GRADUATE MENTORING: A CREATIVE PROCESS
Every student brings one’s own set of issues; perfectionism is especially common, especially for individuals from less rigorous undergraduate backgrounds. Students who have been outstanding as undergraduates can face a major blow to their confidence when they suddenly find themselves as “average” graduate students, even if their progress is quite acceptable. Also common at a later stage are the individuals whose writing assignments always earned high praise; when faced with their first “professional” review they may suddenly see themselves as “failures”. It is painfully common for such individual to decide that they really aren’t meant to be a geoscientist and opt for what they consider to be a “safer” career, such as nursing or computer technology.
As a pre-Title IX student from an economically challenged background, my only role models were K-12 teachers. In graduate school I was frequently challenged as to “What can you do with your education?”. Fortunately, the medical school administration contracted for a private-sector short course that explored “the nature of the being human being” and made it available university-wide to students, staff and faculty. That opportunity and others since, provided access to more empathy for myself and others that has contributed to my success as a geoscientist and a mentor. I encourage participation in professional development opportunities. For individuals facing specific challenges, I encourage them to seek resources ranging from writing or presentation workshops to mental health services, as appropriate. Each student is an individual, with an individual suite of strengths, weaknesses, and roadblocks. Mentoring is indeed a “creative process”.