About M-C Mentors

Mentor-Connect Mentors give back to the ATE Program by working with prospective grantees to transfer knowledge and teach successful grant-writing strategies as they mentor and develop the next generation Principal Investigators for the ATE Program.

Mentor Spotlight

Mel Cossette Uses Hints and Checklist

  • Current Job:

    Principal Investigator of the National Resource Center for Materials Technology Education at Edmonds Community College in Lynnwood, Washington

  • Area of Expertise:

    Materials Science and Aerospace Technologies

  • Years in Profession:


  • Years as a Mentor:


  • Hobby/Hobbies:

    Hydroplane Racing and Reading

  • Fun Fact:

    Mel has been involved with and volunteered at boat racing events for almost fourty years.

  • Advice for People Preparing ATE Proposals:

    "Engage with the ATE community early and often."

Why have you stayed involved in Mentor-Connect as a Mentor for five years in a row?

"Because it's fun, and I enjoy mentoring, cultivating, nurturing, [and] seeing [mentees] get engaged. [I also enjoy] getting more people to come to ATE, putting in proposals, [and] increasing our numbers.

Some of my mentees from the previous cohorts are going for the larger grants now, and that's a good thing because that's really what we're trying to do."

Do you still mentor people from previous Mentor-Connect cohorts? What are you helping them with now?

“Some of the same things [if they are working on a new proposal]: making sure it is realistic [and does] what they want to do, and [figuring out] how they can build on their previous success, their prior results.”

“I will proofread their proposals. Is it too big? Is it too small? Is it too lofty? I will ask them questions. I will get on a conference call with them, and confer with them. I will review their budget, if they want me to. All that [work] is done just as a volunteer."

Have you seen much cross-pollination among the mentees in the past or now?

"In Cohort 2 one of the colleges was [working with] drones—UAVs—and I learned about some of the sites that have ... FAA approval to run some contests, some competitions. I got them in contact with each other and I think two or three of them are doing competitions with the one that got the grant. They are doing it with robotics and automation. They are tying them all together.

"In this [cohort] one of the agriculture people wants to talk to the people who are doing drones because in a lot of areas like Washington State, they are using drones and UAVs to observe their agriculture fields and watch their cattle.”

Do you have any favorite mentoring technique(s) that you find helps mentees write competitive grant proposals?

"Yes, but it's a secret. I'm kidding.

"Part of it is that I don't always answer their question directly. I know the answer is in the [NSF ATE Program] solicitation. I know where it is and we've had them read it. I don't make it difficult for them but it becomes a game of trying to find it in the solicitation. So I will direct them back to that. I will say, 'That is in the solicitation; if you look at this section on this page you will find it.' It's like a little scavenger hunt. It makes them go back to the solicitation."

How do you use the proposal component checklist you developed for yourself?

"When I'm on a conference call with them I go strictly down that list of every component. I'll say, 'Ok, where are your bio sketches?' When I'm asking that I'm saying to them, 'What's your status? How's your facilities piece coming? How's your data management coming? How's your IRB? What's the status?'

"I go right down [the list] so for them it's more, 'Mel's not going to sit on the phone and tell us what we're doing wrong. Mel's going to be on the phone and we're going to give her status, and she's going to give us clues and hints on how to move it forward."

2020 Mentors

Mentor-Connect Mentors give back to the ATE Program by transferring knowledge and helping to develop the next generation of STEM faculty leaders for the ATE Program.

2021 Mentor Fellows & Co-Mentors

Mentor Fellows shadow master Mentors to develop the knowlege, skills, and experience to transition into a Mentor role for the Mentor-Connect Project.  Co-Mentors help prospective grantees in their discipline in tandem with a Mentor-Connect Mentor.

Current Mentors

Jonathan Beck

Executive Director and PI, National Center for Autonomous Technologies (NCAT). I’ve worked in the Aerospace and Autonomous technology industries for 18 years.  My career has involved creating unmanned aircraft system programs across state and federal organizations and higher education. In 2011, Northland Community and Technical College in Thief River Falls, MN launched the nation’s first UAS maintenance program.  Over the past 8 years I have served on the leadership team at Northland, which has raised over $37 million in advancing autonomous technology education. I have led four NSF ATE awards as a Principal Investigator, working with a dedicated team to create professional development workshops, STEM engagement opportunities, educational pathways, industry partnerships and expanded educational resources in autonomous technologies.

