five cumulative exams in one year, in part by teaching him to learn actively, rather than by simply memorizing facts, and by sharing with him the Study Cycle method pioneered by Dr. Frank L. Christ and adapted by LSU's Center for Academic Success. Dr. Kelley has since used the Study Cycle method with his own students to help them achieve academic success. “I am forever grateful to have had the wonderful opportunity to be mentored by someone who is truly dedicated to student success as Dr. Saundra McGuire,” he wrote in his letter of support.

Other former students of Dr. McGuire are now working as researchers, post-doctoral fellows, and faculty members at institutions such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the California Institute of Technology, and the Virginia Military Institute.

In 2012, Dr. McGuire was elected a fellow of The Council of Learning Assistance and Developmental Education Associations (CLADEA), and in 2011, she was elected a Fellow of AAAS. In 2010, she was elected a Fellow of the American Chemical society.

She received her bachelor’s degree in Chemistry, magna cum laude, from Southern University in Baton Rouge, La. in 1970, and her Master’s degree in Chemical Education from Cornell University in 1971. Dr. McGuire earned her Ph.D. degree in Chemical Education from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in 1983. Her many other honors and awards have included the 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers, and the 2002 Dr. Henry C. McBay Outstanding Chemical Educator Award, from the same organization.

She is married to Dr. Stephen C. McGuire, a professor of physics at Southern University. They are the parents of Dr. Carla McGuire Davis and Dr. Stephanie McGuire.

The AAAS Lifetime Mentor Award honors AAAS members who have mentored significant numbers of underrepresented students pursuing Ph.D.’s in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and/or those who have changed the climate of a department, institution, or field to significantly increase the diversity of students pursuing Ph.D.’s in STEM fields. Nominees must also demonstrate scholarship, activism, and community building, and have more than 25 years of mentoring experience. The award includes a $5,000 prize, a commemorative plaque, and complimentary registration to the AAAS Annual Meeting, as well as reimbursement for reasonable travel and hotel expenses to attend the meeting.

Dr. McGuire will receive the 2015 AAAS Lifetime Mentor Award during the 182nd AAAS Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., 11-15 February 2016. The AAAS Awards Ceremony and Reception will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, February 12, in Palladian Ballroom of the Omni Shoreham Hotel.