Saturday, April 11, 2009

You're the Historian: On the importance of mentorship

This week has been one heavy with expectation, with a sense of the future.

As I imagine the future, one possibility that emerges has me as a professor at a university dedicated to teaching and to research, a university where the students are assumed to be first-rate and the professors are there to help mold them into the leaders of tomorrow. As I imagine this possibility and consider what I will be like and what I will prioritize in my varied academic roles as researcher, professor, seminar-leader, committee-member, mentor, and all the rest, all I can hope is that I can remember what it’s like to be a graduate student and can offer my own students the kind of support that I see being so very crucial to my own life today. I imagine that as a professor it becomes very easy to forget what it’s like to be a student, to get wrapped up in the daily grind of academic work and put aside concerns over students’ mental and emotional well-being.

This week, very different models of mentorship have prominently shaped how I feel about myself, my future in this business, my success with my upcoming exams, and my own self-worth. A mentor’s kind word is everything. Having someone in a position of power tell me that she has faith in me, that she thinks I’m good at this, that she won’t let me leave grad school, that she has every confidence I will pass these exams…well, it just means everything in the world to me. I need this support. (And I imagine others need it just about as much as I do. Who will give it to them?)

Don’t let me forget this.

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