We have some of the most profound, lasting effects on students’ lives through teaching and advising. If it were not for several of my high school teachers and undergraduate professors I would not be where I am today: as a first-generation student my undergraduate experiences changed my career path and helped me realize that despite mediocre grades, I could do good research and be successful in my desired career. As instructors and mentors, we are privileged because of the profound influence we have on our students’ lives.

Much of my teaching and mentoring is centered around aspects of science communication: keeping students engaged by remaining enthusiastic and asking them questions, but refraining from putting them on the spot or making them feel bad for giving the “wrong” answer. Every moment is a positive learning opportunity and we are all learning from one-another. At the beginning of every semester I spend extra time giving students feedback and clearly laying out the expectations of the class; I have seen huge improvements with students over the course of a semester by spending this extra time up front. I am also influenced by the Beagle Learning Project, which centers around training students to ask the “Natural Next Question.” My overall goals in working with undergraduate students revolve around inspiring, motivating, and preparing them for whatever comes next.

Mentoring Undergraduate Students

Learn more about Natural History Research Experiences (NHRE) for undergraduates at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History!

Gianna Greger summer 2022 (Lafayette College ’23)

Mack Tawa fall 2019 and spring 2020 (University of Utah ’21)

Helen Sears summer 2019 (Colby College ’20)

Hannah Finley spring 2019 (University of Utah ’19)

Certification in spring 2019 through the University of Utah Undergraduate Research Mentor Development Program.

Graduate Student Teaching Assistant

Field Methods spring 2019 and spring 2020

Geology of Utah fall 2018 and fall 2019

The Water Planet spring 2018

Earth Materials II fall 2016 and spring 2017

Please feel free

to reach out!

Contact information:

Courtney Wagner, Ph.D.

Peter Buck Postdoctoral Fellow

Smithsonian Institution, NMNH


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