Ann Beheler

PI for the NSF National Convergence Technology Center and the NSF IT Skill Standards 2-2- and Beyond project; previously lead for a large DOL Round 1 Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training consortium. I have been in IT since long before IT was cool, but my focus is much broader. I am totally dedicated to helping build innovative technical programs that improve students’ lives, either directly or by helping colleagues. I have corporate, entrepreneurial and academic management experience as a Vice President of Academic Affairs, Dean and faculty member. My focus is on bringing together business and industry to identify knowledge, skills, and abilities needed by future "right-skilled" job candidates, then working with faculty to align curriculum so that students completing the credentials will be readily employable. I have a PhD in Community College Leadership, an MS in Computer Science, and a BS in Math. I am married to Carl and our four children and five grandchildren are our delights. I also am a frustrated artist, enjoying many different media.

Mel Cossette

Executive Director/PI for the National Science Foundation ATE-funded National Resource Center for Materials Technology Education (MatEdU) and PI for the ATE-funded Project Technician Education in Additive Manufacturing and Materials (TEAMM), both housed at Edmonds Community College in Lynnwood, Washington. I have over 20 years of experience in manufacturing education, have developed technician training programs for industry and educational institutions, serve on numerous committees and national boards and worked in various industries prior to holding administrative positions in the community and technical college system.

Diane Dostie

Currently external evaluator for several ATE projects and a regional center. I served as PI for two NSF ATE advanced manufacturing projects and as Co-PI for an ATE project in additive manufacturing. The projects involved research, curriculum development, collaboration with faculty across several institutions, and professional development. With over twenty-five years of experience developing partnerships and implementing professional development and training programs for companies in Central/Western Maine, I served on boards for several local and state economic and workforce development organizations and raised over $3 million to fund the renovation and expansion of the precision machining lab at Central Maine Community College. My career began as a technology education teacher in middle and high schools where female students excelled in nontraditional classes.

Sharon Gusky

Principal Investigator for an NSF project entitled Engaging Students from Classrooms and Camps to College and Technical Careers. I am a professor of Biology at Northwestern Connecticut Community College, where I have been teaching since 1998. I am a member of Mentor Connect’s first cohort of mentees and was awarded a New to ATE NSF grant to start a manufacturing program in 2014. I have served as a community college liaison for the EvaluATE Center and am a member of the National ATE Principal Investigators’ Conference Steering Committee.  I am very active in Biology Education reform and currently serve as president of the National Association of Biology Teachers.

Ann Johnson

Associate Director and Co-PI of the ATE Center of Excellence for Geospatial Technology (GeoTech Center), Jefferson Community and Technical College, Louisville, KY for the past ten years. The GeoTech Center focuses on supporting community college geospatial programs. Prior to joining the Center, I was Higher Education Manager at Esri, a major geospatial software company, where I helped educators start or expand their geospatial programs. I have served as Co-PI on several other grants focused on geospatial technology, including a California Community College Geographic information system Network grant from the state of California and NSF ATE grants that include Geographic Information System Access and two iGETT projects. My education includes BS and MS degrees in geology and additional graduate studies in geography.

Judy Kasabian

Mathematics instructor at El Camino College, Torrance, CA. I have served as the PI on several NSF projects. Science FEST aimed to increase the science content and pedagogical knowledge of future K-12 teachers. Meeting of the Minds brought 22 community college educators and representatives from professional organizations together to examine STEM teacher education at the community college level. This resulted in the report: The State of Affairs - Impact and Implications of STEM Teacher Education at the Two-Year Colleges. The Los Angeles Collaborative for Teacher Excellence (LACTE) enabled 10 two- and four-year colleges/universities to enhance the mathematics and science education of future K-12 teachers. I have reviewed NSF proposals in a variety of competitions, including many ATE proposals that focus on community colleges new to ATE.

