Thursday, May 31, 2007

Qualities of a good mentor

My incomparable faculty-resident and administrative assistant, Althea, will soon be leaving CTA to spend a year in China. This evening we walked the 20 minutes to one of Washington DC’s relatively undiscovered treasures, de Carlo’s Restaurant, for a celebratory farewell dinner. Over a typically great meal, we spent more than two hours in conversation over a broad range of topics. On our walk back, Althea asked me to identify the qualities of a good mentor. I came up with two.

First, a good mentor always places the interests of his or her students, as s/he sees them first. This is true even if ‘superiors' (Deans or other administrators) see those interests as conflicting with institutional interests.

Second, a good mentor always seeks to have the student achieve maximum potential, according the student’s own leadings and intellectual interests. The goal is not to create an intellectual clone of himself or herself.

These principles served me well during my nine years as School of International Service Director of Doctoral Studies and, with modest adaptations, have proved also viable in my new role as mentor to AU’s young faculty members.


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