Kirsten Hokeness, Ph.D.
Professor Hokeness is so passionate about mentoring that she introduced a three-tiered mentoring program for all entering declared science students, and those transferring their majors to science. Each student is assigned a faculty mentor, generally in the student’s field of interest; a student mentor, who provides advice about classes and campus life, choosing professors, etc.; and an alumni mentor.
“When I asked students to volunteer as mentors, they jumped in,” says Hokeness of the newly-launched initiative. “Students enjoy … being able to guide their classmates; this is a leadership opportunity.”
Calling mentoring her favorite part of teaching, Hokeness, who is helping to build the growing Department of Science and Technology, explains that her mentors guided her to a successful and deeply rewarding career, one diverging from her intention to follow in her physician-father’s footsteps.
“Life is not a straight path; accept some barriers and defeats, and rise to discover what you’re going to do and be,” Hokeness counsels students. “Put one foot in front of the other and keep going.” For students who realize that won’t they attend medical or dental school, there are self-discoveries to be made; biology is a great field with many career options, says Hokeness.
Her leadership has been recognized, both on- and off-campus. In 2017, she was named Volunteer of the Year by the ALS Association Rhode Island Chapter for her fundraising initiatives, which also engaged a team of Bryant students, “Bulldogs Battle ALS.” A two-time Bryant Merit Award recipient, Hokeness was named a “Top 40 Under 40 in Rhode Island” by Providence Business News.
While thank-you notes and other communiques from students and alumni mean more to Hokeness than do awards, she says, “These awards show that women can be leaders; we’re strong and capable. Leaders don’t have to be unapproachable; they can be kind and compassionate.”
Although women dominate the enrollment in Bryant’s Biology program, there is still a widespread perception that STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) academic courses and career paths are especially challenging, says Hokeness, who counsels women students doubting their ability to fulfill those career challenges and to maintain meaningful relationships. She shares with students her experiences. While preparing her application for tenure and promotion to associate professor, Hokeness was juggling life challenges – prematurely born twins and her mother’s ALS diagnosis. She tells them, “You deserve to be here…stay passionate. If you really want to pursue this, you will have to do the work; stay true to who you are and keep going.”
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