Professor Kristen Day teaches the honors research seminar for the School of Social Ecology. In that role, she mentors many students working in fields other than her own. This provides her a tremendous opportunity to keep expanding her own knowledge even while sharing her expertise with her students. Professor Day has found that all successful students share resourcefulness and flexibility, taking advantage of all the resources available to them and being able to adapt when the inevitable obstacles arise. She recommends that undergraduate researchers take their work seriously, and not underestimate the opportunities that their research opportunities offer. Professor Day received the 2010 Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Fostering Undergraduate Research from the School of Social Ecology in recognition of her commitment to undergraduate research.

1. How did you develop an interest in mentoring undergraduate research or creative projects, and what type of projects have you directed?

I teach our Social Ecology honors research seminar, which is a year-long course for students completing honors research projects. In this role, I get to mentor students from all departments in our School. Students work on a wide range of projects tied to, for example, criminology, environmental policy, child development, cultural differences, sustainable urban planning, and other issues.

2. What do you look for and what are your expectations of undergraduates you select to conduct research under your guidance?

Students who are most successful in honors research are committed to putting in the time and effort that is required for an excellent project. Successful students are also flexible, since projects do not always go the way that you might initially imagine. Finally, top student researchers are resourceful. They take advantage of all the resources available to them—specialized methodology classes, graduate student and faculty mentoring, opportunities to present at conferences, and others.

3. Describe your level of engagement and style in mentoring undergraduates.

With my honors students, I see myself as a resource on the process of research, but not necessarily on students’ specific research topics. I encourage students to break down their projects into manageable steps, and to be specific in their questions and objectives. I also strongly encourage student researchers to learn from each other—the students in my honors class have a wealth of experience and knowledge that they are happy to share.

4. In your experience, how have your students improved or benefited as a result of their undergraduate research experience?

I have seen students discover their passions through involvement in undergraduate research. Students who may not have thought seriously about graduate school realize that they have the interest—and the aptitude—to excel at the next level. Also, I have seen students develop new mastery in areas that were previously a challenge. So, for example, students who may fear public speaking have learned to deliver excellent oral presentations. Other students have significantly improved their writing and analytical skills.

5. What have you learned or benefited from guiding undergraduate research or creative projects?

I learn a great deal from my students, most of whom are experts on topics that are new to me. In fact, my husband and I often talk over dinner about new things I’ve learned from my honors students! I also have had opportunities to learn more about my faculty colleagues and their interests by working with their student advisees.

6. What recommendations and advice would you give students embarking on undergraduate research or creative projects?

Be serious about your project—faculty members appreciate working with students who value this opportunity. Honors research allows you to work closely with a faculty mentor who shares your interests. That mentor can be a valuable guide and advocate for you in achieving your future education and career plans.

Research Interests: I’m interested in diversity groups and use and perception of urban environments. I’m also interested in the use of planning and design to promote health, and in the issue of university-community collaboration.

Faculty Profile:


Past Faculty Mentors of the Month

Dec. '10 Derek Dunn-Rankin
Nov. '10 Wendy A. Goldberg
Oct. '10 Bernard Choi
Sep. '10 Daniel S. Stokols
Aug. '10 James S. Nowick
Jul. '10 Thomas J. Carew
Jun. '10 Kristen Day
May. '10 Keith Woerpel
Apr. '10 Anshu Agrawal
Mar. '10 Darryl Taylor
Feb. '10 Michael J. Montoya
Jan. '10 Gregory Alan Weiss