Saturday, April 04, 2009

The sort of message that makes a professor's heart glad

Every now and then I have an interaction with a student that reminds me why I chose to be a professor. Some weeks ago a young man whom I did not know stopped by my Anderson Hall apartment. Students who have trained as engineers but subsequently become interested in international relations or international development sometimes seek me out. They are looking for ways that they can put their previous training to use, while pursuing their new interests. My background, too, combines those fields and I have written about their relationship. One article, entitled ‘Systems Engineering and Political Science: Toward Symbiosis’ appeared in a leading systems engineering textbook, some years ago. So at the least, I can share a journey that is somewhat similar to the one they are considering. After our talk, I didn’t hear the from from young man for a while. Then I received the following message, which made my heart glad.

Dear Dormgrandpop,

I am not sure if you remember me; my name is [AU grad student] I talked to you in October about systems analysis. The conversation with you was very inspiring and I wish the semester had not been so busy so that I could have talked to you more often. You recommended two books to me – Groping in the Dark and Business Dynamics. These are two of the most fascinating books I have ever read. I was completely immersed and absorbed by the approaches to dynamic modeling and systems analysis. I really loved the style of your book Groping in the Dark. In a way, it felt like “a very concentrated experience of truth” to me.

Then times got too busy and I had to give the books back unfinished. I’m working part time now, which is why I currently don’t get to devote any time to systems analysis. But I’m looking forward to change that and read more as soon as my schedule allows. It would a be great privilege if I could talk to you again and learn more from you.

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