Ken Mays

Director, Automotive Technology Program, Central Oregon Community College in Bend, Oregon. I served as PI on Central Oregon’s first New-to-ATE grant, which developed curriculum to address needed training in vehicle electrification systems. We were also selected for an NSF-ATE project grant, on which I serve as PI to develop advanced vehicle training standards for technicians working with high-voltage and high-pressure vehicle systems. After completing an A.S. Degree from Southwest Junior College, I worked as an Automotive Technician and then business owner before moving to Central Oregon to teach at and direct an Automotive Technology Program - now for 28 years. Jacque and I have seven children and are crowned with seven grandchildren. My main credibility in the NSF community is that I call Elaine and Fred Craft my friends.

Doug Laven

Director of Mechatronics at South Central College (SCC), North Mankato, MN and PI for the Independent Mechatronics Education Curriculum (iMEC) NSF grant, focused on developing a distance learning model that utilizes online, simulation, and remote-access delivery methods for the Mechatronics Engineering Technology (MET) AAS degree program. The project will build a pipeline of workers and increase access to MET training. I also directed a Department of Labor Community-Based Job Training grant that helped launch the Mechatronics program at SCC. I am a panelist on the Mechatronics Community Exchange, sponsored by the Florida Advanced Technological Education (FLATE) Center. I also conduct workshops at the High Impact Technology Exchange (HI-TEC) conferences, and I worked 18 years in industry as Engineering Manager and President, specializing in surface mount packaging.

Richard Polanin

Retired Professor and Program Chair of the Manufacturing Engineering Technology and Welding Technology programs at Illinois Central College, and Co-PI for Weld-Ed, the National Center for Welding Education and Training.  I am also the PI for a Weld-Ed project in collaboration with the ASNT to identify NDT student learning outcomes. I hold Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Illinois State University and a Doctorate from the University of Illinois. I am a consultant in manufacturing engineering and welding engineering and inspection.  I publish and provide presentations in the areas of manufacturing, robotics, and welding. I am a graduate of the Illinois Scholars program and a Certified Manufacturing Engineer and Certified Welding Inspector.

Pamela Silvers

Principal Investigator for a third NSF ATE project entitled Skilled Workers Get Jobs 2.1: High School Engagement. Since 1992 I have taught all aspects of computer technologies at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, first as an adjunct instructor, now as a full-time instructor and former department chairperson. I am a first-generation, non-traditional college graduate. After a divorce I completed both a bachelor’s (UNC-Asheville) and master’s (Western Carolina University) degree. Engaging students – particularly women – is not only a living, it is my passion. I am a huge Disney fan. My husband, Vernon, and I also like to take advantage of the outdoor hiking opportunities in Western North Carolina.

Deidre Sullivan

Director of the Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) Center at Monterey Peninsula College. I have been with the organization since its inception (1997).  I conduct workforce studies, develop curricula and guidelines for marine occupations, and lead workshops.  As a college educator for 25 years, I have taught courses in Earth & marine science, GIS, and marine technology. Prior to this I worked as a marine geologist, ran a marine science camp, and owned an underwater video company.  I received a lifetime achievement award in GIS education from the GeoTech Center and was inducted into the Women Diver’s Hall of Fame in 2014.  I currently sit on the Monterey County Water Resources Agency’s Board of Directors.

Matthew Swenson

Director of Grants, Green River College, Auburn, Washington since 2013. I have contributed to multiple ATE grant proposals, as well as advised ATE PIs and Co-PIs on grant-related matters. From 2000 to 2013, I conducted fundraising, planned events, and managed volunteers for Green River College and community-based nonprofit organizations in Washington State. I volunteer for the Council for Advancement and Support of Education’s Federal Funding Task Force and currently serve on its Federal Agency Liaison Committee. I hold a Master’s degree in Not-for-Profit Leadership from Seattle University and a certificate in Advanced Fundraising Management from the University of Washington. I met my wife Joni while we served as U.S. Peace Corps volunteers in Mongolia. Our favorite activities are backpacking, mountain climbing, and skiing with our teenage daughter.

Tom Tubon

Faculty member at Madison College and honorary research fellow at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. I teach Biotechnology courses in the Applied Associates Degree Biotechnology Program and the Post-Baccalaureate Certificate Program as well as Human Stem Cell Technologies courses. I have been involved with NSF ATE since 2009 and currently serve as PI for the ATE initiative for developing workforce-centered programming in Emerging Technologies to steer the development of a National Coordination Network for Cell and Tissue Manufacturing. I also have leadership roles in the NSF Engineering Research Center for Cell Manufacturing (CMaT), the NSF OIA National Center for Advancing Research Impact in Society (ARIS), and the NSF ATE National InnovATEBIO Center for Biotechnology.

