Garrett Hester Named 2022 Outstanding Undergraduate Research Mentor

KENNESAW, Ga. (May 06, 2022) — Garrett Hester, associate professor in the Department of Exercise and Sport Management at Kennesaw State University, has been declared the official winner of the 2022 Outstanding Undergraduate Research Mentor Award. The honor was created by KSU’s Office of Undergraduate Research in spring 2020, making Hester the third ever faculty member to receive the accolade.

“[This award] means a great deal to me because one of the most important things I can do as a faculty member is make a positive impact on the lives of students,” Hester said. “Mentoring students is the most enjoyable part of myHester job, and it’s an incredible feeling knowing that you played a role in a student’s trajectory towards a profession.”

Amy Buddie, director of undergraduate research, emphasized Hester’s commitment to cultivating a healthy professional environment as one of the defining reasons for his choosing.

“Dr. Hester is an exceptional mentor to undergraduate researchers. His students present their research at academic conferences and publish in peer-reviewed journals,” Buddie said. “His students praise his nurturing leadership style and his thoughtful approach to professional development with his research team.”

Hester owes his mentorship style largely to practicing effective communication and team building.

“Having casual conversations with students goes a long way in developing mentor-mentee relationships and a sense of community in the group,” he said. “I focus on teamwork because the group can be most productive this way, and I believe it helps students learn to manage professional relationships.”

In addition to teamwork, Hester cites passion as a key characteristic of a good mentor. “Being passionate is invaluable to gaining the respect of your students,” he said. “When they observe passion in you, they’ll be passionate themselves.”

In his time with KSU since his employment in 2016, Hester has mentored more than 12 undergraduate students with several continuing research in masters and Ph.D. programs and many achieving success in clinical graduate programs. Hester engages these students in a variety of applied exercise physiology techniques and laboratory skills, so students learn a diverse skillset. 

“[Students] learn physical fitness testing and to use laboratory research tools like ultrasound and electromyography,” Hester said. “We also have ‘journal club meetings’ where we will discuss a journal article on a topic related to an upcoming project, or they will help me peer-review an article.”

Hester and his students also work closely with local senior living facilities to perform fitness assessments on elderly community members. With some participants in the program being up to 100 years old, students gain valuable practical experience in preparation for fields like physical and occupational therapy. 

-- Renee Hudson