Karen Wosczyna-Birch

State Director, Connecticut College of Technology, since 1995 and instrumental in creating a nationally recognized seamless pathway in engineering and technology programs between all twelve public community colleges in CT and eight universities and high schools. I am also the Executive Director of the Regional Center for Next Generation Manufacturing, an NSF Center of Excellence, which has received over $9 million in ATE funding since 2004. I have been a champion of engineering and technology education for the past 30 years, and I serve on numerous boards, including the International Honor Society EPT, the National Coalition of Advanced Technology Centers, and Hartford High's Academy of Engineering and Green Technology. I have been involved in the Obama manufacturing regional workshops, and in 2014, my commitment to STEM education led to an invitation to the White House College Opportunity Summit.

Current Mentor Fellows

Greg Kepner

. Co-PI for the NSF-ATE Micro Nano Technology Education Center. I was the Director/PI of the NSF-ATE Midwest Photonics Education Center and a PI for 2 NSF projects. I also served as Co-PI for the OP-TEC national center and served on an NSF National Visiting Committee. I retired from Indian Hills Community College where I served as the Department Chair of Advanced Manufacturing and previously as the Industrial Technology Coordinator and Robotics/Automation Instructor. I have a Master’s Degree in Higher Education & Community College Leadership from Iowa State University, a BA Degree in Psychology from Buena Vista University and an AA and AAS Degree in Electronics Technology from IHCC. I have experience as a Silicon Valley senior field service engineer in semiconductor manufacturing.

Elizabeth (Beth) Hawthorne

Senior Professor Emerita of Union County College, Cranford, NJ, where I taught computer science and cybersecurity classes for over two decades. Before retiring, I was part of the 2015 Mentor-Connect cohort and submitted a successful proposal – Cyber Service! Interdisciplinary & Experiential Education for Cyber Forensics Technicians – in the new-to-ATE category. I served as the Cyber Service! PI for three years and as Co-PI for five years on the NSF C5 Project, Catalyzing Computing and Cybersecurity in Community Colleges. I currently serve as a MentorLinks mentor and co-chair of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Education Board. I am also an adjunct online lecturer for my undergraduate Alma Mater, Rider University, NJ. My hobbies include sailing in the Gulf of Mexico and raising Goldendoodles to become therapy dogs.

Vicki Jeppesen

Vice President of College Advancement and Executive Director of the NTC Foundation at Northcentral Technical College in Wausau, WI. I have written, implemented, monitored, and closed grants at NTC for 13 years with awards of nearly $90M. I am a PI for a USDA SARE grant and been a reviewer for the US Department of Education. I was part of an NTC team in Mentor Connect’s Cohort 8—what a fabulous experience! I have worked in community/technical colleges for 30 years and appreciate that no matter what role one plays in higher education, it makes a positive impact on students, employers, and communities. I enjoy spending time with my four adult children, reading, writing, and beekeeping.

Elaine Kohrman

Director of Grants, Somerset Community College, KY. Previously, I taught Biology at SCC for 12 years and was the Associate Dean of Math and Sciences. I was a member of Mentor-Connect’s Cohort 3 as a Co-PI developing an ATE project in 3D printing. The project was funded as a New-to-ATE project and jump-started the 3D printing program at SCC. That project was followed by our current ATE project, bringing 3D printing programs to other educational institutions in Kentucky and Tennessee. I am also the SCC institutional PI for Kentucky’s NSF EPSCoR advanced manufacturing project, where we are the only community college in an eight-institution collaboration. My BS and MS degrees in Biology were earned at the University of Cincinnati.

Current CO-Mentors

Bruce Nash

Assistant Director for Science, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s DNA Learning Center. I hold a BS in genetics from the University of Alberta and a PhD in medical and molecular genetics from the University of Toronto, where I studied the genes that guide axonal growth cones and migrating cells during development. I have expertise in developmental biology, cell biology, genetics and microscopy. After a postdoc at the University of Oregon, I joined the DNALC in 2005, where I develop, disseminate, support and teach high school and college level curricula. I have developed approaches that support authentic student research using RNA interference, DNA barcoding, and metabarcoding. In each case, this curriculum is designed to integrate bioinformatics and molecular biology, and has the flexibility to support many research projects with unified methods. I am an avid sailor and gardener.

Poornima Rao

Manager of InnovATEBIO, a NSF-ATE funded National Biotechnology Education Center at Austin Community College, Austin, TX. I also teach cell culture techniques and principles of biomanufacturing, and I coordinate student internships. I first came to ACC as a curriculum specialist to develop and design the biomanufacturing course; I subsequently hosted workshops for students and faculty to enable them to understand and implement the workforce component in the course. I have coordinated and managed the state Wagner-Peyser Workforce grant and several NSF grants. I have worked in the biotechnology industry as a quality control chemist at Glaxo SmithKline, a product scientist at a few local start-up companies and at a monoclonal antibody company as a manufacturing supervisor.

Ying Tsu Loh

Associate Director of a science education non-profit, Bay Area Bioscience Education Community (BABEC). I provide leadership on BABEC’s collaborative projects with educational, industry and non-profit partners, including the NSF-ATE National Center for Biotechnology Education, InnovATEBIO, where I lead the supply chain guidelines project with the California Statewide Director for Life Science/Biotechnology. I am also adjunct faculty at City College, San Francisco (CCSF), where I co-founded a mentoring program for post-docs at UCSF and mentor internship students. My recent ATE experience is writing a proposal for a plant/ag biotech project with a colleague at Allan Hancock College.

Chris Hatfield

Executive Director, Minnesota State Transportation Center of Excellence. I have 12 years experience as an Automotive Technology instructor and technical college dean, am ASE certified and have multiple industry certifications. Before teaching I worked as an automotive technician, OEM contractor, and owned a business specializing in hybrid electric vehicles. I have written 7 automotive textbooks and consulted on e-learning products. My BS is in Automotive Engineering Technology with a minor in Manufacturing Engineering Technology, and my EdM is in Community College Teaching & Learning. In my current role, I lead the state’s effort to engage employers, enhance education, and inspire students in transportation programs. I serve on education and industry advisory boards and the MTTIA board, as Co-Chair for the MN-DOT CAV-X Committee and Co-PI for the National Center for Autonomous Technologies.

Previous Mentor Fellows

  • 2020 Fellows

    From left to right, Deidre Sullivan, Tom Tubon, Richard Polanin, Jonathan Beck, and Sharon Gusky

  • 2019 Fellows

    From left to right, Matthew Swenson, Ann Johnson, Doug Laven, and Ken Mays

  • 2018 Fellows

    From left to right, Danine Tomlin, Edgar Troudt, and Diane Dostie

  • 2017 Fellows

    From left to right, James (Jim) Hyder and Pamela Silvers

Mentor News

Congratulations to the 2021 Mentor Fellows & Co-Mentors

Congratulations to the 2021 Mentor Fellows & Co-Mentors

The Mentor Fellows internship program is an activity of the Mentor-Connect: Leadership Development and Outreach for ATE-2 project (DUE #1501183).

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Congratulations to the 2020 Mentor Fellows

Congratulations to the 2020 Mentor Fellows

The Mentor Fellows internship program is an activity of the Mentor-Connect: Leadership Development and Outreach for ATE-2 project (DUE #1501183).

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Mentor-Connect Helped Northland Team Build ATE Network that Led to Center Grant

Mentor-Connect Helped Northland Team Build ATE Network that Led to Center Grant

New Center PI with Mentor-Connect Mentor

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Summer Workshop Zooms In On Final Details for Proposal Submissions

Summer Workshop Zooms In On Final Details for Proposal Submissions

In addition to one-on-one time with their mentors 20 faculty teams received granular-detail tips during Mentor-Connect’s Summer Technical Assistance and Grants Workshop on July 23 in St. Louis.

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 New Center Leaders are Mentor-Connect Alumnus

New Center Leaders are Mentor-Connect Alumnus

Mentor-Connect alumni Jonathan Beck and Thomas Biller are the principal investigator and co-principal investigator, respectively, of the newest ATE Center –the Center for Autonomous Technologies (NCAT).

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